Making a difference even when it seems pointless to try.

nfl stadium field full with crowd watching the game during daytime

I was at a stadium event over the weekend. I was in line to get popcorn when the worker behind my register waved another customer, in a separate line, to go in front of me: “Sir I can help you over here right away.” He said. I had been looking at my phone and was confused by this so I glanced to my right and saw a concession worker trying to get her register back in working order. Her facial expression made it seem like she had just had words with the man who was staring her down on the other side of the counter. She was opening the cover of her register and was willfully ignoring him.

The man across from her looked really angry. He was also very tall. He was wearing a plaid shirt-coat and had burly chapped hands. It was clear that he was upset. While continuing to stare at the woman who was trying to get her till working again, he slowly walked over, stood directly in front of me and then took his time putting in an order…

Plaid-coat guy was surrounded by several children. I felt the familiar wave of pain rising up inside as I took in their blank faces and defeated postures. The man did not express any gratitude to me for letting him in front of me, nor to the worker who had stepped in and offered a solution. The man didn’t even look at me, rather: through me.

However, one of the children standing beside plaid-coat guy, looked at me and held my gaze for a long time. His stare seemed to be questioning me, or perhaps, questioning the entire situation. So I smiled at him and held his gaze. He shyly smiled back, looked away, and then immediately looked upward at me through lowered eyelids. I smiled again. He smiled back again, less shy. Eventually looked away again, but then immediately looked upwards at me through lowered eyelids. This routine continued a few more times. He stood a bit taller and his continued glances were less shy; after I had smiled and gazed back about six times.

Moments like those I am often wrecked for days trying to process it. I used to have to avoid children altogether as any inkling that they were being mistreated was too triggering for me. And I still feel such a stab of something in my heart when I encounter children with parent(s) who behave in alarming ways. I am writing this out now just to try and make some sense of it…

The pain I felt when that boy looked at me was an identification of sorts. (“Identify, don’t compare” is an AA term that I find it helpful.) My unspoken thoughts were something like this:

“I’ve been where you are, little man…I’ve been so, so confused, so many times growing up because the adult with me was acting like a jerk and I was half embarrassed and wanted to just disappear but it’s my dad and though I couldn’t fully admit it for most of my life, he was abusive to me, which means I was loyal and willing to hide all his crimes, in fact I was actually far more loyal to this jerk dad of mine than any of my friends whose dads didn’t ever knock them around physically or emotionally.”

I wanted to say all of that to him and I wanted his thoughts back to me to be this: “I think I would die if I sensed that you thought my dad was being a jerk…but, he is, isn’t he??…he’s being a jerk right now and while a part of me could die knowing it…another part of me is coming alive wondering if that’s the real truth of it–if it is really that simple, and that all I need to do to break out of this awful moment is to admit my dad is a jerk?? But, no, I can’t do that yet and so I just want to look at you and see if you see me and see what YOU think. I just want an adult to really see me. As someone separate. Look at me and tell me that my dad IS a jerk; but that it is ok. That I am OK. That I don’t even have to admit it yet and that you don’t reject me for any of it. Because in ten or twenty years, or more, when I might be able to process this moment I am going to remember the look that lady who graciously stepped back and made way for my dad, when he was being a jerk at a concession stand, yeah–I am going to remember that that one lady, and maybe a dozen more over the years, looked at me and actually saw me as being separate from him. That she ignored my dad but was nice to me…Or maybe one of my teachers will call social services, or will treat me like it is not my fault that I threw up in the sink, because I am so anxious all the time. Maybe I will remember that and with the power of those moments where adults cared enough to see me, as me, I might be able to break the ties of loyalty that are still keeping me from outright being able to say ‘My dad is a jerk. But I am ok.’

I really do hope I gave him some sort of something that will bust through the shame, which he will most likely need to bust through, in order to be ok someday. I tried to prove to him that I disapproved of his dad but readily approved of him.

