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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Closer to Me: Breaking the deadlock.

I don't know if I stumbled upon it while listening to music on YouTube or if I heard it when I was listening to XM radio in my car, but I heard a song that I hadn't heard in a while: Get Closer by Seals and Croft.   It's funny thing about songs: You can listen to them over and over, over time and like the sound as played and sang by the artists, but not really "hear" them.  I found that to be the case the case with this song.

This song is a little melancholy.  It hear a bit of a pleading.  He's wanting to be close to with his significant other, but he doesn't seem to be able to do at the current time.  It's like he needs some give from her.   It's like they are in a rut and he can't put himself out there for her until he knows it is 'safe' for him too.  Below is some of the lyrics.



Darlin' if you want me to be closer to you, get closer to me.
Darlin' if you want me to be closer to you, get closer to me.
Darlin' if you want me to love, love only you, then love only me.
Darlin' if you want me to see, see only you, then see only me.
There's a line, I can't cross over. It's no good for me and it's no good for you.
And there's a feelin', deep down inside me. I can't explain it and you're wondering why.
You say we've been like strangers, but I'm not the others you can wrap 'round your fingers.
There's a time, I when I would come runnin'. I'd drop everything for the touch of your hand in mine.
...
...
...

It seems like people hit that point in various relationships--friendship, family, couple relationships, etc.   People hit a rut or a point which they are stuck and can't seem to get past.   Sometimes that ends the relationship and sometimes it keeps it from growing or deepening.  

Why do we get to that point?
  •  We let our fears get in the ways
    • Sometimes this is justified.
      • You've been hurt.  
        •  Mistreated or subjected to abusive behavior.
        •  By the involvement of another.  Pretty self-explanatory.
      • You've been gossiped about or undercut.
        • It could be involving someone else in the family or a friend in the circumstance.
        • It could be by minimizing or shutting down the other or not taking their opinions, thoughts or concerns seriously.  It doesn't mean you have to agree with them, but sometimes it is a sense of being heard.
    • Sometimes it is not justified.
      • You've been hurt by another close to you and instead of treating each person invidually, you find yourself 'fighting the last battle'.
      • You are so concerned that if you don't intervene, that a problem or concern won't be addressed properly.  Once again, if you've been let down by another who failed to live up to their role or part, it can be easy to 'take control' and not want to risk that happening again as an example.
  •  We let our resentments get in the way.
    • If we've feel like our concerns have not been addressed or not been taken as seriously as they should be, we can just stop engaging them and resent them sometimes outwardly. 
    • If we've been hurt or let down by another, we can get stuck in cycle where we focus more on the unresolved issue or the thought that the issue will show up again than how to move forward.
  •  We let our pride get in the way.
    • I believe what we see portray as fear or resentment, really could as much hurt pride as anything.
    • If we've put ourselves out there with another and been disappointed, let down or hurt, our pride can tell us 'I deserve better'.  Sometimes that may be true, but often times it fails to take into account our role in the circumstance.  I addressed this in It's just you and me and we just disagree... 
    • Sometimes it is easier to keep an "arm's length distance" from another than to put away our pride or to risk further injury to it.

So, I've talked about the causes, but what about the solution?   I don't claim to have all the answers, but I do have a few ideas.


Where there is a deadlock in a relationship:
  • Set down your weapons. 
    • It's hard to expect another to feel like it's safe to engage if they have the sense that engaging will lead to conflict or dissent.  
    • Sometime we just have to acknowledge to the other that you are a 'safe space' for them.  This is as true when dealing with kids as other adults.  
    • If you 'set down your weapons', they are more likely to do the same. 
  • Show a little give or be willing to offer a lifeline.
    • If someone feels like all the effort to resolve the impasse is coming from them, eventually they will tire of it and it probably won't end well.
    •  If someone is struggling to find footing with you and you offer them only folded arms and not a helping hand, it's a bit difficult for them to want to engage you.  Why would engaging with another and risk falling on your face when dealing with another, when you have a choice.
      • Failure to do so can come across as lack of empathy or contempt.  I think this is probably common in co-parenting relationships.  You have to deal with another when you don't necessarily want to.
      • Doing so could help them to feel at least a bit of a friendly connection.
  • Agree to disagree
    • Sometimes, you just have to decide you'll never agree on a certain issue.  You have to decide if it is a "hill on which you die" or if it is something you set aside out of respect for the larger relationship.
    • Sometimes, one or both parties, have not had enough time really consider the issue.
    • Sometimes, one or both parties, are amendable to the other's point of view, but they have to 'grow into' at least accepting that point of view.

