Tuesday, December 18, 2012

D-fense

I'm now irritated and angry that my therapist expects me to cry and express my hurt over what my parents did and who they were. That he sees my laughing and smiling over my discoveries and memories as a defense from my feelings.

I mean, yes, there's truth to that. But it's also a very real and sincere and only natural way to react.

I don't feel pain when I remember how I've seen the mask slip and the look of pure hatred and disgust in my father's eyes. I don't feel hurt when I remember the gloating glint in my father's eyes when he thought he had the power to frighten and hurt me.

The feeling I have is a pleasant one.

"See?" It tells me. "It's not your fault you feel nothing but fear, anger, disgust, and frustration for this man. He's a sadistic destructive malignant narcissist."

You can't be hurt by someone you have no relationship with, no love or respect for, nothing at all, less than nothing. I mean, you can get angry, or you can laugh at how crazy and bizarre a person is, but you're not going to have your feelings hurt and cry about it.

If a crazy person who clearly hates you for no apparent reason says something critical to you or looks at you in a nasty way, are you going to cry over your hurt feelings? No. You're more probably going to laugh about how bizarre it is.

This is a defense, that's true. We defend ourselves against crazy people who are never going to have a relationship with us and are only interested in hurting us. We don't let them near.

I've had that defense against my father for as long as I can remember. There was probably a time when I loved and trusted him, but I can't access that - this probably ended when I was a baby.

Since then, I've known one thing well, albeit not consciously: if I give him the pleasure of knowing he's hurt me, he'll hurt me more. If I am tough and show no reaction at all, he'll leave me alone. That's the only defense a powerless child has. And that's my power. The only thing I truly know as strength.

The only clear memory I have of childhood spankings is the realization that they're not going to happen again because I've won by not showing any pain or fear.

He almost admitted to me that he could never break me when I was a child, recently. In a roundabout way, and, of course, talking about my mother spanking me, not him, but it was there. An admiring sort of anger in his eyes as he recounted how stubborn I was as a child. How they couldn't break my will.

This went on with words as weapons. 

It's a battle, a war, a concentration camp. If you've been in a war, yes, you're likely to have been hurt and messed up in different ways. But you're not expected to cry because the enemy soldiers hurt your feelings, are you? If you've been in a concentration camp, there surely are many horrible things to recount. But you're not likely going to weep over how the guards didn't like you or how the Kommandant hurt your feelings. You wouldn't be open to having your feelings hurt in the first place. Because you're in the kind of situation where you're trying to survive against a powerful enemy. There's no time or place for having your feelings hurt by that enemy and wanting to cry over that.

So, yes, it's a defense. And it's a damned good one, one that works with sadistic narcissists. And it's one I've had in place since I was tiny. And I'm not hiding anything or even really holding anything back - I don't remember the last time there was anything there.


 


16 comments:

  1. I hope you will discuss these observations at your next session, PA. It appears you're on quite a path of self-reflection in terms of how you view smiling etc. when discussing painful/traumatic memories. Sounds to me like you have a really good handle on this as both a normal reaction as well as it's function as a defense against more pain-doesn't have to be one OR the other, yk? Also, it sounds like you found what "worked" to keep you as safe as possible under a sadistic NP; pretty smart kiddo, eh?
    What IS so sad is that little girl that was you even needed to find a place/a way to protect herself from further abuse in her own "home." THAT leaves me feeling absolutely furious for you. How DARE they treat this little child in this manner? Nasty, nasty people.
    TW

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    1. Thank you, TW - yes, I plan to talk about it and while I was writing this it became clear to me it's really both.

      I have found that anger too - any "hurt" feelings are still eluding me.

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  2. I think that's why I dislike the idea of therapy. They want to cram me in some box of preconceived notions they read in a book. I had to take some anger management classes.
    Don't ask.
    But they would ask me some pretty serious questions. I would get this grin on my face. They would start badgering me about if I thought what they asked was funny. Etc etc etc.
    I wanted to tell them I am fixin to show them how funny I think this is.
    My time would have been better invested recycling already been chewed bubble gum.

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    1. Yeah, I laughed out loud when I read this, so I for one think it's funny.

      I've had the inappropriate grin on my face too many times, especially when I was a teen. I couldn't help it. Once it was in religious education and the priest was trying to answer my question on the origin of evil unsuccessfully. It was disturbing for him.

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  3. PA,
    I like the righteous indignation I hear in this post. It tells me that you're starting to really value your own opinions of what you feel and how you feel it. :)

    I know that for me, I learned very young to be 'tough' and 'numb' and to 'just not feel.' Those were my defense mechanisms and they did a damned good job for me when I had no other options. But, when I grew up and got away, I didn't want to be tough and numb and just not feel anymore, because these were the walls that kept me from really connecting with the good people in my life who wouldn't hurt me (like my spouse and my friends and even my kids.) So I did have to feel the old pains that I'd been so succesfully numb to for so long in order to eventually get over them.

