Posted by: Marie | July 19, 2010

(359) Finding my voice – Part 2 of 5

Post #359
[Script I read to my therapist on Tuesday, February 16, 2010 – continued from previous post]

2) It is hurtful when you aggressively argue your position

Sometimes my dad was out-of-line with his discipline and punishment. When I would complain to him about it, he would become verbally aggressive and physically intimidating. It was his way of crushing my opinions and feelings that were at odds with what he believed to be true. It was his way of breaking my spirit, of forcing me into compliance and obedience.

The Island by Martin Chen

I would fight with him as hard and as long as I could – I fought so hard because it felt like I was fighting for the survival of my essence, of my very soul. But, he always won. In the end, I always collapsed and dissolved under the weight of his aggression.

I’m sure you can imagine why I am heavily triggered when you and I disagree about something like religion, dating or sex, and your arguing becomes aggressive. By aggressive, I mean that you raise your voice, you interrupt me, you tell me why I am wrong and you are right – you take on a passionate debate stance.

When you are in that stance, I feel unsafe and my survival instinct requires me to assume either an unwillingly compliant or a hostile posture. When I am in either of those defensive postures, there cannot be connection or healing.

Why do my values and beliefs have to be measured against yours? Why can’t we examine my position by itself? Why must you aggressively argue to advance your position? Is it even appropriate for you to discuss your values and beliefs in my therapy?

Would you instead consider speaking gently to me – as in, gently asking questions so that I may draw my own conclusion, in my own time? Do you trust my ability to draw the conclusions most appropriate for me or do you think you must define them for me?

3) It is hurtful when you become accusatory

After our last session, I wrote yet another long explanation of what was going on with me. I labored over it for hours and hours, trying to make sure I followed all the rules I have to follow in order to get my message across clearly without offending you.

I thought I got all 2,000+ words laid out just right. Then, I started reading it one more time to make sure I hadn’t missed anything . . . and I found a section that wasn’t up to par yet. I suddenly felt overwhelmed by the enormity and hopelessness of trying to get you to understand.

I realized that, no matter how many times I explain it, no matter how cleverly I craft my words, I don’t see a way to get my message through to you without triggering you.

With that realization, I found myself unable to write anymore. I found myself unable to fight with you anymore. And, I gave up and called you in panic.

In the hours after I called you, I realized that it is not working for me to arrange my words around your sensitivities. I have been spending my time figuring out how to say what I need to say without actually saying it.

I try endlessly to figure out how to use the correct balance in the quantity of “I” and “you” so that I am displaying confidence without making you feel like I am attacking you. I try to always sandwich criticism between affirmations. I try to use the softer versions of harsh words. I do all of this in order to prevent making you upset.

When you respond to what I say by accusing me of wanting to make you feel bad or needing to discredit your contributions, our conversation becomes about you and your frustration. I can feel the irritation in your writing, in your voice and in your body language. I then filter my words even more in order to avoid causing your frustration to grow into anger – because anger feels like a deadly emotion to me.

When I am in fear of your anger, I feel very unsafe.

I understand that, at some point, I need to learn how to handle the things that cause me to feel unsafe. But, first, I need to feel safe with you so I can let down my guard with you and start allowing the tender stuff to come out. Then I can move on to the healing and the connecting and the standing up to things that cause me to feel unsafe.

By trying so hard to be tactful and gentle, I have gotten myself so tied up in knots that I hardly know the truth anymore. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that I feel unheard when I have been talking in circles.

I understand it is good for me to learn how to be tactful in difficult situations. However, here, now, in my therapy, I need the space to speak honestly, authentically and spontaneously.

Today, I’m going to see what it is like to speak the whole, unfiltered truth.

So, this leads me to ask some questions about future communication. For example, what reason would I have for waiting 24 hours after writing an email to send it to you? I understand why that would be wise in most circumstances – but why is it necessary here? Do I need to be that careful with your feelings? Do I need to be gentle with you to keep you from losing control in your response?

Am I safe in assuming you want to know the truth? Wouldn’t you want to have access to the purest, rawest thoughts and feelings I experience? Wouldn’t that help you better help me?

4) It is hurtful when you label my questioning as sabotage

When you respond to what I say by telling me I’m sabotaging my progress, I feel blind-sided. I don’t understand how my questioning and digging for the truth can be classified as sabotage. I wonder why it is only classified as sabotage when it involves an examination of your behavior. I wonder why you resist having your behavior held up to the light.

When you dismiss my questioning with a wide sweep of your hand, it seems you believe any inquiry or complaint about your behavior that comes from my mouth could never have validity. It seems that you believe you know everything and I know nothing – that your behavior is beyond reproach but mine is so bad that I haven’t even made it to first base yet.

I wonder, as I’m reading this, if you are actively dismissing everything I am saying as self-sabotage – if you are giving zero credence to my complaints. Or, are you really considering the possible validity of what I am saying?

5) It is hurtful when you doubt my account of what I’m experiencing

When you respond to what I say by discounting the emotions I feel and the bodily sensations I experience, I feel invisible and valueless. I need you to believe me when I tell you how I am experiencing something. I understand we must be suspicious of the logic I use to explain why I am triggered . . . but I need you to believe me when I tell you I am being triggered and how that triggering is manifesting. Can you understand the difference?

When I am actively being triggered, I need you to give me the time and space to survive the triggering. I need time and space to just “be” with it before we begin the process of analyzing it. I need to keep the “feeling it” step of the process separate from the “figuring it out” step.

[Continued in the next post . . . ]

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