Context is Everything

I have been through the emotional wringer in the past few weeks.

I misread everything about the new-agey group I belong to. It turns out that the women in this group think it is a normal part of conversation to interrupt each other, that it is a sign of enthusiasm. And they thought I was using the group inappropriately for therapeutic purposes. Basically, the rules had changed and I had been oblivious.Therefore, in this context, I was wrong on oh so many levels.

I was at work one day and saw some random guy and it hit me–I don’t have these problems with men. Maybe it’s from having three brothers and no sisters. I called out what I consider to be toxic behavior (criticizing me for stating that I expect to be able to speak without interruption as a matter of common courtesy). Men are more direct. The irony is that the reason they like me at work is precisely because I am so respectful to others. My concept of courtesy and respect match society’s more than this group’s.

I can apologize for my presentation, how I said what I said. I cannot apologize for what I said in good conscience. I waited too long to say something. I was oblivious to my environment. I was on automatic pilot. I was wrongly assuming the old rules applied.

I am finding a more psychoanalytic therapist and trying to deal with my issues. I was subconsciously projecting a lot of crap onto the group. The only way not to do so is to become more aware of where my behavior is coming from.

To me, awareness is everything. You can do all the right things for all the wrong reasons or all the wrong things for all the right reasons. I think we come to earth to increase awareness.

I have more days behind me than ahead of me. I have to carefully decide on the groups I belong to. The definition of respect comes from the consensus of the group. I totally misread the group. An uber-liberal female-only group does not operate on the same rules as the rest of society. It’s all about not hurting people’s feelings because we are all doing the best we know how. I understand that…BUT a lack of agreed-upon rules ends up creating a situation where some people’s feelings matter more than others’. The rules are not evenly applied and therefore null and void. Only some people’s feelings are respected. Instead of being an old boys’ network, it is an old girls’ network, which is not superior in any way. I will probably stay with this group because I do love the people and now know the rules. But I now understand why the group shrank down to five people and includes zero men. Most people will not say why they are leaving; they just silently leave. I’ve seen it in companies and churches. Why argue? Good luck with that. I did not pay attention to the shrinking size of the group nor the shift in rules. I was on automatic pilot.

That’s what I am working on: being aware of where my stuff is coming from and making conscious, deliberate decisions. I have emotional issues, such as crippling shame and the like, but my mind is sharp and I don’t want to be tossed about by subconscious issues or find myself sunk in a situational morass of my inability to have or enforce boundaries. Life is too short.

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I Spoke Up

Perhaps I made a huge mistake. But I can’t imagine regretting it.

I called the leader of the retreat group and told her how frustrated I was at getting interrupted for the umpteenth time. She said she would remind everyone of the rules and that the rude person was never present when talking about the rules previously.

At the blessing, she talked about the rules and I spoke up and said that I felt that getting interrupted was rude and disrespectful, looking right at Kim. She felt uncomfortable and left.

Once she was gone, another member of the group said that Kim had had a hard life and that I was being judgmental. I said that not getting interrupted was pretty basic stuff and non-negotiable. My mistake was in not bringing up the issue until there were wisps of steam coming out of my ears. I really should have addressed the issue months ago.

So the next day, Friday, the group leader texts me about if I would be willing to meet with Kim and her for some conflict resolution. I said okay, but I’ve been thinking about it and the only conflict I see is the conflict between Kim’s behavior versus that of normal adult conversations. If the leader expects me to apologize for having some very basic expectations of courtesy, she is going to be extremely disappointed. I owe no one an apology for not wanting to be interrupted rudely and disrespectfully. It is not my attitude that needs to change; it is Kim’s behavior. If the conversation is all about Kim’s feelings, I am done.

I challenge anyone to find a group, organization, church, business, or club that has zero behavioral expectations of its members. The people in the group kept talking about how informal we are. Interrupting people is not “informal.” It is a simple lack of respect. Period.

