6 “useless” emotions that aren’t useless, and 2 that really are useless.

Originally posted on July 10, 2016 on Lucky Otters Haven

negative-emotions-crop

I get tired of the positive thinking brigade who tells you you always must be happy and that there’s no place for “negative” emotions.   Not only is it obnoxious to wear a pasted on smile all the time even when you’re not feeling it, it’s not natural or healthy.   Of course, being a positive person who thinks positive thoughts is a good thing, but when it’s taken to ridiculous extremes (and it certainly is in my family, where “negative” emotions are not accepted or allowed) it can be soul-damaging.   Following is a list of unpopular (or “useless”) emotions that definitely have their uses (when they’re not excessive).  There are only two emotions I can think of that have no uses whatsoever, and I’ll describe those last.

1. Guilt.

My father always used to tell everyone that guilt was an unhealthy, useless emotion, but I couldn’t disagree more.   True, excessive guilt is bad for you, but the right amount of guilt separates people with a conscience from the psychopaths. I pointed out this to my father once, and he became enraged.   Hmmm, I wonder why!   The ability to feel guilt keeps us civilized and mindful of the feelings of others.

2. Sadness.

Sadness is a normal reaction to a loss.  It also connects people in those times of loss.  We have socially sanctioned rituals that promote and even encourage the expression of sadness (funerals) but otherwise, people are uncomfortable with the sadness of another and are always trying to cheer you up.   If you’re crying, people always want you to stop. Why?  Feeling sad and crying can be healing; if sadness is repressed it can lead to something much worse–depression.   People need to just shut up and let you be sad and cry if that’s what you need to do.

3. Anger.

There are times it’s appropriate to be angry.    Anger, though toxic both to yourself and others when excessive,  helps you survive.  If you feel threatened or feel that someone close to you is threatened, you are going to fight back.  The only other survival option is to flee (which I’ll talk about next).   Otherwise you’re just going to stand there and let yourself or your loved ones get attacked or treated badly.    Excessive anger, of course, leads to hatred, and hatred is not only useless, it’s dangerous to the soul.

4. Fear.

If you can’t fight (sometimes you can’t), you can flee danger.   Like anger, fear is a survival emotion.   It can be excessive, leading to anxiety disorders, but fear in normal doses is both healthy and appropriate reactions to danger.   It’s important to distinguish whether it’s better to flee (fear) or to fight (anger).

5. Jealousy.

I’m not talking about envy here, an emotion often confused with jealousy.  But they are not the same.   Jealousy refers to the fear that someone is taking something you love away from you; envy refers to wanting what someone else has.  There are similarities though. Both are bitter, painful emotions, hard to deal with.  Sometimes they lead to people attacking the object of their jealousy or envy to “even the score.”   But jealousy has its place.   It’s another survival emotion, similar to anger mixed with fear, that warns you that something that belongs to you is in danger of being taken away.   The problem is jealousy often crops up when there is no real danger of that happening, and that leads to all kinds of problems.  Excessive jealousy can actually be self-defeating and drive what you love away from you — the most obvious example is constantly asking someone you’re in a relationship with if they are seeing someone else, or snooping in their things to find out.  That sort of behavior will eventually drive the other person away.

6. Envy.

I hesitated to put envy here, because on the surface it really doesn’t seem to have any useful purpose.  I almost put it as one of the “useless” emotions I’ll be describing last.  But envy does have one useful aspect.  If it’s not excessive, it can be a motivator, making you take action to improve your own circumstances.   When it’s used that way, it’s really more akin to admiration than envy.   The problem with envy is it can so often turn so bitter that it saps all your energy and lowers your self esteem, making you LESS likely to improve your circumstances or achieve the things you want.

The Two Emotions That Really Are Useless.  

uselessfork

1. Worry.

I heard a great saying once:  “Worry is useless because if what you dread comes to pass, then you’ve lived through it twice; if it never happens, then your worry was in vain.”  I took those words to heart because of how true they are.   Worry is absolutely useless.  If faced with a potentially bad or dangerous situation, worry won’t help you.  If something can be done to prevent the situation from happening, taking action will help,  and once you take action, then there’s nothing more to worry about.   If there’s no action you can take, then worrying about it is a waste of time.  Better to plan how you will deal with it when it happens, than to sit around wringing your hands, pulling out your hair, and making yourself sick over it.

2. Shame.

Shame must be distinguished here from guilt.  Guilt refers to something you did, while shame refers to the person you are.  Guilt is useful because without it, there would be no apologies or amend-making for bad behavior.   People would just go around doing whatever they want, regardless of how it makes others feel.   Shame, on the other hand, is useless because it means feeling sorry not for something you did, but for who you are.  If you were the family scapegoat, then you were the receptacle for all the family shame, and were made to feel like you’re worthless and don’t deserve to live.    Shame is the one emotion that is at the core of all the personality disorders and every case of complex PTSD generated by familial abuse.  It’s incredibly toxic–probably the most toxic emotion there is, and it has about as much usefulness as a bicycle does for a fish.