I grew up in a time when parents were ‘always right’ and children were to be seen but not heard. Adults covered for other adults. If my dad was a public jerk, people often bent over backwards being kind to him all the while ignoring me completely. And, furthermore, I grew up in a time that when an adult was bad; the child was also bad by default. Entire families were avoided, or warned about: “What do you expect from so and so, of course their child is going to be like that.”

But it didn’t stop me from trying to be seen as separate. I believed what I was being told (that “I was bad” and deserved my treatment), yet I also wondered if that was lie and if I actually needed rescuing from bad parents… and so I would look shyly and eagerly at strangers and non-family adults around me and wonder ‘do they see me?’ ‘is what is happening here ok?’ ‘wouldn’t an adult looking at this save me if it was really bad?’ Especially when my dad was being a public jerk (usually he saved his jerk side for ‘at home’). I averted my head in shame, just as that boy had done. But I also looked upward under my eyelashes to see if any adults were seeing me.

I remember a few adults casting their eyes downward and refusing to meet my gaze. I remember other adults beginning to backtrack and being really really nice to my dad… Perhaps they thought I was of the same ilk as my dad. Perhaps they didn’t want to get involved. Perhaps they just didn’t give a rip.

Either way, I am convinced that things like a simple look of love and understanding to a child, a look which says ‘I see you as someone separate from the jerk you are with and I accept you‘ can make a very big difference.

I am not sure I completely understood that boy or the real situation; maybe it wasn’t even his dad?? I suspect my therapist would say I was ‘mind reading’ or some such thing. Yet I also believe my intuition on this one, sadly, was pretty spot on. And so I certainly tried to understand that sweet boy who kept stealing glances at me as he stood next to angry plaid-shirt guy.

Because understanding IS love.

And love is never wasted. Not even in a packed stadium.

Receiving holiday cards from ‘no contact’ people.

photo of red mailbox mounted on wall

It started up again. During the season of ‘Christmas Cards’ my BHH is tasked with sorting the mail in order to filter out the holiday cards from family members from whom I maintain ‘no contact.’ He looks them over to make sure there isn’t anything I absolutely need to see or know about. You know, just in case someone writes something like ‘I am sorry I assaulted you’ in the margin or something…. Then he gives me a choice on whether or not I want to see it/read it. Sometimes I do. Sometimes not. After I am given that choice, he seems to relish tossing the cards/letters in the trash can.

Witnessing his discarding of the cards actually helps me, tremendously, to get over the boundary breach that is created whenever such cards come into my world.

Yesterday, while looking over the latest card-about-to-be-discarded, my BHH commented, “You know, I forgot to tell you but a few weeks ago I read this article about churches that are incorporating electronic tithing. They recommended printing out paper slips for the pews that say ‘I give electronically’ so that when the collection plates are passed, the people who give electronically can still put something into it. The studies show that offering those slips really boosts the number of people who give electronically in a congregation.”

I wrinkled my forehead. One of the things I love best about my BHH is that he often has these very deep insights into things. Occasionally they are so deep (even for me) that they make no immediate sense.

Seeing my confusion he explained: “Your family must think that if they still send us a card, it proves something. Like people who give electronically to churches but still want to throw something in the plate to either participate or to prove to the people next to them that they do actually give…so voila, they have a slip for that which says: ‘we give electronically’. The truth is those people had already given an offering. And they knew it, and God knew it. Why do they need to use a slip of paper to prove it? Seems like a main reason to grab one of those slips would be prideful — doing it just to show other people that, yes, they actually gave something. I think your family is doing this to us so that they can say, ‘Well we still send them cards. They are the ones with the problem against us.'”

Indeed. Their continued holiday cards are a lot like a ‘we gave already’ slip. My estranged family already gave me what they had to offer. It damaged me tremendously. I told them how damaged I was from it. But their response when I passed their own offering plate right back to them was not a deep digging into the pockets of their past. They offered up no new resources, financial or emotional or relational, which could have helped me heal quicker.

All they offered, and all that they are still offering, are empty pieces of holiday papers. Because they already gave; and it sure seems that they aren’t going to give any more than that.

