I am responding to the present. I was thinking about that this morning. Something is really happening in my mind lately that is making it is easier to connect things—easier to connect emotions and events. I am processing a lot more. Some of it, I think, is belief. It never seemed possible that I could be responding to the present in this way. It didn’t make any sense. I had no idea even what about the present I was responding to.
But I am seeing some of the people around me go through the same things I am. There are one or two children in each of my classes who are going through some of the same things I am, and VP Ma’am is, and C is. So I am watching people around me, and it makes me realize it is not all about this deep old wound that needs to be found and cleaned out, so to speak, and once that is done, everything is fine. It is about the present.
I watch these kids in class and I can see once they become sensitized—once there is that moment of connection—a lot of how they respond after that depends on what happens around them. If something happens, and they seem to be under threat, they respond angrily. If it doesn’t they don’t. It isn’t as though there is all of this pent-up anger about the past that needs to be released. Thinking about their childhoods would make them angry, but this isn’t suppressed anger. This is someone came into their personal space, or took their ruler without permission, or criticized them when they were in a sensitive moment.
They have been conditioned into finding connection dangerous, and once that happens they are hypervigilant, and they will become very reactive to threat. But if there is no threat, they don’t react.
That is what is going on in my brain. I am sensitive right now, and I am reacting a lot internally, and I just have a lot of feelings to calm down. All of the calming down is going to teach me that connection is not dangerous. This normally happens when we are kids. People around us teach us what is dangerous and what isn’t. We aren’t born knowing what to be afraid of and what not to be afraid of, and our culture and our family and our parent teach us via their emotions. We get scared and don’t need to be scared, and the calm of the people around us gets transferred to us, and then we learn that’s okay. We aren’t scared of it anymore. Eventually. We aren’t scared of dangerous things, and the alarm of everyone around us gets transferred to us in the same way and we learn we should be afraid. We learn through our own experience also, but we learn a lot without actually getting hurt.
Anyway, in the past this has felt like it couldn’t be possible, and my brain has felt to me like a very mysterious place to be, and also like what is in it can’t be there. It’s not possible. I think I pathologized, rather than accepting it. It feels so much better not to see it as a sign of how defective I am, but just to accept it.
I came to school and I was writing this in the staff room. It was mostly quiet, but the students had arrived and they were carrying plastic jugs to the taps to fill up for handwashing by the classrooms later, because there are not very many taps at the school. If everyone stood around at the same taps to wash their hands at lunch time, about 600 students would give up the whole thing as a lost cause and eat with dirty hands. And they do eat with their hands mostly.
So the kids were carrying plastic jugs to the taps, and generally when they do this, they bang on them. And I was in a sensitive place. I felt scared.
It helped a lot to realize oh, yes, they are making loud noises and I am in this sensitive place and it scares me. In the past, I would not have had any idea why I was scared. I get that’s what transference is supposed to be, but there is some different flavour to transference that makes it feel different to me: maybe because it contrasts past and present, and my parents have probably not actually changed. My mother is probably still out-of-control at home. She probably still screams and throws things when she feels rejected. I am not in that house, but the dynamic within my family is not an artifact. It continues to exist. I am just not in it.
This isn’t about time changing. It is about my social environment changing. But the social environment continues to exist. It is not even the past for me, because there are other people like my parents. They can’t realistically hit me, but they do express their emotions in the same ways. They do intrusively demand my attention just as my mother did.
I gave the pancakes and some other things, money and a letter also, to VP Ma’am’s daughter in the morning to give to C. This had a lot of meaning for me. Walking away, I felt very emotional. When I got to school, I began to feel worthless and suicidal—something like that. I have begun to recognize this as rejection. I feel rejected now. I began to think back on what had just happened, and I realized I had parted from someone at a sensitive moment. I also thought there was probably a point when a parting would have been an expression of anger. My mother walked away from me as an expression of anger, just as I have learned to do: I constrain the impulse most of the time, but I have done it.
It isn’t the meaning of the behaviour in this moment—the girls are walking to their school and I am walking to my school—but it has had that meaning before, and I do have to process that. Oh, yes, partings sometimes mean someone is angry at me and didn’t like something I did. Hmmm. Not this time though. We all left with smiles on our faces. And that helped a little. I still felt insane, but less so. It isn’t always the external world I am reacting to in these moments. Sometimes it’s my own mind—it’s something I thought. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by shame suddenly and then I will look back and realize I just had something I haven’t done cross my mind. That’s what did this to me. I am having an emotional reaction of disapproval to myself.
It’s different for me, because there aren’t words. I didn’t get that far, I think. I think for other people it’s easier than this. Their shame cascades in shaming words. They know what they feel bad about. I just think life is hopeless and I am worthless in a global way and I can’t even readily name what started it all. Now, I am being able to name what started it.