I come from a family with no boundaries. I have spent the past thirty years of my life working hard to develop relationships based on mutual respect. I love these people. My problem with these people is that, as is common with liberals, they are all emotion and no accountability. My problem with conservatives is that they do not understand how their behavior affects groups of people corporately. My problem with liberals is that they have no concept of personal responsibility. Liberals get the big picture better than conservatives, but conservatives understand the little, more individual, picture better. And so I blend in nowhere. What we do affects both ourselves and others, individually and in groups. I don’t want to lose these friends, but I won’t apologize for having some very minimal standards of conduct. I have set the bar extraordinarily low and they are still limbo-ing under it.

“Judgmental” is the ultimate insult in the liberal world. I will wear it as a badge of honor. Having good, sound judgment used to be hailed as a positive attribute. It still is a good thing, even if some do not understand that. I am glad I have enough common sense to have good judgment. No apology necessary.

Should I Stop Talking?

I use this blog to discuss weird themes that pop up in my life.

Perhaps I should just stop talking to people. Let me explain. I am talking about, specifically, my dad and some odd woman in my blessing group, whom I will call Kim.

I’ve talked about my dad before. He has strong narcissistic tendencies. He pushes, pushes, pushes people and finds it fun. I realized a couple months ago that he completely lacks empathy, a basic human necessity.

Then there’s Kim. I have no idea what her problem is with me, but she seems to have to “one-up” me all the time. One thing you have to understand about me is that I am not an attention hog in any way. I don’t even participate in probably 90% of the conversations around me. I have hearing issues and do not need to get in the middle of other people’s issues. Perhaps there is no way of avoiding it. I don’t know.

At the retreat, she got really weird. There was a conversation about East Indians and immigration. I related something my Indian friend told me and she blurted out, “You’re wrong!” I said, “All I’m saying is what my friend told me.” It wasn’t even my opinion, so I cannot be wrong. My Indian friend could be wrong, I suppose. Later, she asked me a question and when I answered her, she told me about her experience, which in her mind exceeded mine. Uhhh…. Okay. Then, yesterday, she emailed the group a picture of this t-shirt saying that “When W was in office, I wanted to be smarter. When Obama was in office, I wanted to be better. With Trump in office, I want to be Canadian.” I responded, “What a funny shirt, eh?” making fun of Canadian and Yooper talk. Her response was something like, “Actually, it was a commentary on…..” I have tried to relate to her as an equal human and even have a sense of humor about it. She clearly wants a relationship with me based on her imaginary superiority to me. I have decided to basically not speak to her anymore and to delete any further emails she may ever send me. She seems to think of herselfas a leader,but I am no follower.

I am reading this book, “Enough about you, Let’s talk about me” by Dr. Les Carter. It is helpful in understanding my dad. But one of the pieces of advice is to only talk with certain people after you have decided beforehand what you will say and not say and what you want out of the conversation. Period. No automatic pilot allowed, basically. This sounds exhausting and like a throwback to my early twenties when I would decide beforehand what I would discuss with my family before I called or visited. The decision had to be pre-made.

Being that perpetually aware of what I am saying and thinking at all times is beyond tiring.

I spent a chunk of today trying to contact a therapist who could help me with my early-childhood issues. One said she was busy, but she gave me a referral.

I am determined to move forward with my life. It makes me sad that I have no real opportunity to be myself. Even talking with people is just not worth it sometimes.

On the upside, I got a call today from work and will work a few extra hours tomorrow. I am looking for people that appreciate me, while not feeling threatened by my having a brain.

Is Intuition Just the Subconscious?

I have been trying to make the sub-conscious conscious. Being kicked in the butt by my totally sub-conscious behaviors (automatic pilot) is not fun in the slightest.

I have read a lot about synchronicity. I also have oracle cards. I also think we can encounter seemingly random things that speak to us. We can call that “synchronicity.” But that thing may only be meaningful to us because our subconscious is screaming at us and we see what is percolating just below our conscious surface.