 

 

 

‘Show me where they are in five years!’ (abuse recovery and the extended grieving process)

adult alone anxious black and white

A good friend of mine, whom I will call Grace, lost a child before I knew her as a friend. Grace’s mother is a religious woman. She (the mother) was perplexed by the depth of her daughter’s grief response.

Grace’s mother believed that extended periods of grief were an ‘unbelievers’ lot in life. Those who grieved extensively must be lacking somehow in faith. It seems she also subscribed to the notion that a Christian response to loss was stoic, strong, joy filled, and ‘soldiering on’ in spite of it; proving to others your strength (thereby the unsaved folks can be inspired by your good Christian example).

A couple in Grace’s mother’s church also lost their young child. And they ‘handled it so well’, according to Grace’s mother. The father spoke at the funeral and praised and thanked God. In the weeks that passed, as people offered condolences, the grieving dad asked if there were any ways he might pray for them. In the first six months after the loss, the Mother had also shared her story, and proven her ‘faith and strength’ at women’s church events. Therefore Grace’s mother wished Grace could have given such good and faithful examples herself when she had lost a child…

Grace told me all these stories long after the fact. So I asked Grace how she had responded when her mother so rudely told her she ‘should have been like those other people’.

Grace snorted. ‘I told her to show me where they are after a year has passed! And then show me where they are in five years, or on the child’s birthday, since as each year passes those things get harder; not easier. And if they are still going around saying everything is wonderful at that point, then maybe there really is something wrong with MY faith!’

‘How did your mom take that?’ I asked, my eyebrows raised in shock at Grace’s bold defense of herself.

Grace sighed. She said her mom seemed offended and that as soon as Grace had said all that she was overwhelmed with empathy for the couple and felt bad for being so harsh about them. Realizing that they were soon going to crash and burn, once the denial and shock stage of grief passed, she really felt for their inevitable pain. She also feared that they were going to get little support from her mother’s church, when the painful stages of grief began to hit them. So Grace softened some to her mother and said, ‘Listen, mom, they are likely still in shock. Once that wears off and the pain hits them they are going to need real and ongoing support. Grief catches up with everyone, it just does. It isn’t about a lack of faith and so I hope your church still supports them when they are no longer able to stand up and praise God like they are able to do now. They will be brought to their knees eventually by this. Please don’t be harsh with them when that happens.’

The couple did, eventually, crash with grief. Their deep loss becoming more real as more time passed. They went through a time when they were no longer able to ask about others’ prayer needs. They stopped attending the extra church events, and no longer spoke on a public platform. Grace’s mom began to talk about them in the same hushed whispers she used when referencing her ‘broken’ daughter.

At the time Grace told me this story I could relate, but only in this way:  when our business had been established for about seven years, a traveling salesman for a multi-state trade publication pressured me to buy expensive weekly advertisements. I bought one month’s worth; to try it out. But at the end of the trial period I didn’t think the results we saw were worth the added expense.

The salesman stopped on his rounds and pressured me to buy more advertising space for the next month. I refused. He persisted. I refused. Then he told me about a nearby competitor of ours- who was buying ad space every week and how ‘their marketing plan is working unbelievably well for THEM. They are making sales all the time and all over the place!’

The competitor he referenced was a two-year-old start up. I doubted they’d stay in business long as nothing they were doing made fiscal sense to me, nor did it make sense to my BHH (and business partner). I wasn’t sure about MY business savvy but I knew my BHH had business sense in spades. Therefore I didn’t think the nearby start-up competitor would ever make it past the start-up stage.

Both phone lines started ringing at the same time, the salesman wasn’t taking any of my polite refusals, and he was just standing there on the other side of my desk like a lumbering mule who couldn’t understand commands and might mess on my floor at any minute. I was manning the store alone and just wanted the salesman gone. Plus, I was really annoyed that he’d tried using classic sales tactics (so and so just bought it and loved it!) instead of just sticking with truth and honesty about his product…So I angrily blurted out, ‘show me where THEY are after five years, and at that point we MIGHT start running our business like they are running theirs!’

