Saturday, July 29, 2017

A Glimpse Into a Marriage

Tonight Gary came by as Scott and I were getting ready to eat, and I hope I was able to be an example for Scott of behavior I’d like to see in him:  calmness, calmly stating boundaries, stating them again (calmly) as many times as necessary.  It actually did seem to be more effective tonight, and hopefully Scott got an idea that it’s possible.  He doesn’t have to be triggered into going out of control with his words or his voice—there are alternatives that are better.  His father grew up in such a way that feeling out of control feels normal, and he cannot help but create drama.  That feels like home to him.  It can be hard on people around him, especially his family.

Gary doesn’t know that it’s possible to be aware of his own feelings, even unpleasant ones.  Thus he reacts blindly to them; he does not possess insight into them.  He doesn’t realize that being aware of being aware of those unpleasant feelings takes them into the realm of choice rather than reflex.  He doesn’t know that this can help him feel better inside and keep him from behaving counter-productively.  And the reason he doesn't know this is because the agitated way he’s feeling inside that often makes it so difficult to be around him—feels normal to him.  When he’s acting from that version of normal, he is driving people around him nuts, and he thinks there’s something wrong with them because they’re so on-edge around him.  He becomes the victim.  This is what my parents do…this is what authoritarians do—they claim they are the ones who are victimized!  And, I kind of think they actually believe it.  That they are the victims.

He feels himself in this place over and over, mainly with his sons and me because most friends are too polite to call him on this stuff, and so the situation is contained.  However, they don’t pay as high a price for containment as I would—in terms of absorbing his contempt and pretending to agree that I deserve it--because that’s the only thing that makes him feel right inside.  In order for him to feel right inside I needed to have never challenged him, or questioned his actions, even if they were directed in a negative way at me.  For a while I guess we were both at that futile game of the-definition-of-insanity-is-doing-the-same-thing-and-expecting-a-different-result; me hoping that if I worked hard enough I could find the right words that would penetrate the shell of hurts that denied him access to his heart and spurred him to act in ways that were so detrimental to our marriage.  His version of the-definition-of-insanity game was to keep up a cycle of say-or-do-something-hurtful-then-refuse-to-acknowledge-doing-something-hurtful-and-then-be-angry-when-someone-names-the-thing-that-he-just-did.  That old game.  I'd hoped that his love for me would maybe spur him to realize what he was doing and what his behavior was demanding and allow him to have a moment where he was free to wonder if his behavior and expectations were reasonable.

Eventually I was forced to give up that hope, and that game.  I gave it a good chance, though.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Excavation and Exorcism

I woke up to a concept in my brain.  I got it how it’s really true that my choices were to do whatever it took to placate and get along with people because the conditions of my being with them was that I absorb without complaint whatever they gave me.  

It is true that for my parents to have been the parents I needed, that is, people who could really see me and listen to me, and listen to my deeper intent, they would have had to have parents who were able to do that for them.

What was clear with Gary was that I had to absorb anything he threw at me if I was going to be with him.  There was no negotiation, not because he was particularly intentional about that, but because he was unable to be flexible of mind for long enough to see that what he was asking for was not really reasonable to ask:  that I absorb whatever he said or did, no matter how unjust.  And that I absorb it without saying anything about it.  I think it was the same dynamic, from my childhood to my friendships, relationships, and marriage.  It was clear I could not be with people unless I absorbed without complaint what they did or said.  How I react inside to what they say or do is my problem to deal with.  There were very strong feelings inside in response to the original situations.  There was not help offered to help me deal with them.  And I suppose what made it bearable was to second-guess the feelings I was having, to doubt myself.  If it was possible the whole thing was my fault, then I could stay with them.  And, it hurt a lot to believe that I was inherently at fault, and it weighed me down with great sorrow and shame.  But it kept me in relationship.

I couldn’t reconcile—I needed them, at least my parents; that was a given.  So when they started doing things, because of the misguided common wisdom on how to raise good kids (‘show ‘em who’s boss and make them suffer if they don’t comply—and believe/rationalize that you’re doing it for their own good—and don’t look at how your behavior affects them, because their preferences are outranked by adults.) I had no idea things should be different.  Telling an adult that what they were doing was causing you pain only caused you more pain because it would offend them and they would think you were being insubordinate in telling them.  So they did things that caused me pain and caused me more pain when I told them that what they were doing to me caused me pain.  So there is no other choice but to conclude that there is something wrong with my inability to not be deeply offended when they would behave a certain way toward me.  So I came to believe that I am flawed; what they are saying or doing is offensive to me because I am too sensitive, or I missed something, or that I have such a mean spirit that I don’t just put it away from me and not allow myself to feel offended.  And I would keep piling on reasons why I was at fault:  I was thinking about it too much, I was ‘endlessly analyzing’, I was “attached”, I was “too sensitive”.  Basically I was wrong for experiencing their behavior toward me as noxious in the first place.  The early relationships were crucial, and did set the pattern for others:  their expressions of love for me could turn off very suddenly if they were unhappy with something I’d done.  If I wasn’t returned to equilibrium fast enough to not inconvenience them (and I might add, without soft, intimate assistance to return to equilibrium)(which meant I never learned how to bring myself back to equilibrium, beyond attempting to swallow my disequilibrium and through force of “positive thinking” neutralize it out of existence.) there was punishment.  I never could, and then I believed there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t neutralize my disequilibrium out of existence.  And then I was very sad.  And then any expression of love or a hint of closeness with one of these people would feel to me like a lifeline to my own worth.

I am worth having my own feelings.  

I do hope that I don’t turn into a person who demands of others that they blur our boundaries and permit themselves to be my Object.  I believe it would be wrong for me to demand it.  I believe it was demanded of me.  I believe I had parents who confused satisfying their own egos with raising good kids.  I believe my parents believed that if their children did something that threatened their internal sense of standing with their friends, that this meant their children had been wicked, and this had to be punished out of them.  A kind of mild demon exorcism, but cruel from the point of view of the child.  I think in the medieval exorcisms of old, the belief that they were engaging with something evil allowed them to loose their own demons, only they deceived themselves into thinking that they were serving good.  But they were serving their own sadistic impulses.

Not that my parents were at all sadistic.  They just truly believed that in order to raise good people you had to make children suffer when they did something wrong.  The rub comes from defining what "wrong behavior" is.