The human brain is a meaning-making machine. We humans will see three dots and connect them into a triangle. We look at a  piece of toast and see the Virgin Mary or a potato and see a dead president. Animals would simply eat the food and be happy to do so.

Our experiences affect everything we perceive. We see the same facts, but our personal experiences make us connect the dots differently. Or we can be in denial about something and be missing a whole lot of dots. Just because Persona A doesn’t see the dots doesn’t make Person B blind to them. I see this in dysfunctional family dynamics and in politics. If you have enough dots, you can see the sub-conscious processes of others. That is a tad scary. That person can say you are delusional, but if you can seriously predict what they will do next better than they can, reality gives a clear indication of just who it is that is delusional.

It’s always easier to see the sub-conscious processes of others. I think the idea of oracle cards, synchronicity, and an endless variety of ways of getting off automatic pilot is to make visible the invisible. But un-burying potential trauma seems inherently risky. I hope my sub-conscious gives me reality in bite-size pieces that I can handle. That may be asking a bit much.

Another Clue

I have been watching videos by Dr. Les Carter. OMG. They are so good. Or maybe they just speak to exactly where I am at.

I have always felt like a victim of my dad. I watched him push, push, push, his father to the point where Grandpa would get angry and flustered. I remember wondering, “Why is Dad so mean to Grandpa?” Even as a pre-teen, my dad’s behavior confused me. Now I am 52 years old and he does it to me.  And I am DONE.

The video I just watched was all about the predictable things narcissists do and how they are addicted to control. This I can relate to. I have watched my alcoholic brothers ruin their own lives. I have seen the Jellineck charts that show all of the extraordinarily predictable stages of addiction. If you know that A leads to B, which leads to C,  which leads to D… and you see B, you do not need supernatural powers to know that C is coming next. The timing may vary, but the timing is the only thing that varies.

Not only is there no need for me to be a victim and simply accept how he treats me, but I also now have the ability to predict the dysfunctional crap he will throw at me. The mystery is gone.

I am going to get political now. This stuff is so relevant for today. People throw around the term “narcissist” very easily and say Trump is a narcissist. This is not “pathologizing” the President. The description is accurate. Trump is a full-on narcissist. He suffers from what Alcoholics Anonymous refers to as “terminal uniqueness.” Only he can solve the problem (that he himself created and takes zero responsibility for). Only he is the “chosen one.” When completely at fault, his strategy is to blame, blame,and blame some more. Once you understand what you are dealing with, you can actually predict what he will do next. That is the narcissist’s blind spot. They delusionally believe they are unique while the reality is that everyone has their number. Everyone. The code he speaks in, everyone already has the accurate translation of, with the possible exception of his more ardent followers.

More dots connected…

All One Problem

I have always thought that I had many problems. I knew I had toxic shame, perfectionism, suicidal tendencies, and odd dissociative periods (is this real?). I have spent my entire life trying to address my many emotional problems. After all, my family always gave me the impression that I was the one with the problems. Everything got projected onto me. I took responsibility, sometimes consciously and sometimes completely subconsciously, for all the issues I encountered.

The problem? These were not all my issues. I had no power then nor now to address other people’s issues. When I was in the sixth grade, I got sent to therapy. Don’t get me wrong. I totally needed help. But look at the bigger picture: all my brothers were getting their girlfriends pregnant, using drugs and alcohol, and getting in trouble with the cops and I got sent to therapy.

And, worse yet, my dealing with my problems only took me out of their equations. I could barely deal with my problems and I knew I  had no desire to be blamed for other people’s stuff. So I backed out of the family.My family always thought I should get help. And I did. And it made me at least semi-functional. But the more I understood about myself, the less I had in common with any family member. Knowledge and common sense put me on the outside of my family,much to probably everyone’s relief. Without the inclusion of knowledge and common sense, my family predictably went off the rails. But my marriage to Barry and my support or his sobriety trumped all that. I make no apology for being supportive of a good man.