He turned red and left. It took over a year before he tried to sell us more ad space—when he finally called again our competitor had already crashed and was no longer in business. And I felt really bad about that. Just as Grace had felt. Because I didn’t mean them any ill will. I wanted to see them succeed. I didn’t want my thoughts and words about them to actually come true. But they had come true. Because what I noticed had been true.

Start ups have notoriously low success rates. But if a business can make it past the five year benchmark their rates of long term survival are far more certain.

Now I relate to all these stories and the ‘show me where they are in five years’ axiom from the perspective of abuse and PTSD recovery. I get my friend Grace’s grief. I have realized that my recovery is actually an extended grieving process. wherein I have come out of a lifetime of denial and for the first time have started to understand the enormity of the spiritual theft and soul damage that incest and child abuse steals.

And if someone can truly be supported for the time it takes to ride that roller coaster of grief, then they might be ready to be a witness and an example to others, eventually…

For now I am still grieving and recognizing what has been lost in my life. And I’m still in survival mode. Like the first five years of our business when we absolutely couldn’t live off of the earnings and just kept pouring all we had, and borrowing even more on credit, right back into it just to try and make it work on its own ‘someday’.

I keep pouring all I have into my recovery hoping that someday my brain and emotions will just take off on their own and not need so much outside ‘input’ anymore.

I’ve been told it will ‘take as long as it takes’ to heal. But I am thinking three to five years is a MINIMUM.

And so I would caution not to put anyone on any kind of a ‘pedestal’ or use them as any kind of example or good witness, before at least that much time has passed in recovery; any recovery really.

 

Humility and mental wellness

art carving close up crown

I read the fourth chapter of The Book of Daniel this morning.

I wondered if King Nebechadenezer had immediately humbled himself before God, as Daniel suggested, if things would have  been different for him. Specifically the dream he had (a prophetic picture of him ‘going mad’ and his kingdom being taken from him) — could that prophetic dream have been avoided?

Well in the end, King N didn’t listen to Daniel and the dream came true. Quite suddenly too. One minute the King is on his palace roof gloating over all he accomplished and the next minute he is out of the palace and out of his mind eating grass and letting his fingernails grow like eagle talons.

After a long time of that King Nebuchadnezzar ‘looked to Heaven’ and ‘his reason was returned to him.’ As was the kingdom and his humility before the one true God.

I have written several times now about a book I am reading, by Patrick Carnes, called The Betrayal Bond. 

He goes into some detail about the role of hubris in forming a trauma bond. An example being a child believing she is special because daddy has ‘chosen only her’ to have a special (abusive) relationship. I could relate very much. I just shared with my therapist that as distrustful as I was of my own family I believed the world ‘out there’ was what I really couldn’t trust.

It is difficult to admit but when I look back at my childhood, no matter what happened in my home, I believed we were better than other people. I’m not sure if that was an unspoken rule thing or just my own sinful nature trying to hide from feelings of shame.

For much of my life I was like a queen, walking the rooftop my ancestors had built, surveying all that was going on and still having the hubris to declare that it was better than anything else on earth.

In light of that delusion I was under, I am actually thankful that my mind broke. There probably wouldn’t have been any other way for me to see the truth of it all.

Gods Kingdom is the only good Kingdom. The things man builds are rife with betrayal, abuse, hubris and all sorts of other madness.

 

When the exhausted mind lies. Like an overtired toddler: but I’m really not tired!

adolescence adorable blur child

Life with an overactive mind: I have a strange pain in my back and I start to obsess that it might be cancer. Or, the muscle twitch in my chest could be the beginnings of a heart attack. Or, right before bed I think of a minor irritation I had with my BHH two days ago and I bring it up with an accusatory edge in my voice; even though we are both tired and it wasn’t that big of a thing.

