I believe I’ve stumbled onto my first order of business in retraining my boundaries and conditioning.
I’ve mentioned that I believe the best way to retrain old conditioning is to act opposite of what you would normally. I can’t pretend that ALL survivors have the same issues that I do, with a fear of negative emotion, failure to stand up for ones self, self-doubt, second-guessing or what-have-you, though i do believe that the vast majority, do. It’s what enabled our abuse.
For me, I LEARNED this behavior while growing up. It’s continued and thrived, making me an outrageously easy push-over. The victim mind-set also had a huge play in this. The man (the way I looked at things) always had the last word and I stayed quiet. It was this way with EVERY man in my life. I didn’t speak up very often. That is, unless I was thoroughly pissed, in which case I would become my own loud, verbal spout. In order to break up with someone I had to get ANGRY. In order to stand up for myself, I had to get and be, ANGRY. This isn’t right! It’s not fair to make myself endure abuse because I’m not mad enough to get out.
It’s not that the abuse wasn’t happening or that I shouldn’t have been angry about the atrocities. I’m just conditioned to react a certain way to negative emotion or mistreatment. I shut down, calm my tone, and control the fight or flight instinct. I go numb. I don’t fight. I’ve always allowed mistreatment in this way. I shut down, stay quiet, become a lumpy jelly-fish over in the corner, and I’ve always stayed…until I was finally able to become mad, angry and entirely pissed OFF! Then I said EVERYTHING that I’ve always needed to say, stood up for myself and could take on someone that was 10 feet tall. It was then, that I saw no fear in myself and didn’t feel any, either. This could have gotten me killed on more than one occasion. The proverbial straw was the deciding factor.
The shut-down phase can last anywhere from a few months to a few years, before I’m able to grow some big brass ones. I was always proud when I finally stood up for myself. I felt in-conquerable in the end. This only lasted until the next time. Until the next person saw I was a push over, and the cycle would begin again. I’m curious as to what a psychologist would tell me about this… All I know is, it’s not a safe cycle. It’s entirely wrong for me to willingly (WILLINGLY) place myself in this type of situation. It’s not only wrong that I have never stood up for myself in the beginning stages of abuse, when I most definitely SHOULD have, but it is also very wrong to only be strong enough when I’m angry. That is beyond anger…more like uncontrollable rage. It’s a difficult cycle to describe. Neither extreme, for me, was ever controlled at all. Both were instinctual, sort of. Both were conditioned responses.
This is what I need to change, first.
Lately, I have been in a couple of situations that I recognized when someone wasn’t being respectful of my boundaries. Also, when I get the willies about someone, I used to “poo-poo” the instinct away, thinking I was being unreasonable. “I haven’t given the person a chance”. Until yesterday when I chose to confront a co-worker about his gossip, I just walk away or chose to end contact, silently. This is a step in the right direction, though a small step.
I’m learning to heed my internal warnings. I do understand, however, that in my state of recovery I am probably unbalanced in my perceptions of others, their intentions and so on. The exercise is to get used to recognizing the internal warnings and learn to pay attention, and act on it accordingly. I still need to be able to speak up, but the silent walking away is ok for now. I’m recognizing my internal pangs and stepping away from that which causes the small (or big) eruption, inside. In doing so, I hope to relearn the pattern and eradicate it from my life, entirely.
As this becomes more natural for me, I think the rest will fall into place.