I have things worked out a little, it seems like. Yesterday, it gave me a bit of optimism. That’s worn off, but it might come back.

My mind doesn’t work the way I thought it did or assumed it did in the past, but knowing how it works gives me some control.

There are certain big triggers that make me feel in danger and I become hyper-alert at those times without realizing it: having my performance evaluated, situations of exposure, anticipating connection or closeness. At those times, I become generally more alert to other indications of danger, and I am very emotionally reactive internally even if I don’t express that. The reactivity can last a long time. It can last for days, depending on the trigger.

Since I haven’t known what was causing my feelings, I didn’t know what to connect the feelings to, and I couldn’t evaluate whether that danger was real or not. Yesterday, I came home, and they were having a ritual next door, because it is a new house. They were having a ritual for the house. Anyway, I felt very fearful, which isn’t that unusual or me upon coming home anyway. I feel fear in my body a lot.

After a while, I realized I am afraid of the drums. There is nothing in my history that makes drums frightening, but generally, culturally, that kind of drumming is an indication of danger. It’s the kind of drumming you might see on a TV show right before the cannibals roast our dear hero. It’s not anything significant, but I came home, I am trying to take the feelings out after cramming them inside all day, I am very alert right now, and the drums are scaring me.

It helped. I realized, “Oh, it’s the drums.” And I felt much better.

That has been happening.

Until recently, I couldn’t calm down enough to make connections. You have to be able to create safety before your mind can start forming connections. I don’t exactly know what happens in survivors of childhood trauma, but it seems really clear that it creates a disconnection in the mind so that this kind of thinking cannot happen. Something goes wrong with your ability to feel, so that there isn’t that sense of resonance, “Oh, it’s the drums.”

It makes it much harder to assess dangers, even unconsciously, and to determine they are not actually dangers. Or really determine reality in any way.

I understand now what was missing in my approach before: I wasn’t working at creating the safety enough that my mind could reason emotionally again, and I wasn’t looking at the present. I was only looking at the distant past, and this isn’t really the distant past at work now. This is conditioning. This is the dog salivating when the bell rings. You could call that the past, but saying this was dangerous in the past and it isn’t anymore doesn’t do anything to diminish the hyper-alertness that happens.

I did need to know about the past: some of what I react to has to do with my own personal history and if I don’t know my own personal history, I can’t understand what is going on in my mind. The red bathroom floor does relate to the distant past. I am pretty sure the idling trucks and the saw are from the distant past. VP Ma’am is the recent past. I see her now and feel scared, because she attacks people. She gets suddenly angry and attacks people out of the blue. That’s the recent past. That is noticing over the course of the last year that she does this. Drums are not anything to do with my past. I have never been in a situation where there was drumming and there was danger at the same time that I can recall. But culturally that is an indication of danger. It is not a strong indication, but in a sensitive state I react to just about everything.

People with borderline personality disorder have problems with mentalization. That makes sense to me. This is a mentalization problem I am talking about. I didn’t know how my mind works, because people around me didn’t know how it worked. We understand ourselves partly because we are constantly comparing notes. I couldn’t compare notes, for many reasons.

Looking back, though, I realize it has helped to be somewhat isolated and to create a space for myself in which I was free to begin to imagine my own mind and what is happening within it. It doesn’t work in the way I was told it works, and I spent many years fighting other people’s opinions of how it worked.