Tuesday, July 3, 2012

when hard feelings prevail

The Italian elderly man wore the face of an ancient patriarch as he marched out orders in his broken English. He urgently needed to renew something he no longer really needed. Carefully, he monitored every move as his middle-aged son drove him to his destination.

“Turn right. Not that way. Bend the wheel further or you'll hit that car.
Stop in front of the yellow post.
No. Not there… closer to the entrance.”

Caught in this hail storm of directives, the son felt more like teenager than a veteran driver in his fifties. When things didn’t go his way, the elderly man broke out into something part way between a tantrum and a panic attack. That day was no exception. When asked respectfully to calm down, he got hot and defensive and sulked silently in resentment the rest of the way home.

When they returned the ordeal apparently had only begun. The elderly man wanted to justify his behavior while his son wanted to hear no more. Both men exchanged harsh words that resulted in some out-of-control behavior. Finally, as if entering a temporary state of insanity, the elderly man broke out into a torrent of verbal abuse and curses as one pours acid into a fish tank.

The days that followed ticked away painfully slow as everyone retreated to their corner. Heaviness mingled with restless thoughts. Father muttering something to himself; son trying to block out his father's despair. The rest of the family were ineptly caught between the two opposing forces.

When it comes to family conflicts, the redemptive lessons hide themselves like insects of the night. You can't distinguish the guilty from the innocent; the abuser from the injured. It's tempting to sweep it under the carpet. It’s easier to focus on the irrational and combative behavior while forgetting the destructive inner brooding that can wear out the physical and emotional self. The concept of forgiveness can become insurmountable because it’s often muddled up with religious clich├ęs. What remains clear, is that no one can win while hard feelings prevail.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

house of distorted mirrors

when you believe you are undeserving
you open yourself to unsuitable company
who hoodwink you through false assurances
these culprits may be volatile
combative and disrespectful
with a persistent self-referential attitude
sweetness, tension and acting out
become recurring themes
played over and over again
like looping cassette tapes
yet after each explosion
you get to breathe a peculiar kind of calm
coz you don’t have to walk on eggshells
at least not for another while
you go for long walks alone
interacting with strangers
you listen to distant cheerful voices
celebrating some family occasion
while mourning your own unforeseeable exile

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

wearing a mask

“The kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.”  Matthew 11:12

Picture Credit

wearing a mask
drains emotional energy
until eventually
all sense of spontaneity
becomes eroded
it places you
in long-term acting roles
where you feign
presence and enjoyment

-- intuitivefeeling


"No matter how difficult it may seem, make the choice to live consciously. Do not succumb to that half-conscious realm of fear-based thinking, filling your life with distractions to avoid facing what you feel in those silent spaces between your thoughts. Either exercise your human endowment of courage and progressively build the strength to face your deepest, darkest fears to live as the powerful being you truly are, or admit your fears are too much for you, and embrace life as a mouse. But make this choice consciously and with full awareness of its consequences. If you are going to allow fear to win the battle for your life, then proclaim it the victor and forfeit the match. If you simply avoid living consciously and courageously, then that is equivalent to giving up on life itself, where your continued existence becomes little more than a waiting period before physical death - the nothing as opposed to the daring adventure." -- Steve Pavlina

Note: Steve Pavlina is an independent thinker with some fresh ideas. However, I do not endorse his ideas about religion nor anything about open "love relationships". 

Friday, December 23, 2011

grief work

Picture Credit

People are generally threatened by emotional vulnerability. Whenever you happen to open up to others, you'll find their eyes oftentimes glaze over. This reflex is strongly aligned to society’s emotional insulation. LeoTolstoy in his novel “The Death of Ivan Ilyich" tells the story of society's deep commitment to this insulation. Everyone wants the main character Ivan to believe he will pull through his sickness when all evidence proves contrary. It's the typical portrait of the denial. As one commentator wrote,

“The artificial life is marked by shallow relationships, self-interest, and materialism. It is insular, unfulfilling, and ultimately incapable of providing answers to the important questions in life. The artificial life is a deception that hides life's true meaning and leaves one terrified and alone at the moment of death.”

Parental figures and authorities involuntarily mistreat us because they were mistreated by previous generations.  These unresolved traumas get swept under the rug and therefore interfere with our present adult existence producing codependence, addictions, depression, mental illness and anxiety.

-- intuitivefeeling

Sunday, December 11, 2011

grieving loss as a releasing agent

“If we are grieving, it is because of our blessed capacity to embrace life and take risks.” – Kathleen Hawk

Although writing usually helps clarify my thoughts, composing this journal entry isn't as easy as I imagined. I not only encounter multiple issues that resist translation, I come into collision with my own perceptions. No matter how the words arrange themselves, they look back at me with trifling glances. The deeper I excavate, the less justice accorded to the lived experience. I find I can only endure so much time addressing this topic before I'm consumed with nausea or fatigue.