It is sort of a ‘somatic’ thing, but not really. The medical term for body pain originating in the mind is: somatic (or psychosomatic symptoms). I’ve mentioned several books and theories about somatic symptoms in the past. Dr. John Sarno coined something called TMS — wherein the mind distracts a person from painful emotions by causing a random pain in the back, or neck, or leg. Thereby distracting you from that which is even harder to bear. Like the emotional heartache of grief, stress, or an unsuitable-to-you career choice. Those deeper issues can disappear when your mind is focused on whether or not you will be disabled by the pain in your neck, leg, back, etc.

During my thought processing time today–wherein I was again going over old journal notes  — I came across something intriguing that I had written down. I think it came from my therapist originally. She likely took the note down from someone else.

“An overtired child will insist it is not tired. In reality you KNOW the child needs a nap. But the more tired the child is, the more the child will declare she is NOT tired. A wise parent ignores the child’s protests, removes the stimulation from the child and gives her a space in which to rest and sleep.”

My notes continue to say that I need to treat the obsessive thoughts popping up into my mind, usually about health concerns or my marriage or that I am not doing enough with my life, just as the parent treats the overtired toddler. Ignore them. Don’t give them air. Consciously give my overactive and extremely tired mind the rest it is actually telling me that it NEEDS.

I’m not sure if there is a word for that kind of thing either… Some might call it ADHD, or OCD, or PTSD or C-PTSD. All I know is that I know my mind, my emotions, shoot — even my spirit…is tired. And that it keeps insisting it can ‘still do this’. This being: maintain a high intensity, high stress, highly productive existence. In reality, my mind has been overworked by years of trauma, and then years of denying trauma, as well as some addictions to control and intensity–things which I keep fueling. I have listened too many times to the inner-toddler insisting she wasn’t tired and made myself even more exhausted as a result. I fear that what has resulted is a middle aged crank case who desperately needs a break but won’t give herself one and thereby makes everyone else around her…miserable.

This morning I do recognize that my mind is overworked, overtired, in need of a break. But just like that toddler I can also see how it is STILL insisting right back to me, “I’m NOT tired!”

This is what it looks like when I fall for that lie: I google what a heart attack feels like and get even more concerned about this weird pain in my chest. Or I watch that thriller murder story at 8PM instead of reading a subduing book so that my sleep cycles can maintain their regular-ness. Or I start another round of the WWIII fight I had with my husband last week.

I do all those things over and over because I allow my mind to fool me. It tells me in this excited you-can-do-anything-you-want voice: you are not tired of this emotional roller coaster you’ve been on your entire life! You actually love it!

Yeah. Right. 

A Cracked Christmas…and why I am addicted to being in control.

blur close up crack cracker

My mom was a hoarder. Although I didn’t have a word for it in my childhood as the TV show, Hoarders, didn’t exist. I just knew something wasn’t right with her. We had two deep-freezes full of outdated butter and other things. Mom bought more boxes of butter (and fish sticks and ice cream) on every grocery run. When a freezer got too full, she added more freezers.

Each December I would beg to decorate. My school friends’ Moms put their trees up the day after Thanksgiving. Eventually Mom would nod with a dramatic ‘fine’, and I would climb into the attic to the boxes marked x-mas. I would sift through them and only put out the newer decorations. The cracked silver bell door hanger and the dusty choir boy candles from the 1950’s  stayed at the bottom of the box with the burned out lights, broken tree ornaments and stinky wax poinsettias things. Mom hoarded everything she ever received that had anything to do with anything; and especially Christmas. Yet it also seemed she hated everything to do with Christmas–at least when I was around.

I am an artistic type and so I enjoyed the entire process. All alone I would put the tree up–pushing the stacks of hoarded stuff to the corners of the living room. Mom stayed busy in the kitchen. Dad would come home and declare it looked good; and then now you just need to leave it that way. Then he’d turn to mom and tell her she always over did it and put too much stuff out. I would sing inside at the rare praise, hoping that Mom would listen to Dad.