For more about shame vs. guilt, please read Carrie Musgrove’s article about the important distinctions.

Joy.

joy2

I finally saw my therapist after 3 1/2 weeks.   I hadn’t seen him since before Christmas.   It felt like coming home.   In fact, when I saw him I did something uncharacteristic of me: I blurted out, “I MISSED YOU SO FUCKING MUCH!” and ran into his arms like a 6 year old  girl runs into her dad’s arms when he returns home from a long day at work.   He thought that was funny and laughed.  I sat down sheepishly, my face turning red from my outburst.  But he just thanked me for being so open.

We discussed the dream I had a couple of nights ago, the one where I was swimming in the ocean with my mother.   He agrees with me that my mother in the dream wasn’t actually my mother, but the part of me that internalized her critical and disapproving voice — and a lot of her narcissism.

We talked about my nakedness and the fact I was deep underwater — and feeling happy about it.   Nakedness represents my vulnerability, and the ocean is deep emotions.  I was feeling happy being vulnerable and exploring the deep ocean of feeling that I avoided for so long, like  someone who’s afraid of the water and yet desperately wants to just let go of their fear and jump in the deep end.

Because I was swimming with my mother, and she was as naked as I was in the dream (we were both much younger in the dream but were approximately the same age, yet I knew it was my mother) and because I was feeling completely comfortable in her presence, this means that the  self-critical, judgmental, narcissistic part of my personality (which is really my mother’s voice which was internalized) is integrating with the vulnerable child-me.   I had already figured most of this out myself, but his agreeing with me validated what I already knew.

Something even stranger happened yesterday, and it’s directly related to the dream.    I was browsing through one of the Christmas catalogs I always get, preparing to toss them in the recycling.   But one ad caught my eye:  an ad for JOY perfume.   JOY is very expensive — about $80 for a small bottle.   It was always my mother’s favorite fragrance and I remember my dad always bought it for her on her birthday.   I suddenly had a strong desire to purchase a bottle for her for her birthday, which isn’t until August.

I thought it was strange that I had such an idea, because I’m No Contact with my mother and intend to remain that way.   I have no desire to see her, talk to her, or have any dealings with her at all.   For the past few years I haven’t even sent her a gift, just cards on her birthday and Christmas.  Why all of a sudden would I want to send her a bottle of her favorite, and very expensive, perfume?

I told my therapist about this and we talked about it.   I want nothing from her.  Buying her the perfume wouldn’t be to “buy her love,” because I know it would never work, and in fact, I don’t even want to talk to her when she receives it.  I just want to mail it to her and leave it at that.  I expect nothing in return.

I know my mother will cry.   She’s a high spectrum narcissist, but she gets emotional about certain things.   When I was a teenager, she cried all the time, but back then she drank heavily and usually cried when drinking — or when sober, to manipulate or get attention.  She rarely cried from genuine emotion.

But I doubt anyone has given her a bottle of JOY in many years, and I know in my heart that she will cry because it will touch her.  She’s like that.   She’s easily moved to tears when people are unexpectedly kind to her.  I also know that as hateful as she always acted toward me, there’s a part of her that is desperate for my love.   I know she thinks I don’t love her, but that’s not quite true.  I just don’t want to deal with her, because I can’t and because it’s very bad for me.   I love her; I just don’t like her.    I want to do something nice for her.

But I don’t want to see her tears.  I told my therapist I know she will cry if I do this, but I wouldn’t be able to handle her emotional reaction.   He asked me why and I said I didn’t know.   Maybe it’s because her tears are triggering to me because they were so often used in the past to manipulate, or just because I can’t stand to see her out of control.  Maybe seeing her like that makes me feel too vulnerable or is just too embarrassing.    I have no idea why seeing her shed tears of gratitude would make me want to run, but I know it would.   I told him if she called me to thank me, I would avoid the call.   All I want to do is give her something that would mean something to her, because she has had such a sad life and will never escape from her prison of oblivious, un-self aware narcissism.

My therapist said what he saw happening to me was that I was turning something negative and dark into its polar opposite.  From the crucible of narcissism, real affective (not cognitive) empathy is emerging, and that is why I suddenly want to give my mother something that means so much to her, without expecting anything in return.

He told me something else too, and this bothered me a little.   He said when I first started coming to see him over a year ago, I seemed angry and cynical.   I was a little taken aback by that, because I had thought I came across as friendly and funny.   I didn’t realize back then that this was a mask, and apparently the anger I really felt wasn’t that well hidden.  (I’m not a very good narcissist because I’m such a lousy actor, apparently).  It bothered me that I could have been so transparent, but of course it’s his job to see through to my real self.

But he followed that up by admitting he hasn’t been seeing as much anger lately.   Instead, he’s seeing a loving, gentle person emerge, a person who is capable of empathy and love.   I wasn’t even aware this was happening, but he’s seeing it.  I just thought it was weird that I wanted to splurge on a bottle of JOY for my mother, but it really means much more than that, so much more than that.

