I went down to the Rose Parade today. I had never done that before. Actually, it wouldn’t have occurred to me before, since I didn’t live close by until this year. I didn’t stay very long because I have this flu-ey thing still.
I am leaving for Country X in about 3 weeks. There is one more doctor’s appointment left. My friend had an idea about someone I could hire to help with moving, so that might mean I don’t need to think more about it.
I do need to buy gifts, and I have a list of 5 or 6 things I need to buy for myself. Well, 1 need. Several wants. Because I was sick after Christmas, I suppose I missed all of the sales, which is a shame. One must muddle on though. It’s not that I couldn’t have shuffled out of the house to buy things, but my brain doesn’t work when I don’t feel well. I don’t know what people might have ended up with.
I did start to connect something the last few days. When I make these kinds of connections, I feel in a way they sound stupid–knowing them isn’t the same as recognizing something. I am not connecting anything you couldn’t probably have told me, and I might have agreed that you were probably right. That’s not the same thing as being able to see it or feel it.
I have been thinking–noticing, really–over the last several months that all of us are continually trying to influence the world around us so that things feel more comfortable for us. When we are around people who aren’t comfortable with the same things, there are various ways of pushing to get our way.
I am always talking about having a variety of strategies rather than a few strategies and that’s something I think about here. I think people with childhood trauma have few strategies for negotiating these kinds of subtle conflicts over the emotional space being created around us.
Combine that with being wired to react to threat.
I think my parents had very aggressive strategies for negotiating differences. Obviously, what I really mean is abuse. But it meant for me as a child that in order to try to get things around me to be somewhat the way I liked them, if they didn’t happen to turn out that way because everyone else wanted what I wanted, then I needed to be prepared for all-out battle. You don’t try out a variety of strategies in that case. They aren’t taught to you, and there is no space to discover them through trial and error. Error cannot be risked. In therapy, we mostly talk about using words to get our needs met or our desires voiced, but I don’t think most people use words to get things the way they would like them much of the time.
People get bored and change the subject or go and “freshen a drink.” They feel uncomfortable with a subject and look away. A lot of it is non-verbal and not openly confrontational. “I don’t feel comfortable talking about that,” is confrontational and a much bigger social risk. I don’t think we take that kind of tack very often.
I think the skills my parents did have for making things the way they wanted them were what we would think of as abuse. What I am getting at here is I think my parents were, for the most part, purposeful actors trying to do something.
What goes on in my head has for the most part been sort of disconnected. I feel what can seem fairly randomly worthless, and it only recently crossed my mind that this might be because attacking my value as a human being was what my parents knew about how to dissuade someone from doing something they didn’t want that person to do.
I think I might have flashes of worthlessness in situations where my parents might have been expected to verbally or otherwise emotionally assault me. I don’t particularly remember these assaults, but I don’t really doubt they happened. I remember being with my ex, I found myself emotionally withering in situations I could not ever really tease out. It seemed impossible to say why I felt so devastatingly hurt so quickly, and I think it was really because she knew so well what would hurt.
I had no idea she was trying to accomplish something–that she wanted certain subjects avoided, certain emotions or experiences that felt painful not discussed, vulnerabilities safely concealed or shameful urges toward serve-and-return suppressed. I just felt devastated. I did after a while start to think she is doing this on purpose, this pain is intentional, but then I went to therapy and this was dismissed as a distortion. Fifteen years later, it’s finally clicking that she did it on purpose, but not necessarily because she was a sadist. Instead, she saw having things around her not be the way she wanted them to be as an attack and she was getting me back for it, without probably ever consciously realizing the way she did want things to be or that they weren’t like that.
Anyway, I think my parents were somewhat like that: very good at tearing me apart in a way that seemed too fast for me to even see, and all I was aware of was the painful view of myself I had at these moments. What I think it does later is leave you with a sense that you as a person must change, not undesirable behaviours. The problem is not that you failed to empty the dishwasher when asked or that you gave into the temptation to cheat at Sorry, but your very soul. I think that might be what leads to a sense of being broken all the way through later on in adulthood.