The urgency of being seen

I had a particularly difficult morning. Mornings are always difficult, and I woke up today in more of a state than usual, less able to cope with the fact that C doesn’t answer the phone when I call, less able to keep myself from essentially acting out.

I have been thinking as a child when you live in an abusive family what you learn to do in order to meet your needs–and maybe what is just innate and instinctive–is to be aggressive. Just overwhelm people with stimuli they don’t like so that eventually they give you what you want so that you stop.

In the morning, while I was struggling, I tried to remember that. I feel overwhelmed with strong feelings and they make me feel I want to do something or need to do something, and the way to get what I want is not to force someone to give it to me. That isn’t the way.

I am not sure what I might have done, but the urge was kind of to show the intensity of my emotions to someone in hopes of getting some comfort.

As it turns out, that’s not the way. It mostly scares people.

That isn’t really the point of this. But I had to go through the upset thinking, “This isn’t the way. The way is to slow down and get my mind functioning again.”

It took a long time. I cried a lot These things are like bubbles. The emotions surface and later are hard to remember. They seem dreamlike. I am not all the way there yet, I assume.

But what I got out of it was an understanding that I didn’t feel heard or seen, and this was frightening to me. C hasn’t been answering the phone, and what this says to me is that she can’t see my kind intentions. She can’t see that I won’t hurt her. Who knows what is actually going on for her, but this was the way I was interpreting her behaviour. She can’t see that I care about her and that if she answers she will be treated with kindness and warmth.

I began to grasp why this might be frightening to me. My parents had their own trauma. Trauma has a way of bleeding into the present and distorting it. These were moments when I was abused. So at those times, it must have felt very important to me to bring my parents back to the present and to get them to understand I was not the enemy. I was their child. I doubt I was ever successful in this, but I am sure it felt like life and death that I be seen and that I not allow my parent to be overcome by mental distortions.


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