A few days later, I returned home from school to the harsh reality of my life. Mom had oodles of cookies piled up in the kitchen. She’d already done her work in the living room. The tree sagged, overwhelmed with too many ornaments, many cracked, glued together, and dirty. The bookshelves overflowed with grimy candles. The counters in between the two rooms were covered with nut trays and waxy poinsettias (with layers of dust– too old to come clean). She had redone my decorating; putting it just as she wanted it–and how she wanted it was to have the entire house overflowing with broken, old, fused together…stuff.

I didn’t actually process what that felt like, until I started therapy a few years ago. Yesterday I found my therapy notes about my childhood Christmases. It was insightful to re-read. I could still feel the raw emotions that I felt when I first penned the ‘exchange’ between my younger self and my adult self. But the hard feelings were subdued now; less painful.

I also realized, as I read through the memories: this is why I am addicted to control. This is why I became co-dependent.

There was no submission to one another in our household, and no respect. Boundaries were non-existent. There were ongoing power plays and codependency followed by reluctant obedience followed by retaliations to prove who was really in control. Mom hoarded and ignored. Dad screamed and hit. The uncles molested and assaulted. They were all perverse with one another. And they lived, willingly, with all of it. Controlling their own little worlds, oblivious to the damages done to themselves or others. Just so long as they remained in control of something and/or someone. (Children being the easiest to control).

I decided that most things were my fault, or my responsibility. Now I see that was a form of maintaining some sense of control. In reality, I was in danger. I was abandoned and neglected and outright abused. That truth was too scary to realize, though. I chose the easy lie–that I had deserved it all for being bad.

As an adult my efforts to be in control of the narrative did double-duty each Christmas season as the stress and expectations mounted. I tried to make the holiday into a Hallmark movie for the entire family; hosting gatherings and making nice. I had my own boxes in the attic marked x-mas–yet Mom’s tired junk made its appearance anyway in my own home. She reminded everyone of what a fussy baby I had been. She asked catty questions about how much ‘that new bedspread had cost’ (even though my bedroom door was kept closed, and eventually locked, during family gatherings)…but…. So long as the house and the decor looks nice I can make everything inside of me, and others, be nice as well!!

Nope. I could never control my family. They won every time. Sadly, I still let them win sometimes- even though I have estranged myself now.

As a child I fluffed out that fake tree and made things pretty and believed it could work. I thought Mom would let me have some say, that she would honor my need to have a pretty home, that she might honor ME. She let me get by with it for a day or two. Then she showed us who really ran the house. I’d return from school, see those cracked silver bells on the front door and knew I couldn’t win.

Mom sat wordlessly during dinner, ignoring my dad when he yelled, veins popping in his head, because he couldn’t find his reading glasses with all the bleeping Christmas $*^! on the countertops.

I barely touched my dinner. Then I ate cookie after cookie, their rotten butter and outdated flour putrefying with everything else inside my guts. The next day I’d likely have to skip school, again, due to stomachache.

Dad hit with his hands and cut with his mouth. But in her own way; Mom won the fights. She got what she wanted and what she wanted was to hang on to every old thing she could and to insulate herself from everything. Misery loves company; as they say.

But some things are actually better cracked — like nuts. So the real question is: can I let go of my own need to insulate myself from pain; letting the cracked parts of y life reveal the tender flesh within?

I think so. Probably for the wrong reasons though. Oh, I think I have healed a lot in my recovery process. All I have to do is read some old journal entries to realize that. But, well, mostly I think I am just stubborn enough not to let my mother ruin another Christmas.

 

 

 

Intensity versus Intimacy

I discovered the Sherlock BBC series early in my recovery (see clip if interested). When I was first diagnosed, the stress part of PTSD had manifested in my neck. The old adage of someone being a ‘pain in the neck’ or ‘it made all the hair on the back of my neck stand up’ took on new meaning. I now know, from personal experience, that extreme distress does weird and painful things to your neck. The muscles were so tight that doing my job at a computer was difficult. I could manage sitting upright on the couch, surrounded by pillows, watching TV. Which is where I spent most of my time in the beginning stages of recovery.

