Continuous self

C asked for a recharge to surf the net last night. This time, I said no. It was study time, and things seem about to get out of hand. I am not really setting consistent boundaries with her. In that sense, I am not being a good parent. But I have no idea what the correct boundary would be.

Anyway, she kind of begged and then disappeared. I sent several texts after that, which she read. Things like I am not mad. When I say no I still love you.

No reply, and eventually I fell asleep.

I was thinking about this in the morning and writing her a letter about it—stuff I have said before, but sometimes things bear repeating. I said, among other things, you are always you. The things you want are temporary. Later, you will want other things. The things you want are not you, but you are the person doing the wanting.

I was criticized in a meeting on Saturday rather severely. Not by name, but I knew it was me. And I have been thinking about that, because I feel very ashamed.

It has felt to me because actions cannot be undone that they are permanent. It feels to me like they are carved in stone. And it made me realize it isn’t quite like that. We do other things later. There is an effect and a consequence from our actions, but it’s not like I think it is. It is almost as though I imagined a room existed somewhere with a record of all my shortcomings and failures and missteps in it. And my actions just kept accumulating. I mean that sounds kind of like religion tends to portray actions—like your soul getting weighed. But I don’t think real life is actually like that. You do stuff and then you do other stuff, and you got where you are because of what you have done, but not entirely as a result of your own effort and not because of each and every thing. Some stuff happened and life went on in more or less the same way as though it hadn’t happened.

But I am still here. I continue to be the same person through all of it.

Because of how I have thought of my actions, they have had a lot more weight and importance than they ought to have had, and mistakes have been harder to cope with because of that. It is almost as though I didn’t see myself as a person, but as a collection of deeds. Once I did something—good or bad—it became me. It made facing mistakes very hard, which has actually made it harder to be competent in many areas in my life. It is hard to cope with that kind of pressure all the time. I would guess I have had more performance problems at work and in my personal life because of the anxiety I have about making them. When I am calm and not anxious, I perform better. There becomes less to actually be anxious about and I get more done because I don’t need to spend as much time calming down.

I think a lot of that is because of my mom. I did something she didn’t like, and assaulted me like someone she hated. I did things she liked and she cuddled me. Her response to me was based on how my actions affected her, and not based on what I needed necessarily. Sometimes it was, but not that often. It made for a sense of being different people at different times, and it made a misstep end in the loss of her regard for me and any relationship between us.

It’s not like kids misbehave and they get cuddles and no punishment, but I think within most families, there is some limit to the range of emotional expression at least by the adults. The child might say I hate you, but the adult usually doesn’t. But my mother did, or something like that.

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8 thoughts on “Continuous self

  1. Rachel October 10, 2016 / 11:42 am

    You’ve been writing about this continuous self for awhile now, and just today, it is starting to click for me. I can’t remember when today, maybe after I was really activated/triggered earlier, and breathed my way through it, but I observed a thought “this pain, this discomfort, is a part of me. It isn’t all of me, but part of me, in me right now. I am not separate from it, this is not some separate self or experience, it is all me.” I think your writing about continuous self was in my subconscious, and helped me realize that even when I was triggered, it was me, I was in there. I was still all my lovable qualities, even though I felt very agitated towards my housemate. I didnt cease to be me. And I agree on the parents’ responses, they did create this fractured sense of self. If I act a certain way, I tended to, if I don’t, then I am useless.
    It is fucked.

    • Ashana M October 10, 2016 / 12:01 pm

      I think when the states are so intense, they really do feel like different people, and when it’s a very negative state it can feel like no no no no I don’t want to be this person. It’s a horrible painful person to be. It’s hard.

      • Rachel October 10, 2016 / 12:11 pm

        Definitely, I completely agree. Those negative states must have been so fiercely rejected by our mothers

      • Ashana M October 10, 2016 / 6:37 pm

        Ramped up is probably what they were, because our mothers didn’t know how to regulate either. They just reacted.

    • Ashana M October 10, 2016 / 7:02 pm

      I had this other thoughts about your housemate, which is that I have realized other people with trauma issues respond to my trauma reactions, even when they are subtle. So if I am in an agitated state, they feel that something is wrong–affective empathy transmits that emotion of anxiety to them. And they respond to it by coming close for comfort and protection, even if I am in no mood for it. In many cases, if I am feeling particularly stressed, VP Ma’am will suddenly demand I sit with her and give her attention. It’s not a coincidence. She feels vulnerable and is impulsively reaching for attention. Then the other thing she does is have a disordered response to me–so she might ask a lot of questions and then talk over me when I answer her, because a part of her is afraid of my response. She wants it and she is afraid of it. I wonder if your housemate is doing that: coming close because you seem stressed, asking how you are, and then not listening because she is afraid of that actual connection.

      • Rachel October 11, 2016 / 9:08 am

        The housemate doesn’t have a trauma history, more just highly self-absorbed. However, I think you are right. I think because she is so focused on herself, and is somewhat reactive, that when she senses I pull back or am not open, it does set something off in her. That makes her want to “force” me to open in a way. Or at least that is how it feels, when considering your framework. It does feel that she keep pulling, trying to control me almost. She doesn’t like that I am not open towards her, so tries to force it. Which I am very reactive towards, and clamp down even more.
        Agh. This is all hard.

      • Ashana M October 11, 2016 / 9:42 am

        If she is very self-absorbed, her parents might be self-absorbed, and she might have had a childhood where she was just never authentically listened to or heard or given genuine care. She might have gotten check-box kind of care rather than responsiveness to a real human being, and I think that sets up similar attachment problems.

        I am trying to think what helps when VP Ma’am does this, because it sounds a little bit similar. She is self-absorbed and lacks empathy when she is feeling vulnerable and panicky. At other times, she has better capacity to take in others’ points of view. I have been handling her neediness in a way that upsets me less recently. If she is intrusive, I think I am mostly just gentle but firm and that helps (I have this to do right now. I will talk to you at x time.) If she is doing that thing where she asks questions and then talks over me, I just keep quiet, listen politely and let her kind of spiral off to talk to someone else (which she will do). It helps to realize she is too afraid to take in any response from me, so don’t try to be heard. The point isn’t to have an exchange. She’s like a dog begging around the room to see who has treats for her. I don’t have treats.

  2. Rachel October 10, 2016 / 11:42 am

    And I meant to add, so thank you! For all of your writing.

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