I think one of the reasons I have been struggling so much lately—in addition to the separation and the change of going back to the US that is close at hand—is that I have been seeing more of my own mind, my own thoughts and my own feelings. I have been seeing more of my own interpretation of people around me and what they are experiencing—my view of events is becoming quite distinctly “my own.” I think seeing myself automatically creates shame for me, no matter what about me I am seeing.
Last week, on one of my visits to the hostel, C was very angry and very sad, and on the verge of tears. She was very much caught in the midst of her disorganized attachment, wanting to come close and wanting to pull away it seemed to me, and she was in that place where being caught in that place felt unfair. I don’t know how to explain this exactly, but I think there is a little child’s feeling of “I want you I can’t have you and it’s not fair. It’s not fair that I can’t be close to you.” There is a very fussy toddler sense to it. She got up then and began to yell about some confusion she had about history. When did X happen? Who was Y? I didn’t really catch it. But it was unrelated to being fussy toddler, or to my presence. After a few minutes I could see a lightness return to her face and to her body, and I knew she was happy. I guess she had figure out how to settle somehow, and she felt that happiness that comes from having your special person nearby.
Or maybe it was a happiness that she was allowed to settle herself. When she was weepy, I moved close to her, and when she got up and moved away from me, I let her. I watched her and quietly talked to one of her friends, and I let her do what she needed to do in order to settle down again, and I wonder if that felt good. It would feel really good to me. That is one of the things that hurts most for me in life. If I feel upset, I need to not tell anyone about it, so that they won’t react in ways that further dysregulate me, and in many cases I need to make sure that I don’t show those feelings either. If someone just let me talk and let me be and responded to me in a gentle, non-judgmental way that allowed me to sort out my own problems, I would feel so supported. So maybe she felt that way. Maybe she felt supported.
Anyway, as I watched her be happy, I had this sudden thought that I felt real. I left soon after that, and I am not sure exactly what prompted that thought, but it probably had to do with my perception that she was in a disorganized state when I came. I responded to the feelings I believed to be there in her—this sadness and anger about wanting to be close and not feeling internally allowed to—and I think responding to my perception of what she felt (if that makes sense) made me feel real.
I think all my life I have responded to things as though what other people have told me about those things is real, and ignored my own perceptions. I don’t really know what someone else would say about why C was weepy and angry and then yelling would be, but I don’t think it would be that she wants me. I don’t know that someone else would tell me the most helpful thing to do would be sit there quietly and allow C to decide how close to me she wants to be.
I almost imagine someone else would tell me to be more assertive about something, to demand attention or regard from her since I have taken the time to walk 30 minutes up a steep hill to see her. I think they might see my quietness with her as passivity, rather than an emphatic statement that I am here, I am offering support to you, but I am not forcing you to take it, and I am also an adult who can take care of my own needs. If I walked up a steep hill to see you and you aren’t able to talk to me, that is not your fault. I am responsible for my decision to walk up there. Reciprocity does not demand you try to stop feeling and carry on a polite conversation with me.
I was expressing myself. I express myself all the time.
But all of that was me. My interpretation of her behaviour and her emotions, my response to her, my sense that I was real in her presence. That is all me. I think I am seeing myself and the people around me in my own way lately, and it’s making me struggle a lot with shame.