Hey, Mom, I know you lurk on my other blog. I don’t know if you ever found this one.  But if you did, and you are reading this, YES, you’re getting a bottle of JOY from me for your birthday.   Don’t ask questions; just accept that it’s something I want to do for you. My biggest wish for you is that one day you will become self aware.

Martial arts for uncontrollable anger.

taekwondo

Many people with Cluster B disorders and C-PTSD suffer from periodic, uncontrollable rages.  My son isn’t Cluster B, but when he was a young teenager, he had anger issues due to his father’s and my divorce (among other things) and successfully channeled that anger through his involvement in Kung Fu classes.    Not only did the classes help him channel his anger, they also taught him how to be mindful and greatly boosted his self-confidence.    As his confidence grew, he was less prone to sudden rages.

Many kids these days take Taekwondo classes.   Kids who have been bullied really benefit because learning these skills makes them feel less defenseless and more confident.  But they aren’t just for kids.  Adults with anger problems can benefit from such classes too.

Contrary to what many people think, the martial arts don’t teach violence.   These disciplines aren’t just for self-defense.   The philosophy behind them is that mindfulness is a must to defend yourself successfully–and that fighting back without justifiable cause will always make things worse.   They also teach their students respect for others and demand deference to the instructor.

So, for Cluster B people in particular, the martial arts provide four things that people with these disorders need so badly:

–learning to be more mindful
–learning to respect others
–channeling anger appropriately
–boosting real self confidence

Here’s a good article I found about how martial arts can be used to help people control angry outbursts and learn to be more mindful.

http://english.astroawani.com/lifestyle/do-you-suffer-anger-disorders-learn-martial-arts-42022

Absurd dream that made me angry and then laugh.

coffeemakercoffeemaker

I dreamed about my stupid narcopath ex again.   I don’t know why I keep dreaming about him because I never actually think about him and no longer care about him.  My primary “emotion” toward him is slightly annoyed indifference.  I don’t even feel much anger anymore.  Just boredom. Honestly, if he were killed in a car accident tomorrow, I doubt I’d care that much, except for the impact it would have on our kids.  He’s like a stranger to me, one I’m glad I have almost nothing to do with.

In these dreams, he’s always doing better than me and I resent the hell out of it because I think he’s so undeserving and an insufferable ass who deserves to be deprived instead of me. I know that makes me sound like the narcissist instead of him, but it’s the truth.  These feelings come out in my dreams.  Here’s the latest.

In the dream, the knob on my ancient stove (the real one I actually have) stopped working.  The white paint that spelled the numbers and the “OFF” were long rubbed off, but I had still been able to tell if it was off or on because of the little “click” when I turned it that told me it was off.  But the knob kept spinning in place and wouldn’t click.  Something seemed to be broken or loose.

I don’t know what kind of place we were in.  There were all these strange people walking around, like it was the middle of a public hallway somewhere.  So here I was, sitting on the floor in the middle of this hallway, with all these strangers walking back and forth, angrily fuming and fiddling with the broken stove knob.   I knew I couldn’t afford to buy a new stove, or even have the thing repaired.

My ex was over in another corner, with all his new toys, like it was Christmas morning or something.   He had TWO new coffeemakers (why?), a set of brand new dishes, an ice cream maker, a deep fryer, an espresso maker, a juicer, and an expensive food processor.   Their boxes and packaging were strewn nearby.   I went over to ask him to help me with the stove knob, and that’s when I saw all his new kitchen loot.   I was enraged and jealous.

“Where the HELL did you get all that new stuff? TWO coffee makers?  Why would you need TWO goddam coffeemakers? Who the hell NEEDS two coffeemakers?”  I yelled, outraged.

He ignored me.   That enraged me even more.

“Where did you get the money to buy all that crap, HUH? Who you freeloading off of this time?” I demanded. “I know you didn’t EARN it!”  He continued to act like I wasn’t there.

angrywoman

“Maybe you STOLE it!” I accused.   I thought of all the times he had stolen money out of my wallet while I slept.  Or the time recently when he stole the money my daughter had been saving to move to her own apartment.

Blood roared in my head.  “NO ONE NEEDS TWO FRIGGIN’ COFFEEMAKERS!”  I screamed.

Did I expect him to give me one?  Maybe I did.  I wasn’t sure.   All I knew was that this injustice made my blood boil. This POS who had freeloaded off me for seven years so he could get disability and never have to work a day in his life again had two brand new coffeemakers and a bunch of other useless kitchen crap that he’d probably never use.  And I had nothing but a broken stove and bills I couldn’t pay.

I looked around.  The people walking back and forth ignored us.  They might as well have not heard me yelling.  Maybe they didn’t hear me.   I didn’t care if they did or not.  I was beyond niceties.

I fixed my gaze back on the narcopath. I imagined my eyes were two laser beams boring into his blackened soul. “Hey! I need you to help me fix my stove.  The knob is broken and I don’t know how to fix it.  And unlike YOU, I can’t afford to buy a new stove or have it fixed.  So I need your help if you can tear yourself away from your new toys long enough to come have a look.”

