We’re all just trying to regulate. We’re trying to do our own thing, reach our own goals, do the things that make us happy and give us satisfaction. And we’re trying to do this around each other. Sometimes with each other, but usually while other people are trying to do their thing. Even if i am doing exactly the same thing as the person next to me–even if we’re both sitting there trying to get some math done or just riding the train–we might have slightly different needs around it. I might feel understimulated and need to do tap my feet. You might feel overstimulated and want me to be quiet. We’re trying to co-regulate really. Your expressions of emotions and my expressions of emotions help us stay in the zone of getting things done as we operate in our own worlds side-by-side. We’re all just trying to get along.
I was watching my class today, thinking about their needs and thinking about my needs too, what helps each kid regulate and what helps me regulate. It was a rough day for about four kids with attachment issues, because I was out sick yesterday. There were two in my second period and two in my third period. Fourth period was pretty much fine. There is a kid in there with regulation issues, but it shows up differently. He tries really hard to do what I ask him, even though it’s hard for him. I don’t know why it works out differently with him. Maybe there’s just no one else to wind him up. Because, of course, these kids do that. They get mad, don’t regulate that, and wind each other up in revenge.
Anyway, I was kind of watching them have a tough day–watched me having a tough day with them. And I was reminded that the person (or people) with more power are able to ensure that the way things work better for them is what everyone does.
Power can come from many places. One of them is authority that comes from a system (I’m a teacher. They allow me to do things students aren’t allowed to do, like write detentions.) Authority can come with actual knowledge and experience (like my doctor). It can come from being simply more aggressive (I just don’t have it in me to be an asshole. There are certain fights I don’t win.)
And it can also come from being the majority in a group.
So as I watched them struggle, I saw what one kid might need is not what the rest of the class needs. He needed everyone else to be less affected by his struggling, so that he could work some things out. They needed him to shut up, sit down and quit emoting. As the introvert in Country X who is way too easily stimulated anyway, what worked for most of the Country Xers didn’t work for me. My quiet drove them out of their minds with boredom. Their stimulation made me lose my shit.
Anyway, part of my childhood came from that. My mom needed me to shut up, sit down and quit emoting, because she was unable to regulate the distress she felt empathically. She was the parent. She had many kinds of power, and some of the time, that’s what she was able to accomplish. She was able to get her need for calm met by using that power to get me to be silent.
There are actually many times when we ask children to do this: we tell them to stop begging to give them the thing there is no way on earth we are going to give them. We tell them to be quiet and entertain themselves when we’re legitimately busy.
It’s partly about degree and also about the means used. Co-regulating with a child is so much about the particular compromise you can make with your child: what you need, what your child needs, what you’re both capable of doing. There was no overlap.
Yes, she abused me. This is just getting into the specifics of it, and the motivation. Her need to regulate absolutely didn’t take into account or respond to my need to regulate. And she had power. So we did what she needed.
I was thinking about this too, because many times the world just can’t accommodate me. We aren’t in sync. What everyone else around me seems to need drives me fucking insane. It’s too much noise, too many things, too much stimulation, too much to process, way too little downtime. There are so many times when I wish I could have five minutes to just calm the fuck down and absolutely no one around me will give me five minutes–with great intentions sometimes, positive intentions, or for perfectly legitimate reasons. And I don’t get my five minutes. I don’t get the time I need to calm down again.
It relieves me of a lot of guilt to think about it that way. Extroverts are 70% of the population. People without attachment issues are about 2/3 of the population. Probably not the same part.
Then there are all of these people who cope with their attachment issues with various kinds of numbing–particularly staying busy, never spending time alone.
So, yeah, I feel like a freak sometimes. I cry all the time. I spend a lot of time alone. Because I’m trying to freaking regulate, and I can’t even feel anything around other people sometimes, because my level of emotion is way too high for them to stay calm around. And a lot of the time, the converse is true too.