I don't claim to have all the answers and sometimes what I write are ideals that I am not perfect in implementing.  However, I at least hope to give others food for thought.  Please take from my blog post whatever you might find useful and/or what may apply.

Thanks for reading,
Rich 


Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Crying over you, others and other things: Kobe Bryant inspired

Sunday* I received a notification on my phone when I was driving.  Kobe Bryant, a long-time star and a lock in 2020 for the NBA Hall of Fame, had perished in a helicopter crash on his way to a youth girl's basketball tournament.  His 13 year old daughter was among the others that had perished too.  That kind of hits home because my daughter is about to turn 13.

As I listened to the news, I cried a little.  While I have followed the NBA at times, especially during Michael Jordan's run in Chicago, I have at times just tuned it out too.  But, even for the casual fan, there are some names that stick out.  Names such as Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Shaquillle O'Neal, and Kobe Bryant stick out.  Sometimes famous people, who we don't know personally, capture our attention, especially when they pass away early.  They might be a former princess (Lady Di), a famous actor (Heath Ledger, Phillip Seymour Hoffman), a famous athlete (Daryl Kile, Kobe Bryant) or some other category.  In this case, it was a famous athlete.  Kobe, mostly with his on the court accomplishments and his celebrity personality, captured the imagination of many.  

I have previously discussed crying in Demons Part 3: 'Bloodletting' pain as a way of mourning as a healthy way of letting out hurt or pain.  I guess I'm inspired to write this post to remind everyone, no matter who they are, what their gender is, how young or how old they are, that there is a role for crying in our lives.  As a child with an old school dad, I can attest to the notion that crying wasn't always looked highly upon, especially with male children.  So, I assume that there are many that still haven't embraced this notion or haven't fully embraced it.  But, I digress, what is the role of crying in our lives?  Below is a list that I thought of off the top of my head and it is not meant as complete.


Role of Crying (and examples)
  • Mourning the loss of someone close to us.  
    • If we've lived long enough we will experience it.  Some experience it early in life, some not as early.  Some seem to experience a lot of losses while others not so many.
    • This seems to be most acute sort of loss, especially if it is abrupt.  One day, that person who was important in our lives is no longer accessible to us.  The person we could laugh or cry with, smile or frown with, share happiness or frustration is just no longer there for us.
  • Mourning the loss of someone who isn't necessarily close, but someone who felt like was bigger than life and/or represented a time in our life.
    • Kobe Bryant was a celebrity.  We shared the joy of watching him compete, the disappointment/irritation of  scandal in his life, the winding down of his career and the new direction in retirement.  As fans, he brought us joy, but as a very public figure even though he was rich and a celebrity, he was still human and relate-able.  His passing was sudden, shocking and for me it felt like a bit of an era died.
  • Mourning the loss of innocence or safety.
    • As a young child in a dysfunctional home growing up, divorced parents and as survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA), I was too busy dealing and it was only in my adulthood I was able to focus on this loss.
    • Being abused or assaulted without little or no warning.
  • Mourning the loss of an ideal.
    • For some people, they have dreams of the happily ever after, but one day they end up divorced.
    • For some it is seeing someone they looked up falling from grace and getting in legal and/or personal trouble.
    • For some it is realizing that life isn't fair (being passed over for an honor or a role, despite knowing that it should have been theirs.
  • Mourning the passing of a time in our lives.
    • Hitting a certain age or certain time such as 50 or the kids are all grown up and we miss their younger days.
    • Remembering the days in which everything seemed simpler.
  • Empathizing with the tragedy of others.
    • Hearing about a horrible murder.
    • Reading about or watching a tragedy unfold.
  • Releasing of pent-up emotions.
    • Seeing your team which was denied the Stanley Cup for so long and after so many letdowns finally win it.
  • Enduring great physical or emotional pain.
    • Such as with childbirth
    • Such as with a perforated colon.
    • Such as the pain of knowing you have suffered a season ending, career ending or hobby ending injury.
  • Losing or getting something valuable destroyed.
    • As a kid it just might be our favorite drawing.
    • As an adult it might be a beloved heirloom that belonged to a late parent.