He continued to open his packages, pulling styrofoam out of another box.  Maybe it was a third coffeemaker.    His two coffeemakers sat side by side on the floor, taunting me.  I felt like drop kicking them into the wall.  I glared balefully at them instead.    Those innocent hunks of plastic and brushed chrome represented everything I hated about this man.

“Hey.  I’m talking to YOU.   I need you to help me with my stove.”   I had the broken knob in my hand.  I shoved it in his face so he would look.  He still ignored me.  What the hell was his problem?   I looked back to where the stove had been, but I didn’t see it.   I wasn’t too concerned.  After all, this was a dream and as far as I was concerned, the stove was still there.

I asked people around if they had seen the stove.  I showed them the knob.  No one had seen it.  Strange.  But I still knew it was there.    I walked back over to where my ex sat and continued my tirade and demands.   I wanted him to suffer.

“Well, you insufferable ass. Since you refuse to help and continue to give me the silent treatment, I want one of those damn coffeemakers,” I said.   He was still ignoring me.

I woke up and laughed.   What a ridiculous, absurd dream.  What an complete entitled bitch I had been in it too.  Narcopath or not, no one deserved to be treated the way I treated him in the dream. I would never actually behave that way in real life.   But in the dream itself, I was really mad and couldn’t control my rage and envy.  I don’t really know why, unless I’m still harboring anger toward him.  Or maybe just anger in general.

My first really unpleasant therapy session.

Triggered_Asami05

It was supposed to be Chair Girl’s gift opening day, but I completely forgot because of my father’s death, so that co-opted everything I had planned to talk about. I spent half the session talking about my guilt feelings over not being able to grieve. I spent the next quarter reminiscing over pleasant memories I had with him.

But when only 15 minutes remained, I got triggered. I remembered that as the family scapegoat, for a long time now there have been hints and other indicators that I have been disowned and will be left out of my father’s will. I know my son is getting something. I worry that even my Narc mother, who he has been divorced from since 1972, will get something–and if SHE gets something and I do not, I will go ballistic. I may not be responsible for my actions if THAT happens.

All these people in my family talk among themselves, they have conversations that do not include me, and I am never privy to what is being said. My daughter has been disinherited too. I was never told outright I was disinherited, but I have reason to think I am, and I think my father’s wife brainwashed him to disinherit me. They all know how poor I am but I really don’t think anyone gives a shit, and what’s more, they all think I deserve it.

I don’t even trust my son. What has he been told by the family that he isn’t telling me? In my mind I imagine he’s been told he will inherit a healthy sum with a caveat that he shares none of it with me, his own mother. Or even that he can tell me nothing about what he received? Why would he say no? Any 24 year old would probably throw his own mother under the bus if it meant he’d never have to worry about money again. I wonder if his conscience would kick in at some point. Would he finally say something? I don’t know. Or would he sell out to the Narc Family Status Quo and become just another flying monkey to the Powers That Be?

So I’m in panic mode right now. I’m suspicious, paranoid and hypervigilant. I’m dreading when the will is read and I get the letter or the call. Or, is it possible they could all just leave me completely in the dark, so I only find out about my being left out through others in the family who got their inheritance? I really have no idea how these things work. I just know that soon, the cat will be out of the bag. I know this post makes me sound like a greedy, entitled, materialistic person, but it’s not that. It’s not the money per se. I wasn’t a bad daughter. I wasn’t a drug addict or a criminal. Hell, I didn’t even come out as gay (an unfortunate but common reason for parents to disown children).

I tried to be good, I tried to please everyone. I tried my best; I really did. And I apparently failed. What did I do wrong? I’ll tell you what: I didn’t become “successful” in life. I didn’t become a yuppie with a late model car and a high end home. I don’t have a high paying or “important” career. I’m poor and of the “wrong” social class. And I’m blamed for it, even though the emotional and financial tools others have to succeed in life were denied to me. Being left out of my father’s will would be like the final “fuck you.” The crack of the judge’s gavel at the end of a long trial, announcing that court is adjourned and you have been proven guilty. Guilty for BEING THE VICTIM OF A CRIME. That final fuck you would be all the proof I ever needed that my dad never loved me either, and that would devastate me because for years I’ve hung onto a thread of hope that he loved me at least a little. If something does come through for me (even if it’s less than what others get), I will at least feel like he didn’t think I was complete garbage, and for someone as love-starved as me, even a few crumbs of love tossed my way might be enough. Yeah. That’s how pathetic I am.

If I get nothing, I am done. I am done with everyone in my pathetic excuse of a family who treated me like a second class citizen and a loser. I am done with those shallow, narcissistic people who devalued and abandoned me just because I was the person who I was and didn’t live up to some impossible expectations that I was never capable of meeting. If that happens, I will never speak to any of them again. I don’t know how I’ll handle the rage I’ll feel. Will there be anywhere for it to go that doesn’t involve doing or saying something I’ll regret? I can’t imagine I’ll be able to hold it in. I’ll feel like that guy in the movie “Falling Down” who just had it with everything and everyone and went postal.