    I found it to be intensely uncomfortable, but learning to re-connect with all of those emotions that I'd repressed/denied forever is a key to my continued recovery. It's definitely been a process for me, though, and didn't happen because I decided (or a therapist decided for me) that I should sit down to cry over spilled milk.

    Love,
    Vanci

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    1. So there actually was pain under the tough numbness? Did you feel any of it at the time it happened or only later, when it was safe to feel it?

      Thank you for clarifying that for you it "didn't happen because I decided (or a therapist decided for me) that I should sit down to cry over spilled milk." I think I will address this in the next session - I'm not trying to fool anyone.

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    2. PA,
      Under all that numbness, there was a crap-load of pain. Not to mention buckets of fear, anger, hate, shame, worthlessness. You bet there was. Being numb to those feelings didn't make them go away for me, but it did make it tolerable to continue living at the time while I was still being hurt. And I didn't ever feel safe to feel those things until after I'd felt them and realized that A) feeling them didn't kill me after all and B) in opening up the door to feel those dark feelings, I had also opened up the door to feel the flipside: joy, elation, unconditional love, worthiness. That's where the sense of safety came in for me, in retrospect. While I was in the middle of therapy/recovering, etc, I just had to do the thing I hate the most and trust the freaking process.

      I think it was Brene Brown who said that the problem with numbing our emotions is that we don't get to pick and choose which ones we keep and which we throw away, and I always keep that in mind when I don't want to face a nastiness: maybe it's worth it if I also get the opposite.

      Love,
      Vanci

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  4. The small amount of therapy I have been exposed to made me feel like I was in vaudeville doing a plate spinning act. I am doing fine and dandy with just the right number of plates I can keep up and spinning and not have them come crashing down on my head.
    And the therapist is like the guy in the audience that has had too much to drink and keeps yelling at me to start dancing a jig on top of it all.

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    1. Q,
      Thass some effed up therapy, my friend. No wonder you hated it.
      Love,
      Vanci

      Delete
  5. I might relate to this post a bit.

    Dear god, we got run through unfair shit.

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    1. True that, vi, true that.
      Love,
      Vanci

      Delete
  6. I am with Vanci, feeling the dark let in the light. I still don't cry much but more likely to cry when I am happy and overwhelmed with joy. Sad crying usually happens alone and almost never in the counselors office. I always move the tissues as far away from me as possible. Predefined reactions don't work for everybody. I feel happy so much more often and there was a crap load of hurt, fear and frustration to process. Anger is the easiest emotion to tap into...that was why my counselor started with anger to reteach me how to feel. Hugs. Your reaction seems really reasonable to me and the logic behind it is spot on. High 5 for protecting yourself.

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    1. Thank you for sharing this.

      I've been able to cry about a general sadness stemming from a lack of love, but I don't feel any sadness or pain associated with memories of my parents - only fear, anger, frustration.

      This has released more crying about positive things, too.

      I'm really not sure if there's pain associated with my parents' behaviors and actions buried somewhere deep within. If so, how do I start accessing it?

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    2. Sorry to be Anonymous. I tried signing in 3 times and I've given up. I'm late to your posting but... found it helpful to watch movies where kids and young people n general were wronged. Anything from the Rapunzel remake "Tangled" or creepy-ass "Coraline" or "Black Swan" or "Color Purple". I found it easier to cry for other people's childhoods than my own. It made me a staunch ally as a kid because was always over empathizing with my friends to the point of wanting to fight their battles and cry their tears. You can also start with one memory of a death, a relative, a pet, anything that made you sad as a child and that can pop your mind back into the past. It's a process. Don't expect instant success. There will be lots o' shame and embarrassment and fighting with yourself, thinking that with any tear you cry, they have won. You'll have to reclaim you right to feel sad for yourself and be your best advocate instead of leaving that space unfilled.

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  7. The main reason I went into therapy was to learn to feel, reach hidden feelings, of whatever you'd like to call that. I did it for my kids. Yet, I was "afraid" (in inverted commas because I didn't FEEL fear) that feeling would make me vulnerable and turn me into a pussy.

    I did learn to feel, somewhat. I am vulnerable now. But I also realized that the defence system that worked so well in prison actually does the opposite in the real world — it ensures the narc and all the other shit control you even when you should really be free as a bird.

    He couldn't break you as a child. You won the battle. You can take the rest back and win the war too; your pain and your feelings. They will not turn you into a pussy.

    J.

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  8. I think the reason I like Stephen King and Quentine Tarantino is that they are "REVENGE" writers. no christian "turn the other cheek" crap.!! FUCK forgiveness!! so lame!!! justice is the only therapy. i like to say to my friends " You want me to meet "them" in an alley with a fat suit and a ski mask and pillow case of oranges?

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I encourage comments!!!