In Ecclesiastes 3:4, King Solomon inspired by God wrote: 
[there is] a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance
--
Clearly our Higher Power understood that we experience sadness (or in some cases bittersweet) in our lives and that crying is a very healthy and human response.   As with anything and implied by the same verse, there is a time and circumstance when we crying is not appropriate.   Wailing loudly at a pie eating contest at the country fair probably would be completely out of place.  Similarly, wailing as you watch a loose penny roll down the sewer is probably an overreaction.

I see no hard and fast rules as to when to cry.  For different people and at different points in our lives, the when may differ greatly.  As far as how, I think it can differ from person to person, but from what I've seen usually people look for safe situations.  I have found comfort crying in private when appropriately moved, comfort in crying in public when the situation allows or calls for it such as funeral, or when I'm watching a tear-jerking story, quietly crying along with family or friends who seem amendable to those moments.  

One more final point on crying:  How much and/or how often? While sometimes there is so much hurt that you need to cry and cry and cry until you've seemingly processed all the hurt, there are other times perhaps the amount of crying is excessive for the hurt.  For example, when a close friend dies, you'll probably cry seemingly endlessly.  However, when you drop a book on your big toe, you might cry in pain, but to continue to cry over it for days afterwards might indicate a bigger problem.  For me, with the passing of Kobe Bryant and his 13 year old daughter, I shed a tear when I heard and for the next couple of times I read about it.  I didn't know Kobe, but the human interest of it was sad.  Not enough to disable me, but enough for me to be sad and empathize some.  Which leads to a final thought.  Sometimes we need to just get it out, but other times it is disabling.  If it is disabling for too long, it is probably best to seek professional help.  Anyway, thanks for listening.

Rich


* January 26th, 2020 when this blog was started.

 

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Pettiness: Only Appropriate for Tom and Richard

For a few fortunate people being 'Petty' is a very profitable and successful way of life:  Just ask Richard and the family of the late Tom Petty.   Being 'Petty' has worked very well for them, indeed.   However, I've found that being petty or pettiness usually doesn't work well and doesn't really better our lives and those around us in the long term.  I believe whatever short term 'benefits' we get from being petty usually come at a cost.  Below is what I see as the 'cost' and 'benefits' of pettiness.


'Cost' of pettiness
  • Makes you look smaller.
  • If it is in response to another person's own pettiness, you've given them a victory by agreeing to their rules of engagement.
  • You give up energy (emotion/physical/spiritual) that can and should be devoted to more productive endeavors.
  • If it is born out of conflict, you lose the opportunity to defuse or end the conflict and instead may add fuel to the conflict.
  • It can invite a unpleasant response from the target of your pettiness, especially if they can see it for what it is.

'Benefits' of pettiness
  • Gives you temporary 'satisfaction' of having punished to someone.
  • If in response to conflict, you are announcing there are consequences for another creating or pushing conflict.
  • It can be a way of making a point with limited effort.
  • It can sometimes actually allow you to get your way.   Some people, just don't like petty conflict and just will try to avoid it.

What pettiness is not (and why it should be avoided):
  • Being the bigger person in a conflict.
  • An exhibition of positive principles that the Golden Rule implies
  • Leading by example or setting a good example.
  • A way of breaking the stalemate in conflict.
  • Being a man or woman of honor.