Right now I’m a nervous wreck, just waiting. Expecting devastating, infuriating, hurtful news. Bracing myself for salt being rubbed in my already gaping wounds. I imagine them laughing at my hurt, rage and pain. I feel like a horrible person that I’m more worried about what my inheritance might be (or that I won’t get one) than I am about my father’s recent illness and death.

This was what we ended the session talking about, and I left feeling just horrible. I was close to tears and my therapist apologized for having to end the session while I was so triggered, but at least he offered to see me twice next week (even though I probably can’t do it next week).

Right now, I’m sitting here crying while I write this post–tears of dread and intolerable anxiety and also pre-emptive rage (rage before anything has even happened). And the possibility of knowing, very soon now, just how hated a daughter I really was.

And this is why my therapist thinks I can’t grieve. Because I can’t allow myself to grieve as long as I feel like there’s a possibility I may find out I wasn’t loved or valued at all, by anyone in my family. I will cry if I do fin out that’s the case, but they will be bitter tears of rage and hurt. If I find out my fears were groundless, only then will I be able to grieve the way a daughter should be able to grieve for her dead father.

I’m sorry this post isn’t very coherent. I’m an emotional wreck.

The waif inside.

bigeyedchild

Tonight’s therapy session definitely made up for the one I had on Monday, which I felt wasn’t very productive because I seemed to be deflecting and avoiding talking about my feelings.   I asked my therapist to stop me if I did that again, even if I get angry.   He agreed to this and tonight I dove right in.

We were talking about myself as a little girl, especially the way I was never allowed to express my emotions, especially anger.  He wanted to know what I did with all that anger.  I thought about it for a minute, and told him I turned it toward myself, and that’s why I started to become so depressed and why I started to hate myself .  He asked me to put my mind inside the mind of “little me” and describe how she felt and what she looked like.

We came up with a picture.  I described her as a waiflike child, like those paintings from the ’60s of those sad, big eyed little kids, dressed in rags, with a gray, unhealthy pallor.  She is always sad, almost always crying.  She’s afraid of everything.  She feels completely defenseless and in fact she doesn’t have any defenses.   She was never allowed to grow up.

I was asked how I felt about her.  I said I didn’t hate her, that in fact I felt protective of her and had to keep her safe from harm.    She also makes me feel angry when she comes out without my permission because she’s too vulnerable and defenseless and that makes me feel ashamed.   I have to protect her, but I also have to protect myself by keeping her hidden away so she doesn’t embarrass me.

It was harder to talk about her feelings about me, the way she views me.   All I could come up with was that she felt like I kept her safe but wishes I’d let her out more.  I realized then that it was easier to describe my feelings toward her than to describe her feelings toward me.   I’m not completely disconnected from my true self, but dissociation is present.

He asked me what good qualities she has that I want to protect.  I said she has a kind, gentle soul and a big heart.  He asked what she wants.  I thought about it and said, “all she wants is to love and be loved, and to belong.”  I got emotional at that point and started tearing up.  I wasn’t able to describe the emotions I was feeling at all, but I knew we’d made some progress.   He wants to start seeing me more often.   Somehow I’m going to find a way to afford it.   This type of inner child work is hard, but it’s amazing.

Distraught, depressed, and confused.

In spite of the hopeful, positive dream I had early this morning where I seemed to discover my own power over my inner demons, I actually have been feeling very bad.   For the past week or two, I’ve been much more stressed than usual, more depressed, more nervous, more negative, quicker to anger, less mindful, and generally just feeling a lot more triggered by small things.   I feel like I’m on the verge of tears a lot too, even though I can’t actually cry. People at work have noticed too, and I got asked a couple of times this week if I was “alright.”   I hate the fact that people can tell and I’m so bad at hiding the way I feel (it pisses me off–but am I pissed at them for noticing or am I pissed at myself for being unable to maintain a false front of good cheer?  I don’t know).   People have always thought I was a little “off.”  But they are right.   I am not “alright.”

The only explanation that makes sense is that because I’ve been looking more closely at my early life, and at my family’s behavior toward me, it’s triggering a lot of unpleasant feelings and making me feel dangerously vulnerable and also angry at the same time.   All this negative emotion could mean I already dived into the void and if so, then that’s a huge step toward healing (which the dream seemed to be about).    I don’t know.  I always email my therapist what I want to talk about and have him print a copy so I can remember (I like doing things that way), but I think I might have to talk about this instead.   Thank God I see him tonight.   I’m going to ask if I can see him twice a week while I’m going through whatever emotional crisis  I’m in right now.   I’m just feeling really…bad right now.  Is it normal to feel better at the beginning of therapy and then start feeling a lot worse later on?   I know we’re starting to dig up things I wanted to leave buried before.   Maybe its sort of like giving birth–and these are emotional “labor pains.”  I don’t know.

Projection, anger, and emotional distancing.

projection2

Last week my therapist asked me how I’d feel about coming to meet him in another office downtown on a different night. Feeling slightly panicked by this (I hate change), I told him that no, that would not work for me. All week I’ve played that short conversation over and over again in my mind, imagining that my saying “No, I don’t want to do that” made him angry. I imagined I saw an angry look on his face, and decided to bring that up in tonight’s session.

