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.