My general philosophy has always been that I should hold myself to a standard that I'd hope for out of others, especially towards me.  Put another way: "Don't expect others to treat you a preferred way, unless you are willing to treat them that way as well."  For example, if I don't wish to be yelled by another, it is imperative that I do not resort to yelling at that person.  If I expect be treated like I know what I'm doing, I should start with the assumption that know what they are doing.  As it relates to pettiness, if I expect to be treated with decency from others and not pettiness, it is imperative that I do not choose pettiness as an acceptable way of treating them.  Sure, I might be able to get away with it and they may not immediately realize I was petty to them, but ultimately, I will and my Higher Power will.  Besides, I think even if they can't point a finger to a specific case of it, most people will eventually be able to sense pettiness (or disrespect) directed towards them.  For example, I could purposely badmouth someone behind their back, purposely get their order wrong without it being blamed on me or something like that.  However, eventually, the person who I am being petty to will likely catch on and I will have to pay consequences for it.

My takeaway about pettiness (in no particular order):
  • It's beneath us
  • It is a wasteful use of energy.
  • It is potentially a cop-out for dealing with resentment and other relationship issues.
  • It may not be a 'sin' per se, but it is clearly not in keeping with the golden rule

So, IMHO, we should do ourselves a favor and avoid it.  If it is masking relationship issues, then the deal with the underlying issues.  Trying to deal with it by pettiness is a long term loser.

Just my thoughts.


Monday, January 20, 2020

Placing Sadness in the Anger Bin

According to grief.com, the Five Stages of Grief are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.   The idea is that you first deny the reality of that which grieves you; you are angry about what seems unfair or not right; you 'bargain' with your higher power that you'll do better if only you wake up and this horrible nightmare is over; you fall into a depression when you realize that no matter how much you wish it weren't so, there is nothing you can do to change that which grieves you and of course you accept that which you and move forward.

What I've learned along the way is the practice of 'medicine' is as much of an art as it is a science.  I believe this to be the case with psychology as well.  I believe that some models of human behavior, interactions and thought are better than others, that there is no one-sized, fits all model.  Each model has its flaws and exceptions as well as its accuracy and strengths, but I digress.  I believe the "Five Stages of Grief" model has a lot of value to it.  However, I believe the progression of grief doesn't always follow that model and frankly sometimes people never quite reach the acceptance stage.   From what I've seen some people never make it through the depression stage.  It's like they deny the loss, are angry about it, try to bargain the loss away, and hit the sadness or depression stage and struggle to handle it.

I called this post, "Placing Sadness in the Anger Bin", because essentially, the griever is at a point in which he or she should be working through the sadness, but for whatever reason, is struggling to.  What should manifest itself as Sadness or Depression instead comes out in Anger.  The sadness exists, but the griever is not processing or allowing it to fully express itself.  In my own life, this circumstance manifest itself with my brother's suicide, written in Don't you forget about me: The blog I needed to write one day about my late brother,

Due to the circumstances and timing in which he was found, the family was never allowed to see him after he was found.  As I worked through his belongings in his apartment that in the week that followed, a part of me expected him to walk in and gripe about what were we doing with his belongings.  It was surreal and was obviously the denial stage.  Gradually, it gave away to anger.  I knew he was struggling and did what I could to help him, but I felt the family overall had let him down.  He would 'disappear' from time to time and it seemed as if few in the family did anything more than to ask about him (from my perspective).  Had dealt with the same type of sexual abuse that I did as a kid and the struggles that come from growing up in a dysfunctional family which was unnecessarily poor and led by an alcoholic dad.  He struggled to find acceptance and had cried out for help in his teens with an overdoes on Tylenol.  From my perspective, he was largely abandoned and left to his own devices by the family.   I was angry and humiliated that as a family that we let him down.  I was angry at God I'm sure.  I was angry at myself.   I knew he was struggling and I dropped away for a little bit.  I didn't care that I was dealing with my own failing marriage, depression and unemployment.  I told myself I knew better and let him down.