I assured him that I didn’t think he was really angry, and I realized I was probably just imagining things, but that all week I had been obsessing over being “displeasing” to him and maybe even making him dislike me (which turns out not to be the case at all, but I’ve always been a codependent people pleaser).

I found myself doing what I always do whenever I imagine someone’s upset or angry with me: I emotionally shut them out. I’ve gotten good at this, WAY too good at this. It’s why I find it so hard to connect with anyone, because the moment things aren’t perfect (and they will never be perfect) and I imagine any anger or negative emotions toward me at all, I tune out and convince myself I just don’t care what they think (even though a part of me is aware I do care, very much).

I started talking about all this, and then my therapist asked me something that made my jaw drop.  He asked me if the real problem was that I was angry at HIM for daring to suggest we change our time and place (it turns out we don’t have to). It was like being splashed awake with a bucket of ice water because suddenly I could SEE.  It was so obvious! I realized that I HAD been angry at him, but not able to own my anger, and so instead I imagined that HE was angry! (He wasn’t). I never realized I used projection as a defense mechanism before, but I do, all the time! Once I could see the mechanics of how projection manifested in me, I couldn’t believe that I never saw it before. Suddenly, everything made sense.  It was like having lived your whole life seeing everything backwards, inside out and upside down, and finally seeing the world the right way or the first time.

This changes everything, because now whenever I start getting paranoid or worrying about the harsh or negative judgment of others, I can simply ask myself if the reactions and emotions I’m imagining are really real, or if they’re actually my own emotions that I’m trying not to own.

I’m thrilled because this is another skill I can put in my mindfulness toolbox. I would not have been able to see this at all if I were not already pretty good at mentally stepping outside myself and seeing myself as others might see me.

Introverts fear confrontation.

youre_fired

I came across this individual’s forum post on The Personality Cafe in a weird way. My article “Why Family Scapegoats Become Lifelong Victims,” (which has become my most viewed article ever and is still gaining momentum on the web), was linked to by this writer and there was an excerpt from their own post left in my comment folder. The blurb was intriguing enough that I decided to read it, and holy cow! It sounds like my own life story. In fact, I am going through this situation with a friend even as I write this. (If you’re a friend of mine reading this it’s not you–this “friend” doesn’t read my blog or even know I have one). I don’t want to be friends with this person anymore (who I suspect is a malignant narcissist who likes to “play” with me and make “jokes” at my expense) but instead of confronting them and telling them I want to end our friendship, I’m just avoiding this person, hoping they get the “hint.” I do that sort of thing all the time. Confrontation terrifies me, but what happens is my anger becomes seething resentment and has to come out eventually, so after weeks or months of pretending everything is fine, I’m likely to explode and say things I regret. It also comes out in other ways, like acting passive-aggressive. I’ve gotten better but it’s still a problem. Anyway, here is that article. The writer is an INFJ like me and wonders if this is common in INFJs. I’m also an Enneagram Type 4/5.

If we need to slap a psychiatric label on this sort of behavior, it’s a common symptom in people with Avoidant Personality Disorder and Covert Narcissism (which I still suspect I am, even though my therapist has said I’m only “on the spectrum” but not NPD). I think people with BPD are also guilty of this.

passive_aggression

Has anyone else had this problem in the “social environment”?

As of recently I have made a personal discovery about the origins of how and why I have a certain fear. And it also ties in with the Enneagram 4 labeled fear “that they have no identity or personal significance”. Generally, with “friends” (both close and acquaintance) I tend to hide away or become afraid of sharing my true thoughts and being completely honest with them if there’s a problem (unless they manage to hurt me to the extent that i just cut them off). I become fearful of their reaction before it even happens, so i withhold my thoughts and continue acting as if everything is okay. It’s not only the fear that they will be upset at my honesty, but the fear that I would also begin to hate myself afterwards as well. I didn’t realize there was a term for this as well (even though i knew it as a common term i never understood its meaning). And that term is “Shame”. And while shame is the major factor of why i feel guilt for wanting to speak out, as well as feeling it for not wanting to speak out, I had also come to realize this was also connected to my upbringing. I learned in the article mentioned below, that most scapegoats have high empathy and sensitivity at an early age, which causes them to absorb all of the projections of their parents, thus causing the birth of self hatred/possibly depression. It also informed me that as they continue to go into social relationships, that they will also absorb the projections of what other people think of them as well. For me this explains a helluva lot, of why i fear getting close to certain people and their impact on me if i either

A. Do something wrong.
Or
B. Be honest with them.

I’m personally terrified of being completely honest with someone i’m not sure of, as any kind of minor negative backlash towards me can cause me to go in a state of guilt for a long time. So instead I internalize everything that bothers me about them, and I simply play my part in this “friendship” until i have a reason to avoid them or doorslam. And this is different from constructive criticism, i’m talking about the consequences that may occur if they end up being hurt by my honesty. While their take of it may not be my problem afterward I still hold the shame of what I have done to another human being, even if it was the “right” thing to do rather than continue being dishonest with them and put on the fake persona. I fear hurting them..but I also fear hurting myself. It’s a double edged sword and the ending remains the same regardless of which way i act. I’m fearful of absorbing any new projections one might have of me (specifically negative) which has caused a spiral of paranoia in 2/3 of my friendships, even if they may not take it personal. And before I end this, I am not intentionally hurtful when i’m honest, as I still try to be polite and respectful of the person that i’m talking to. I am also aware that they can be positive in their response, but i’m practically crippled by my fear, especially because of social experiences that didn’t go well.

