Slowly, I am chugging along with making better sense out of what happens in my head. I don’t know that I am necessarily coping better as a result, but the hope remains that perhaps someday I will.
I am a few posts behind in trying to explain what I’ve come up with. It’s possible there will be holes in this post as a result. I’m sorry for this, but I also think we’ll live to tell the tale.
I read a study about “cute aggression:” that urge to do painful things to babies because they are so cute, like pinch their cheeks.
The more participants responded to a baby’s cuteness with an urge to caretake, the more likely he or she was to feel like hurting the baby. It seems to be a regulatory strategy, not unknown before now, in which a strong feeling in one direction is countered by a strong urge in another direction deliberately called up to get things a bit more under control. Over intense emotions are unpleasant–even positive ones.
This is the person who cracks jokes at somber moments, the Girl who punched kittens and dogs in the nose, even C who seems to get angry most of the times I see her. It’s not that it’s okay to make babies cry by pinching their squishy cheeks, but that the crying is not the actual intention of the urge. The crying is the regulatory strategy gone wrong.
I think about this as I go through the difficult moments of the day: is this me trying to regulate an attachment impulse? I don’t have that worked out, but it’s something I’ve started to think about.
I’ve also been thinking about how the formation of self-image intersects with abusive relationships. Not in the obvious way: that abuse diminishes the positive feelings you have about yourself. Instead, I’ve been thinking do I use abusive strategies to try to control the urge to reach out to people or situations?
And, finally, is the sense of borderline’s description of feeling empty inside caused by the strategy of shutting down the experience of the self to control intense emotions, but simultaneously prompting responsiveness in other people so that one seems still to exist and to have an impact on the world. Only they stop reacting.
There is normally an interplay between how I feel inside and how I impact other people which contributes to feeling oneself. What if one is more than usually reliant on having an impact to do that and then that person is not available or not willing to respond in the desired way? And does something like that happen to me?
Last, I have been considering the social aspect of my trauma. My father’s abuse was intentionally demeaning, not because of something about me, but because this fulfilled some desire of his own. How did it feel to me to do what one normally does and imagine myself from his perspective–as an object to be used or to feel superior to? There is a sociological element involved in family-based mistreatment. It is not merely frightening in the way of a lion attack.
Gradually, I think I have to become more adept in understanding my traumatic experiences from the perspective of a small child. There is an element of horror to what happened to me. I don’t quite know how to describe it: the abuse I suffered was so visceral and graphic. The sense of “get this off of me” is so overwhelming that the horror feels consuming, like all of me. I end up horrified myself, because the horror is so strong, it feels that the horror is me. That’s how little kids experience things.
We love to see joy in children, because it seems to consume them. We have learned to keep ourselves on a more even keel by the time we reach adulthood. It can seem that our emotions have become blunted, but it also means we don’t need someone to remove us from the birthday party before we have a meltdown because we got too wound up. (Most of us.)
When that overwhelming emotion is horror, it’s awful. I think I need to figure out how to regulate these overwhelming emotions as an adult trying to make sense of a child’s trauma. I think I may need to learn to recognize that wanting to self-harm means I need a way to calm the feelings down. Self-punishment won’t do it, but it may remain my first instinct for a long time.
Meanwhile, tomorrow is the worst day of the year.