In some ways, I'd wake up for a bit and just hope that this was just a bad dream and he'd show up and hoped there was a way that that could happen.  But, at my age, the 'bargain' stage didn't last too long as I am a realist.  At this point, having gotten over the shock, having worked through some anger and realized that bargaining was fruitless, I was was struggling with the sadness/depression.  Why should I have to deal with this?  Why should I have to feel this bad?   Why was I the one who was the last one in the family to attempt to be there for him?   I bounced back and forth between sadness and anger.  Eventually, I worked through the sadness and came to accept the reality of never seeing him again, but it wasn't a clean, linear five step progression.

As with the story above, I have come to realize in my life, a phenomenon.  I have seen in the life of others, especially, but not limited to kids and younger people that same phenomenon: Sadness hiding behind Anger.  That is Anger being Sadness's spokesperson, instead of Sadness speaking for itself.

  • The sadness hurts. Why should I have to feel this hurt or loss?  
  • The sadness leads to unexpected/uncontrolled expression sobbing or crying.  Why should we have to deal with something that makes us feel 'weak' or 'unsafe'?
    • It can make us feel vulnerable or 'weak'.   Anger tells us we should be able to better deal.
    • It can feel humiliating.  Crying, while healthy, is best done in a safe place.  If not done in a safe place, it can lead to humiliation.  Anger hates humiliation.
  • The sadness seems never-ending.  Why won't this stage ever end?  Why can't I just move on?  Anger hates an unresolved endless repeat of the same painful story.


Anyway, from what I see, Anger serves two purposes, not necessarily healthy, but nonetheless two purposes.

  • Anger can serve as seemingly less draining than working through the sadness.  
    • Anger doesn't require the level of introspection and processing of sadness.  It is a raw unfiltered emotion.  Let's face it, if you don't feel like you should have to deal with sadness, anger seems to be a good option.
  • Anger can serve as a way to block the sadness (at least for a time).   
    • In a way, it can be seen as the emotional version of cutting.  My understanding is that the raw physical sensation of cutting serves as a distraction for emotional pain of sadness.  If you are focused on the acute physical sensation of cutting* and all it involves, for a time, the emotional hurt is overridden.  Anger can be raw and intense, and in a similar way to cutting it can overwhelm sadness the emotional hurt of sadness.

I think most people have seen instances, either portrayed in the movies or somewhere in their own lives or those around them an angry person who is lovingly embraced and proceeds to break down and cry.  While I wouldn't categorically endorse that technique in dealing with angry people, it does emphasize a point: that sadness is often underlying anger.  

I guess my takeaway is this: Before you write off someone who has anger issues at least consider that there may be more than just meets the eye.  It isn't always just some jerk who decides that hating is an acceptable way of life.  It isn't always necessarily some psychopath who has predatory anger.  Sometimes, an 'angry' person is simply a person who is trying to avoid dealing with sadness.  So, instead of placing their Sadness in the Sadness Bin, they feel more comfortable placing it in the Anger Bin.  So, before you condemn an angry person, consider that there may be a sad person inside who just needs some understanding.**

Just my thoughts,
Rich

* I understand there are other reasons behind cutting as the Mayo Clinic details.  I've known people who cut, but I never began to understand why they cut themselves UNTIL one day when I chewed a fingernail too far down on the nail bed.  I'd done this before where it caused an uncomfortable, acute pain.  But, I had found that pressing down on that fingernail until it turned white for a while would lessen or block the pain in the nail bed.  I believe my higher power gave me an insight that day.  What I was doing was substituting one pain for another less intense pain.  In other words, I was blocking pain with pain.  I realized that day that people often cut for the same reason.  They are blocking an (emotional) pain with a less intense physical one.  I realize now that perhaps anger is just another form of pain displacement.

**But don't be so foolish as to try to hug and angry person with a knife or to ignore the symptoms of 'psychotic anger'.   Personal safety comes first.  ;-)

Friday, January 17, 2020

Shutting off the drama: Backing away from conflict and reorienting.