Read article on The Personality Cafe here.

The case of the missing purse: a dream.

February 1946, Ohio, USA --- Woman in Straitjacket at a Psychiatric Hospital --- Image by © Jerry Cooke/Corbis
February 1946, Ohio, USA — Woman in Straitjacket at a Psychiatric Hospital — Image by © Jerry Cooke/Corbis

Sometimes I feel this crazy.

I just had an especially vivid and detailed dream and posted it over at Psychforums immediately on waking so I didn’t lose the details and “feel” of the dream. I asked people to try to interpret it for me so I’m going to include those responses too.

I just woke up very upset and angry from a very intense and vivid dream. I’ve been trying to figure out what it means because I feel like it’s important but there are parts that just make no sense if the central theme is correct.

It started out wonderfully. I was in some psychiatric hospital program and had a received a great deal of help in it. Later in the dream it seemed I was an inpatient but at the time the dream started I was an outpatient because my son had to drive me there (for some reason I wasn’t driving my own car or maybe he just wanted to drive) to attend some awards dinner where I was going to receive an award. I was incredibly popular among the other patients and I had a bearded psychiatrist (aren’t they all bearded?) that I loved. I felt like he had saved my life.

So my son and I made several trips, first to a cheap chain restaurant (I don’t know why I was eating dinner twice) and then to another store, then finally to the hospital awards dinner, where he dropped me off. I got a lot of hugs and congratulations and support from everyone. I had many friends in the program. I had no idea what sort of award I’d won and none were given out but I was having a great time. At one point two of my friends (both dx’d BPD) pulled me up on the stage to join them in an impromptu song and dance from a musical. I kept along as if I’d been rehearsing for weeks. At one point it became a medley and we broke into the theme from “Hair” (why?!?) and started throwing flowers everywhere and at each other. It was a great deal of fun and I wasn’t at all self-conscious even though I was dressed in a hospital gown (like an inpatient?). I’d never felt freer or happier. I felt love all around me from the audience and the other people on stage.

My son came to get me later but when I got in the car I realized I couldn’t find my purse. As in real life when this has happened, I panicked. My purse is like my life–and I had special medications in there that eased my psychiatric symptoms too (and that had been hard to obtain), as well as my house keys, car keys, credit cards, ID, money, and the zillion other important things women keep in their purses. I didn’t remember having it at all at the hospital function so we first went to the store and the first restaurant to ask if they’d seen it. They hadn’t so we went back to the hospital and asked the woman at the front desk if she had seen it. She said she had to go talk to someone and to wait a few minutes. After a little while, my psychiatrist came out and said they had found it, but couldn’t just give it to me. I would have to pass a “character test,” of the type they sometimes give candidates applying for jobs to make sure they’re honest or aren’t going to steal or lie or whatever.

Missing Purse

I looked at the test, which was about 40 pages long. None of the questions had anything to do with my purse or even with being “honest.” The questions made no sense and I couldn’t think. I was too upset by not having my purse and angry that I had to pass a stupid irrelevant test to get my own property back. I kept getting distracted by other things and couldn’t focus. After about an hour my psychiatrist asked me if I was done yet but I had only answered 4 questions. I was almost in tears by now and told him how upset and hurt I was that he didn’t trust me. He said he didn’t make the rules and could do nothing. He said don’t worry about passing, just answer the questions the best you can. One of the questions was a multiple choice “story problem” like an elementary school math test and the story was about someone with both my first and last name. I was impressed by that and showed everyone around that my name was used on the test letting them know I’m the only person in the country that has my name. I still couldn’t focus and the questions still didn’t make sense. I finally gave up and took the mangled sheets of paper with holes from too much erasing and rewriting to the person who was scoring, a cold woman in charge of testing. I was so angry and upset I ran down a long hallway into the psych unit and saw people there–really crazy people–dressed in straitjackets and lying around on gurneys and in wheelchairs. They were making strange sounds and babbling incoherently and didn’t seem like they knew what was going on. But then I saw one of my friends and told her what happened, then started crying hysterically. I knew the crying was mostly to get attention and sympathy. It was definitely manipulative, but I was extremely angry and upset so it was a way to vent my frustration too. My friend held me and the other people didn’t even seem to notice or care about my OTT behavior, because they were so out of touch with reality or what was going in.

I went off running to look for my psychiatrist to beg him to let me go and take my purse, after all he knew me and I was the recipient of an award. I finally found him and stood there in the doorway of his office in my hospital gown, sobbing but without tears. He looked at me coldly and said there was nothing he could do, it was hospital policy, and they were still working on the results.