One of my favorite finds was the Sherlock series. I loved Benedict Cumberbatch’s emotional detachment and the extreme analytical mind of the Sherlock Holmes character he played.  And I could relate, too, to every single bit of it–to Sherlocks investigative powers and seeming ‘sixth sense’, to Watson’s displacement, to the victims of the crimes, and to others who were taken aback and didn’t know if Sherlock was mad, or a genius, or both. I was completely hooked in the first episode when Watson, a soldier with PTSD, went to his therapist after doing some detective work with Sherlock for the first time. His visible tremor had disappeared and his therapist said she believes he wasn’t actually suffering from any after effects of the wartime. Rather, she surmised that he missed it (the intensity of wartime) and that is why he was symptomatic.

That scene really stuck with me.

Fast forward a few years and I am well aware, from books and other research I’ve done, that incest and sexual assault survivors often have tell-tale signs of past abuse. They tend to be very sensitive to smells, for instance. They also tend to love and devour mystery novels and detective shows.

Indeed.

The internet is full of articles like ’10 signs you were molested as a child’. I received so much silence and denial from my abusers, after I owned the truth of my childhood, that I needed something to latch onto. Whenever I’d start to doubt myself I would look up another one of those ‘lists’ and realize that I had EVERY SINGLE ADULT TRAIT of someone who had been sexually abused as a child. My mind would calm down again. I wasn’t crazy. It had really happened. This was my story. I couldn’t deny it anymore even if everyone else involved WAS denying it.

And so here I am, years later, still trying to figure out how to NOT live in denial. When does the crazy feeling in your brain go away? Hmm. I think it would instantly go away if one of my abusers (or ALL of them) came to me in true apology and owned it. But, I’m not holding my breath. In the meantime I am just trying to break the emotional and mental bondage (to my abusers) and to uproot the abusive mind-sets that I still fall into.

To help me in that effort, I am reading The Betrayal Bond by Patrick Carnes.  (I wrote about it yesterday). And, as with many other helpful things I’ve read and experienced, I’m seeing how all the other things I’ve read, watched, or experienced stack up to form an overall explanation of why I am…the way that I am. Particularly the section of Carnes’ book which talks about using intensity in the place of intimacy.

Yikes. That is so me.

I loved that BBC Sherlock show because it was intense. I, too, love intensity. And I often mistake intensity for intimacy. Intensity was part of the cycle of abuse I grew up in.

There is an old song by Garth Brooks called ‘two of a kind’. that can get stuck in my head for days, especially the line ‘sometimes we fight…just so we can make up’. That line has always resonated with me. Now I know WHY.

Like many other incest survivors, I sometimes manifest conflict with those closest to me. I am subconsciously trying to re-create the drama that was my childhood, and trying, in vain, to resolve that past conflict through present relationships. I manufacture tension. I start out by withholding. Then I go from zero to one hundred in a few seconds and unleash the fury of abandonment and neglect unto those who are not abandoning me or neglecting me. I see things that are NOT there. And then I just want it to go away again. I want to passionately make up and forget it ever happened… ‘Sometimes we fight….just so we can make up‘. It is the making up, which never–ever–happened in my childhood. It is THAT which I am craving. Conflict resolution. Restoration. Things being made right again. Making up

All of this is a longing for true intimacy.

All that ever happened to me as a child was intensity on top of intensity. I didn’t even know what I was missing; just that SOMETHING was missing. Therefore I began to VIEW the intensity as intimacy…And then we get to make up and it’s oh so good again. Except I’m the only one who doesn’t tire of this lashing out routine. My BHH is exhausted and very angry that I am still doing it.

I don’t want this intensity any more, though. I want it to stop. I want to be like Caroline Ingalls who never raised her voice and always spoke with smiles.

The problem is, when my neck gets tight and I have to spend a few days on the couch again: I would much rather watch Sherlock than Little House on the Prairie.