The holidays--and maybe just other times for no specific occasion--can be good for getting reacquainted with family and friends.  If we live out of town, we might choose to fly or drive in and see family and friends we haven't in a while.   If we live in town, we might make it a point to get together with those whom we haven't seen in a while to celebrate OR we might entertain family and/or friends who fly into town to see us.   Most of the time that is good thing.  Family and friends are the ones that be supportive of us, that can re-energize us just by virtue of their presence.    However, at times the hope we have the supportive or re-energizing can instead feel like burdensome or draining.  It doesn't necessarily have to be an open conflict, just personality differences can be enough.

I have written about this general topic matter in at least two posts.

  • Boxing others into our expectations.   This is where I discussed the concept of how we expect certain people to fit roles in our life: Close friend, close sibling, supportive parent, our co-parent, etc.  In a way, in our mind we 'box' them into the expectation of what role we feel they should play.  We then base our interaction with them on our expectations of their role.  This can lead to frustration. The whole idea is that instead of getting frustrated that they aren't meeting our expectations, it is good to pause, reassess them and the situation and adjust our expectations and interactions with them in a way that better reflects reality.  In other words reorient ourselves relative to them to a place that is healthy for us.  In other words, we don't have to necessarily remove them from our lives, but we may limit what we share with them, for example.
  • Dealing with others: People will get along with you IF they want to.  This is where I discuss the idea that while you can help facilitate positive interactions with others, it is ultimately up to others to decide if they want to get along with you.  If they really want to get along with you, they will tend to look for opportunities to do so (and overlook things they don't necessarily 'love' about you).  If they don't want to get along, they will look for reasons or excuses for not liking or getting along with you.  Basically, don't take it personal or try to force it.

We might realize people aren't fitting into our expectations of them. We might be getting frustrated and have to reorient ourselves and how we interact or deal with them Or in some cases how we don't.  However, from what I've observed (and experienced myself), that usually is a process that can take time, a willingness to see and accept a reality we don't like, and in some cases being deliberate.


Time
  • When we are close to a situation, it can be very easy to see what we want.  In other words, a confirmation bias.  Sometimes, it just takes time to see a pattern of interaction over a extended time before we accept it.  If it is a parent for example, they may not be accepting of our choice in a spouse.  We may overlook comments that would point to that reality and instead glom onto any comment or indication that we think points otherwise.  Like a parent might show interest in our spouse, but might be doing it out of courtesy rather than acceptance. It might take time be able to see past what we want to see.
  • Sometimes a realization might be so profound that it take a while to process it.  That could take to form of being huge and/or emotionally demanding.  For example, take the case of a parent whose health is failing.  We might have been close to that parent and that closeness is no longer there.  We may need for our sick mom to be the warm, compassionate person she's always been and counted on.  However, she might be in a different place, focusing her energies on coming to terms with failing health.   It may take us a while to realize the extent of her failing health and effectively disentangle ourselves of the level of dependence we've had on her.

Acceptance
  • No matter how much want, hope for or expected a different type of relationship than what is, it may not ever happen. People have room to grown and there are things you can do to encourage a closer relationship to a sibling, child, friend, or whomever.   However, at the end of the day, you cannot force someone to be different than who they are or what they are capable of.   At some point, instead of conflicting with them on whom you hope or expected them to be for you, it is just time to accept the type of relationship that both of you are capable of.  That maybe bittersweet, but as a brother once said, "A half of loaf of better than no bread".  Just make sure you can accept and have the ingredients that you can afford for half a loaf.
  • We have to be willing to see a relationship for what it is (and isn't).  I always wanted a close relationship with my dad, but it never really developed.  I think he wanted to be decent father that could be emotionally open, but he didn't really have a good example to emulate as he was bounced around in the foster system. Also, he struggled with his own issues, including alcoholism.  He did the best that he could given the example(s) he had to follow and had his moments.  I saw and accepted that he couldn't be this close parent that I could confide my insecurities and flaws to.  I saw that we could get along and I could help him out and vice versa.  Though disappointed, that was something I could work with as I was willing to be realistic.