My Story

When we believe we are undeserving, we may involuntarily open ourselves to unsuitable company without understanding why. These unsuitable personalities have abilities to decode susceptibility and hoodwink others through false assurances. While being charming on the surface, they are volatile, combative, and disrespectful of boundaries. They maintain a persistent self-referential attitude and suck away energy like vampires. Yet, as one therapist put it,

"The abuser may be loving between abusive episodes, so you deny or forget them."

These abusive episodes operate within cycles and begin with measured doses of seductive sweetness, followed by days of increasing tension, then finally erupting into violent verbal and/or physical attacks. They're called cycles because the sweetness, tension and acting out become a recurring pattern played over and over again like a loop cassette tape.

This kaleidoscope of emotional contradiction is just one example of the drama I faced. After each explosion I’d put on an antic disposition, not wanting to eat nor take care of myself. I breathed a peculiar kind of calm because I didn't have to walk on eggshells. I’d go for long walks alone; I'd interact with strangers on the street; I'd sit near my daughter's bed at night and cry as if to mourn an unforeseeable exile and I’d tuck away a small suitcase with carefully packed clothes, important documents and other essentials, in case I needed a quick getaway.
For many years, I strained as I listened to cheerful voices celebrating family achievements or special occasions, yet such joy seemed out of my reach.

Usually when society thinks of grief, it fails to acknowledge losses that are not death related. For many years I have been involuntarily experiencing what therapists refer to as “disenfranchised grief”-- grief that is not socially validated because of the stigma attached to emotional abuse.

Recovery from abuse is as elusive as it is profound. The hardest part is having so few models to follow. You frantically seek help, only to realize the subject at hand is foreign to the general public. Just as support can hold you steady, the opposite can throw you into perplexity.

Only when we embrace trauma, can we release it. Recently I came across a list of “grief” descriptions that I converted into questions to reflect upon. To this end, dear readers there is a means...

Who was I before the abuse began?
Why did I not take action when the abuse first happened?
What about the life I could have lived?
What about the dreams that never bore fruit?
What about the person I thought she was?
What kind of father would I have been had my marriage been different?
What kind of life could my child have lived?
How do I grieve a life I can no longer recover?
How do I come to terms with the way it was -- the way I wished it had been?

-- Intuitive Feeling

Sunday, November 27, 2011

when dreams depart

photo credit

When it comes to traumatic events, sometimes the underlying issues are obscured even to those who experienced them. The most anyone can do is to be as objective as humanly possible, trusting he has made the best evaluation possible.

It's usually with apprehension he opens his wounds to anyone, for just as the support of a friend can hold him steady, the disparaging of the latter can throw him into an abyss. At first he seeks support from anyone who'll listen, but eventually comes to realize the subject at hand is foreign to the general public. He therefore devotes large chunks of time to understanding what went wrong and its effects upon interpersonal relationships, health and personal growth.

I came to realize as long as you live with some people in an Gilligan-Island existence, all is love and peace. To the public eye it is difficult to perceive there are human beings who are incapable of sustaining long term friendships except nominally. Some will work day and night to sabotage your connections by 1) seeking to poison your view of others and 2) absorbing your energy with a long list of demands.

Some people also inflict terror so eventually a flash of the eyes is all that is needed.  Cycles of abuse consist in measured doses of sweetness and calm, that eventually lead to periods of tension and hostility, that eventually erupt into verbal attacks. As Darlene Lancer says, "The abuser may be loving between abusive episodes, so that you deny or forget them."

This shift back and forth, can push you into a role similar to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. After each “explosion” he’s walk about in an antic disposition for days not wanting to eat nor take care of himself.  While to others the list below may seem to be a collection of cold clinical data, to me each trait is a condensed prompt that elicits more distressing personal stories.

-- Intuitive Feeling

Paranoid Personality Disorder -- ICD-10 is characterized by the following traits:

- excessive sensitivity to setbacks and rebuffs;
- tendency to bear grudges persistently, i.e. refusal to forgive insults and injuries or slights;
- suspiciousness and a pervasive tendency to distort experience by misconstruing the neutral or friendly actions of others as hostile or contemptuous;
- a combative and tenacious sense of personal rights out of keeping with the actual situation;
- recurrent suspicions, without justification, regarding sexual fidelity of spouse or sexual partner;
- tendency to experience excessive self-importance, manifest in a persistent self-referential attitude;
- preoccupation with unsubstantiated "conspiratorial" explanations of events both immediate to the patient and in the world at large.

-- The World Health Organization


Saturday, October 22, 2011

role playing

Photo image from www.anxietytreatmentblog.com

"For the traumatized child, life becomes a long, drawn-out crisis. In a psychological phenomenon called hypervigilance, the traumatized child spends most of her time on the lookout for trouble, and as a result, will easily be triggered into fear, anxiety, and depression. Fear increases the level of cortisol, causing chronic tension and anxiety; it can become a frightening, out-of-control vicious cycle." -- Lisa J. Lehr

The big day had arrived.  I had been interviewed as a volunteer counsellor and had been accepted. Finally, the day of the workshop came, the kind where you don’t know you collapse until it’s all over.  When I least expected it, I suffered one of those notable attacks of anxiety, before a group of total strangers.  It happened during an innocent role playing activity, the kind I sought so hard to avoid. What everyone else saw as a mere exercise, loomed large as a life-threatening situation.