Finally he and the woman who did the scoring came out together and told me I’d failed. I screamed at them that they told me I didn’t have to “pass.” They just looked at me. “What am I supposed to do?” I screamed in frustration. They told me I’d have to keep taking the test (and paying $100 each time to take it) until I passed before they could give me back my purse. I told them I didn’t have the time or the money for doing that and they had my car keys too. Again, they just looked coldly at me. They showed no empathy for my situation whatsoever. I felt so betrayed by this psychiatrist who I’d thought cared so much about me.

In frustration and rage, I ran out of the building and found myself in a slum area of a large city. I was running the wrong way. I’d apparently forgot my son was supposed to wait for me but I’d been in there for hours and maybe he’d left. I wasn’t thinking straight. I ran the other way and suddenly was running through a dark garage but that had neon-sparkly floors and walls and there were young gang members in there just hanging out. They looked threatening but I was too enraged to be afraid. I ran right past them and kept running. I jumped into a hole in the ground and found myself in someone’s slum apartment in the projects, cockroaches running everywhere. I kept running through and climbed out the window on the other side and ascended the fire escape. More gang members were sitting around but I kept running. I don’t even know where I was running; I wasn’t thinking at all, but I just had to run.

I woke up feeling incredibly angry and sad at the same time and decided to write all this down before it dissolved away the way dreams tend to do. I have no idea what it all means but I’m getting a few ideas.

My “purse” could have been my false self I’d recently shed in therapy (in the dream) and have had moments without through blogging and even at random times in real life, but that doesn’t explain why my therapist turned out to be such an asshole and betrayed me. It doesn’t explain the ridiculous test I had to take to get it back. I can certainly understand why I would have wanted the purse/false self back though, because although in the hospital I felt happy and free without it, in the real world I felt naked and victimized and crazy.

My psychiatrist could have represented my family, my mother in particular, who I felt betrayed me a long time ago. The slums represented a bleak and impoverished future that I fear so much. I always feel like I’m running frantically–but never sure if it’s toward or away from something.

I’m going to be thinking a lot more about the dream today, but I wanted to write it down while I was still in the dream-feel that follows awakening from such a vivid dream. I feel like this was really important and I need to understand what was really going on.

crazy_quote

Here are the two responses I’ve received so far.

1. What I get from it is that you are wanting a healing and are proud of yourself for recognizing your problem and work toward the healing, but it isn’t coming. You sometimes say you wish you could go to a facility, and your purse can’t afford it(?) Or, like me, sometimes you feel more normal, your true identity which your purse contains (but you can’t quite hold reliably). The trouble or conflict you are having is reaching the emotions (or cognitive acceptance) which you still haven’t, which is the test with your name on it. It perplexes you. You recognize it but can’t understand what it is you’re still controlled by (what you haven’t accepted yet).

I think the running through the ghetto(?) is your fear of an impoverished future without even the healing (if you give up trying because you leave the hospital, throwing away the test, living without your identity)?

There was a new video [Spartanlifecoach] which you might relate to. It is about he lizard, monkey and human parts of the brain and how the human part can become constricted (his theory, I don’t believe this is science.). And, it is unable to process emotions/memories. The monkey part of the brain (amygdala) being more reactive controls us. (Which matches my self-perception.). He says the human part can be exercised and process more easily things that it couldn’t. Maybe like re-parenting. But, he gives examples. And, mentions how it doesn’t have to be an emotional breakdown, just an acceptance “yeah, that happened.” There could simply be things you couldn’t realize. They were out of your view, yet when you realize them they’re relatively simple?

(I think that’s what happened to me a few months ago when I realized I had been projecting my mother at my ex. I thought it was going to be the worst thing I had realized yet — and it immediately turned into “yeah, that is it.” It seemed anti-climactic compared to what I braced myself for.).

Maybe it *is* just a cognitive test that you need to take. Not the emotional breakdowns (which sound like what I call dysphoria, and have come to see as not healthy to my TS. They can be fake, I think, where I’m sucking emotions out of myself for an unproductive purpose. Which sounds like after you threw the test away, and went to another ward where you spoke to a friend and cried, but not genuinely.).

*****

2. First of all the dream is symbolized in splits, the hospital is the same as the slums, the “two friends” are the same as the psychiatrist and the nurse. it is unclear who the son is, it does seem important though that he drove the car. same goes for the hospital and store. The contents of the purse seems to be your identity, on a deeper level a purse seems to be quite an obvious womb symbol.

So the dream goes from narcissistic perception of a family home, being in the phase of being praised and happy about your good looks (Hair, god.) and awesome achievements to this break with the restaurants and the purse and then suddenly your identity is lost and your parents have (found) your identity, but only want to give it to you when you prove to them that you are “honest”.

You have to pay them for giving you (back) your identity, you feel instead of enriching, they impoverish you. so when you cant pass this mysterious honesty thing you give up and land in an inner world with neither the narcissistic sparkle, nor an identity. everything seems impoverished and youre just running aimlessly.