And now I have reached a new level. I have realized that all of my problems are the exact same issue manifesting in a dozen different ways in a dozen different circumstances. It’s all crippling shame from dealing with a narcissistic father and chemically-addicted brothers. In school, it showed up one way, at work, another. Every situation evokes a different angle. It’s like a ball of string. It’s all knotted up,but it’s all one string. I have hit the core of the onion, where all the previous layers of dysfunction have been stripped off.

After Labor Day, I am contacting an inner child therapist. I believe my dysfunction started before I had language (pre-verbally) to defend myself. I have read hundreds of books and had thousand of hours of therapy. My current therapist is a nice lady, don’t get me wrong, but the things she tells me evoke a “Duh!” reaction within me. I know all this stuff consciously. That’s not the issue. If logic and reason could resolve my problems, I would be perfect by now. Seriously. I am a little Sheldon Cooper-ish. I am almost too logical. The shame is not amenable to logic and common sense. It feels like it is in my bones. That’s what tells me it is pre-verbal. In other words, this crap is sub-conscious.

This sub-conscious stuff is the hardest stuff to address because talking rationally about a sub-conscious issue doesn’t touch the emotional component. Racism is a good example. We can talk 24/7 about how all humans are equal. It makes zero difference. Here are some historical realities no one talks about. Blacks used to be bought and sold like cows, horses, and pigs. In the Constitution (or the Declaration of Independence, I’m not sure), Blacks are to be counted as three-fifths of whites (human beings). In the sub-conscious of many white people, that makes inter-racial sex akin to bestiality. Sensitivity training can never undo the “Eeeeeuuuuwww!” reaction many whites have to inter-racial sex. That visceral sensation is not touched by logic and reason and it never will be.

When Barry died, I wanted to “get back into life” and start a new relationship with my family. I walked right back into all the sub-conscious crap I left thirty years ago. Not a damn thing had changed. And, before I knew it, I once again wanted to off myself. The sub-conscious stuff had gone nowhere. And now it is getting passed on to the next generation, which is even more tragic. I can’t watch the same train wreck twice.

I thought I had all these distinct, discrete problems. No. I have one big problem that manifests according to the situation at hand. Dealing with this is even more important than my job. I can never get a better job or improve my life in any meaningful way until this gets addressed. Period.

On Retreat

This has been a very healing weekend. I feel so loved.

I have been trying to figure out how to deal with a narcissistic father and my lethal shame. I still don’t have a lot of answers, but I know one thing: I am going to try to honor my limits. What can I handle, relationship-wise, with my dad? I don’t know, but my tolerance (and not his agenda) will drive my behavior.

My New-Age-y friends and I tie-dyed tee shirts, walked around a labyrinth, made papier mache suns. It has been so cool and rejuvenating. I am sad to go home in the morning, but this is the beginning of a new chapter in my life.

This place is up by Big Rapids and Ferris State University. They have an actual Museum of Racist Memorabilia. Really weird. I am at the Inn at the Rustic Gate. Rustic is about right. There is no cell service out here! But they have WiFi. People kept hopping in their cars to go try to get cell reception. The place is beyond peaceful. And the food is fantastic. And they own a cat, Einstein. He rules and he knows it.

I even have deepened my relationship with a couple of lesbians who live in Bellingham, Washington, Jen and Miriam. Jen is now a professor out there. She got her PhD at MSU. These women know what it’s like to walk away from family and develop actual healthy relationships. I admire them both.

I am so grateful for this weekend.

Also, it was Linda’s birthday. We all chipped in for her gift. I forgot what it was, but she said this birthday was very special because of all of us. She goes home to her PhD botanist at MSU husband.  She is the one that seems to live in a parallel reality and comes to visit earth occasionally. She totally lives in her right brain. I don’t understand her much, but we love each other a lot. She just seems to live a most interesting life.

I know some of the most interesting people.