I had the misfortune of playing the role of a supposed "wise and experienced" counselor while applying some newly learned therapeutic techniques. I felt like an oxymoron.  As was my custom -- when it came to dramatization -- I went into a tail spin and crashed. My mind went foggy. I felt rigidly self-conscious, insecure and defeated even before I began. It was altogether disorienting.

Nevertheless, when leaving the workshop, I sensed a strange combination of relief and exhaustion. Although my temples pulsated with a dull ache, what surprised me was my ability to reframe the event. I became acutely aware how altered I felt. Before I would feel the urgent need to defend my blundering performance; write the supervisor a long e-mail to apologize and all sorts of other gymnastics, but this time I felt an inexplicable calm. This time I accepted my actions knowing I had done my best in spite of torped fits of momentary panic.
-- intuitivefeeling

Monday, October 10, 2011

intuitive skating

Skating has always provoked a sudden rush in my veins. I’d get bored of skating the way everyone else around me skated. I had to find a flight of some kind to transcendence. Haphazardly I discovered a way to get away from the demands and cares of stressful life. The idea is to be able to dance in surf-like fashion on the high waves weaving in and out of skaters without bumping into them or knocking anyone down. It's making impromptu dance movements that require cat-like agility. This became get therapy for me during my months and years of separation.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

admiration vs. love

I never expected to encounter these welcomed lines by Alice Miller that mirrored the hidden motivations of my heart.
Alice Miller Notes:
“Others are there to admire him, and he himself is constantly occupied, body and soul, with gaining that admiration. This is how his torturing dependence shows itself. The childhood trauma is repeated: he is always the child whom his mother admires, but at the same time he senses that so long as it is his qualities that are being admired, he is not loved for the person he really is at any given time. In the parents' feelings, dangerously close to pride in their child, shame is concealed— lest he should fail to fulfill their expectations...

It is thus impossible for the grandiose person to cut the tragic link between admiration and love. In his compulsion to repeat he seeks insatiably for admiration, of which he never gets enough because admiration is not the same thing as love. It is only a substitute gratification of the primary needs for respect, understanding, and being taken seriously —needs that have remained unconscious.

The grandiose person is never really free, first, because he is excessively dependent on admiration from the object, and second, because his self-respect is dependent on qualities, functions, and achievements that can suddenly fail...

This combination of alternating phases of grandiosity and depression can be seen in many other people. They are the two sides of the medal that could be described as the "false self," a medal that was actually once given for achievements...

An actor, for example, at the height of his success, can play before an enthusiastic audience and experience feelings of heavenly greatness and almightiness. Nevertheless, his sense of emptiness and futility, even of shame and anger, can return the next morning if his happiness the previous night was due not only to his creative activity in playing and expressing the part but also, and above all, was rooted in the substitute satisfaction of old needs for echoing, mirroring, and being seen and understood. If his success the previous night only serves as the denial of childhood frustrations, then, like every substitute, it can only bring momentary satiation.

In fact, true satiation is no longer possible, since the right time for that now lies irrevocably in the past. The former child no longer exists, nor do the former parents. The present parents—if they are still alive—are now old and dependent, have no longer any power over their son, are delighted with his success and with his infrequent visits. In the present, the son enjoys success and recognition, but these things cannot offer him more than they are, they cannot fill the old gap. Again, as long as he can deny this with the help of illusion, that is, the intoxication of success, the old wound cannot heal. Depression leads him close to his wounds, but only the mourning for what he has missed, missed at the crucial time, can lead to real healing.” Chapter on "The Grandiose Person" -- Alice Miller

* False Self: A child who had to attend to a chaotic family of origin and the constant demands generated by this chaos, missed out on developing his or her true self. He or she had to adopt a false self in order to survive. For example, a boy grew up as a substitute husband to his mother, because the father had a paranoid personality disorder. That child had no chance to live out his childhood, because he was required to take on the role of an adult before his time. There is much more I could write about this interesting theory, but for now I only have time to give you a glimpse.”

Sunday, March 13, 2011

givers and takers

Givers tend to fall into the hands of takers. It makes sense. Exploitative folks cannot implement their tactics on individuals similar in kind. While the strategies may vary, the one common denominator of takers fits this lamentable yet true description:

takers and givers

A pastor friend said givers seek to resolve conflicts without causing upset. They attempt to back away from toxic situations using discretion. He explained how useless this is when dealing with manipulators. Put bluntly — there’s no friendly way to get away. Furthermore (the pastor friend concluded) givers need to accept they may even be labelled the bad guy.

~ intuitivefeeling