Deliberateness
  • When we are reorienting our expectations and perspective it is easy to fall back into old patterns.  If we are the one pushing a friendship or relationship we may wonder if the other party is really invested in it or not.  If we are finding ourselves conflicting with a family member, we may want to have a better relationship, but we just wanting it and interacting with them as we always have just lead more frustration.  Sometimes, no matter bothered by backing off from them for a while, we may need to do that and let the situation sort it out.  This can and often should be quietly stepping back.  In other words, letting the situation organically reveal itself as to how to proceed.   They may surprise us after this time and find that they want a closer/better relationship.  However, we may find that the relationship that was to be just needed some space to develop.
  • When we are reorienting our expectations and perspective, it is easy to hang onto the frustration/disappointment.  If we are committed to reorienting our relationships with and expectations of another to a more healthy place, we have to get rid of or re-channel the frustration.  We have to remind ourselves that even though we 'signed up' for a different type relationship with another, that they may not have 'signed up' for the same.  We may have thought that a friend we hang out and do things with would be a good person to personally confide in on a situation.  Over time we may come to realize he or she is not the right person to confide in or relate to on it.  Our friend just not be capable of being there for us in the way we hoped, but we didn't realize it initially.  That's not specifically the friend's fault, it is just a limitation.  We have to deliberately remind ourselves of this realization or understanding until we have reoriented our friendship to a healthier place.
  
When our expectations of others don't meet reality, there is a good chance we will conflict and there will be drama.  Sometimes we just have to step away for a bit. limit our interaction with them until our expectations come into line with the reality of the relationship, and adjust what we what we feel we can offer if necessary.  Everyone wants close family and friends.  Most people don't want conflict or drama, but sometimes it happens despite our best intentions.  Sometimes we just have to step back and 'shut off the drama' for a while until everyone is in a better place and move forward from there.  That maybe an unsatisfying reality, but we know as adults that we may not always get what we want, but that as the Rolling Stones wrote, "but if you try sometime, you might get what you need.".

Just may thoughts for the day and a follow-up to another couple posts.

Piece out.

- Rich




Friday, January 10, 2020

#MeAsWell, Part 2 - Trauma: The Wild West of Emotions

Paraphrasing what a counselor once said to me: Trauma doesn't necessarily occur when the incident or event happen, it is when you become aware of or start processing it.  His point was that someone can have a traumatizing experience, but the trauma or the impact isn't necessarily immediate.  What follows includes a deeply personal story and if you aren't ready for that, I don't blame you for stopping here. Anyway, I think for a CSA (Childhood Sexual Abuse) survivor, trauma occurs when he or she realizes how wrong and how violated they were.  CSA can occur when an adult or much older kid wins the trust of a young child and groom them in the process, eventually leading to SA.


A groomer can
  • Being a 'good listener' aka 'being there'.
  • Showing 'empathy'.
  • Be seemingly nice and generous.
This gives the CSA survivor trust in their predator who might then
  • Rubbing on a back
  • Patting a leg
  • Putting hand(s) on shoulder(s) 
  • Intense tickling 
As trust is won and the survivor gets used to the 'warm' physical touch, a predator may
  • Show too much affection such as forced kissing
  • Touch/fondle in inappropriate places
  • Engage in sexual abuse at varying levels.
Unfortunately, this wasn't just a theory for me.  In my blog post, #MeAsWell: For What It's Worth, I go into my own experiences with CSA (Childhood Sexual Abuse) at the hands of at least two males, one of whom was a church camp counselor. I didn't immediately recognize what was happening even when the groomer(s) took it to from a little inappropriate to an unquestionable violation of my person.  As puberty was descending on me it all started to dawn on me.  I had been sexually abused and the ignorance of my youngest years about what was happening gave way over time to many emotions/cognitions:
  • Confusion: Why did I allow it to happen?  Why did I tolerate it? Did I 'secretly like it'?  I've over time come to the understanding that I didn't:
    • Ask for it.  It was forced upon me.  Not always necessarily physically, but often after by what I realize now emotional blackmail.
    • Appreciate what was happening.  I was nowhere near puberty when it started. So, I realize that (and this disgusts me saying this) any positive feelings from the grooming and inappropriate touch early on were mistaken feelings of acceptance.  That is, if he is comfortable 'touching'*** me and being this close then that must me I be likable.  Little kids value and crave acceptance and I was no different.  Clearly my young child psyche was telling me I wasn't getting appropriate type and level of acceptance where I needed it.  Therefore, when a predator threw 'acceptance' at me, disguised as 'caring', I was unfortunately taken in by it.  Mistaking inappropriate attention for acceptance.
  • Feelings of Weakness/Shame/How could I have let it happen?  Unfortunately, 20/20 hindsight can be brutal
    • As a teenager and beyond I thought to myself how could I let myself be violated like that, especially by other guys.
    • Why didn't I stand up for myself and how the hell could I not have realized it was wrong.  In other words, deep shame.
  • Anger
    • How dare someone use me like that, looking out for themselves. (I believe this is one reason I despise idiot drivers who risk my safety for their own impatience).
    • That someone was able to turn my vulnerability on me and take advantage of me.
    • That I wasn't protected by those who were supposed to be my guardians.
  • Deep distrust
    • Those who purported to have cared about me, really didn't and they were looking out for their own 'fulfillment' (at my expense).  One was in a position of 'religious' leader.
      • It's a pretty easy step step to default distrust of intentions (even subconsciously) if those who were supposed to 'care' about you proved to have deeply selfish, sick and harmful motives.
    • Those who were supposed to be keeping me safe, let me down. So, I have to look out for myself.
      • I realize to some degree now, the world was a more trusting world back then.  Priest/teacher/Hollywood producer/etc. type scandals were not in the news. 
      • Things like this weren't spoken of.  So, parents I think in some ways were 'groomed' to not be able to appreciate and handle these type situations.
      • If there is already dysfunction in the house, it can be distracting from a primary purpose of parents to keep the household (including kids) safe.
  • Disgust
    • I am disgusted by some behaviors now that I might have just overlooked.  Obviously, seeing a grown-up be 'too friendly' with a kid is one of them.
    • In some ways, I am deeply put off by arrogant behavior.  I'm almost in a way disgusted by their behavior.
    • I have struggled at times in my life being comfortable around older men, especially if I sense anything 'off' about them.
  • Anxiety 
    • I'm not going to delve into this one.  I think this one is obvious and it is really in some ways an extension/logical conclusion of all the other feelings/cognitions.
  • Powerlessness
    • I was pressured, bullied, cajoled, and even though I didn't necessarily always realize it at the time, threatened in other's pursuit of their unhealthy/wrong satisfaction/needs.
    • I've heard from other CSA and/or SA survivors that their feelings of powerlessness can get in the way of intimacy.  In other words, if you felt powerless in an area which you should have felt safe--your personhood--that it is hard to give up control or power in that area.  In other words, that's an area which we'd tend to default to trying to 'get back' control.  
      • Seeking control can take the form of 'frigidness'.  This means, I won't allow you or anyone into my intimate space.
      • Seeking control can take the form of promiscuity.  This means, I am taking back control or at leverage of my intimacy for my advantage as opposed to that of others.
*** I mean more than touch but you know, not an easy thing to share with the world.


In this blog post, I am focusing on CSA because that's the one I'm most personally familiar with (being a survivor of it).  However, I'm aware that other traumas can cause a wide range of emotions.  The murder/death of someone close or the sudden and acute health problems are just a couple.  

I refer this this as "The Wild West of Emotions" as we think of the Wild West as being:
  • Tending to be intense
  • Often unpredictable in timing and intensity
  • Raw, especially emotionally.
  • Untamed
I think my own personal list demonstrates this.  I'm sure many others who have experienced significant traumas can relate.  To whomever reads this, I hope you gain a little insight or unfortunately if necessary can relate.  In any case, as always feel free to take what you can use from my post.

Thanks,
Rich

* A personal note.  I think my late brother was a CSA survivor.  Unfortunately, I believe effects of this haunted him in some ways for the rest of his life and help lead to his early passing.  RIP Bill.