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Topics - a_bunny

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Dating; Marriage/Divorce; In-Laws / Conflict with in-law
« on: July 03, 2019, 08:21:44 PM »
The short(er) version:

My BIL (my husband's sister's husband) was verbally abusive to me via email. This happened about two months ago. It was the meanest, most intentionally hurtful email I'd ever received in my life. I went into a schema attack/EF that lasted for over a week.

Since then, I'm mostly fine, but when I think of him or the incident, it still triggers me. I feel the rage, the flight-or-flight body reaction, tense muscles and heart pounding. Mostly I guess I just try not to think about it because it's too triggering.

Because of his terrible behavior, I would easily cut him out of my life if I had the choice. The problem is that he is a family member. He (and his wife, my H's sister, and their child) and H's parents all live within the area, so the family gets together not infrequently. I got out of joining them for Father's Day -- H explained to his parents about what happened and they were understanding -- but I can't keep avoiding them forever. Not only that, but BIL is also connected to a couple of my friend groups, and I don't want to avoid them forever, too. I feel like it is unfair that because of somebody else's behavior, I now have to avoid connections to my family (technically my in-laws, but yes, they are my family), friends, and also friends in my professional circle (will explain in long version of story).

I don't want to hold on to the rage and the hate I feel, but I also know that recovery is a long process, and I'm just not there yet. I'm not ready to forgive, and I know enough not to try to push myself to something I'm not ready for.

I will have to face him again someday and I feel afraid that when I do, it will just be super triggering, I'll sit there frozen in fight-or-flight response, heart pounding, feeling enraged, and not able to interact socially.

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General Discussion / Achieving true internal validation
« on: June 21, 2019, 05:12:19 PM »
Some thoughts, adapted from my journal, and a question at the end. Interested to hear anyone's thoughts.

*

Over the last few days, I started doing CBT on myself, challenging negative thoughts and beliefs. I've done CBT on myself many many times over the past decade and a half+. At this point, this is what I think: CBT is helpful but not sufficient.

If it were sufficient, I wouldn't be going back to do this over and over again. And recent reading I've done on CPTSD and PTSD seem to suggest that CBT has limited effectiveness for treating trauma.

My personal theory about the pieces that are missing, that don't get addressed by this cognitive work:

1. The body piece of the trauma. (I'm planning to start Somatic Experiencing or Sensorimotor Psychotherapy soon, to work directly on the body reaction.)

2. The emotional piece. This is mentioned in the Pete Walker book.

3. CBT makes me feel slightly invalidated. Like I am trying to tell myself these positive thoughts, to change my brain, but a part of me resents that. It's like hey, I have these negative thoughts and beliefs and emotions that feel real to me. Don't just dismiss them and tell me that I'm wrong.

4. After all this time, I find myself still judging myself and craving external validation. I realized it's still important to me to have others' approval, respect, acknowledgement, etc. (I guess I already knew that.) But moreover, it doesn't feel like enough for me to just tell myself the positive thoughts. To tell myself, I am good enough, my [work] is good enough, as if it shouldn't matter at all what others think.
I know (I believe?) that this is because with schemas, we tend to project what we lacked from our parents onto everyone around us. If we didn't get the validation and approval we needed from our parents, when we become adults, everyone around us feels like that potential parent that we desperately need to get that validation and approval from. But it's an illusion. Even if we do get the external validation, it still isn't sufficient to "cure" or "heal" us. It's not the same thing as having true internal validation.

So that's the question, then: How does one achieve true internal validation? When it doesn't feel like enough for me to tell myself positive things about myself. When I still feel so deprived and resentful and angry for needs still going unmet. When I crave so badly to be seen and understood and acknowledged, but even though I try to acknowledge and validate myself, it never feels like I'm getting enough. And I have also done sitting with my emotions, practicing self-compassion and mindfulness and validation of any feelings that come up. Again, this helps, but it feels like something is still missing.

How to feel like my own validation is enough? How to feel like *I* am enough?

3
Friends / I can't deal with people
« on: October 14, 2018, 01:21:16 PM »
I find that the vast majority of people are incapable of meeting my needs. My needs are: to be listened to, validated, understood, and respected. I find that most people are terrible at listening. They will turn every topic of conversation around to be about themselves, and leave no room for others. Or when I try to talk about something that is affecting me negatively, they interrupt with advice and solutions, instructing me on what to do, as if they are the boss of my life and decisions. Or react in a condescending, judgmental way. Or, some people just talk over everyone, interrupt, ask me my opinion only to "correct" me on it, or ask me questions and not let me even finish a one-sentence answer.

At best, this behavior makes me want to zone out and not truly engage with people. At worst, it's extremely triggering and painful, and can bring up strong emotions that can keep me up at night and last longer than a day.

I have a lot of friends/family I'm connected to. Out of these people, I trust a very small handful to actually listen and at least try to understand me. To basically leave room for me and my feelings in a conversation. The rest of the people? No, I don't trust them to be good listeners at all. The thing is, I know that my friends and family have good traits, and I'm grateful for the kindnesses they have given me. I love these people; I can even enjoy spending time with them.

Yet at the same time, I feel judgmental towards them. I find myself noticing, remembering, holding onto these transgressions and my resulting negative judgments. I feel angry and deprived because I go into almost all social situations assuming no one is going to listen to me, so why even bother speaking. I feel anxious because I never know when an interaction is going to be very painful and triggering. I wonder why it's so hard to meet people who have a higher level of emotional intelligence, skill in interaction, and self-awareness.

But I just feel like it's not useful to have all of this anger. I think a healthier outlook would be to have gratitude for the positive things that these people bring to my life, be less judgmental towards them, and have compassion for them. But that's not the way that I feel.

On that subject, I spent a long time when I was younger, trying to accept and understand other people. I think this was a result of feeling so unaccepted and misunderstood, myself, and not wanting others to go through the same pain. To be that person for them, that I so badly needed myself. I had wrong ideas about Buddhism, so that I'd let others behave however they wanted towards me, because I thought it was my responsibility to just manage my own emotional reactions internally, and accept any behavior from anybody. This, of course, led to a continuation of emotional abuse. I now know that you have to have compassion for yourself also, and set boundaries, and that sometimes, or often, requsting behavior changes from others is necessary and good for everyone.

So I am wary about solutions that focus on compassion and gratitude towards others, positivity only. I know that I cannot dismiss my anger. That anger needs to be validated.

I know that I have a lot of negative beliefs about other people, about my ability to get my needs met. And a lot of negative emotion. I need to do something to change this. But there is only so much you can ask of others, only so much they are capable of. Only so much you can explain -- by nature, the problem is that they can't understand, even if you tried to explain. And the rest falls on me, the hard work, the overwhelming burden of managing my own emotions.

So ultimately, I guess it does feel like it is my responsibility to handle all of this, and I think I feel extremely resentful towards the world because of it. And I feel alone in carrying that burden. And intensely sad.

I'm not sure I have a specific question, but I just thought others here might be able to relate to my experience. This was long, thanks for reading this far.

4
Employment / Working with a triggering coworker
« on: April 22, 2017, 01:37:45 PM »
I'm a female engineer on a team of mostly male engineers. There is one coworker in particular I have difficulty with, who is triggering to me.

This past week was a difficult ongoing argument with him about how to approach a project. In our team online chat, he criticized my proposal in an unconstructive way, saying it was the "complete reverse" of what was needed (when actually, there was only one piece of the proposal he disagreed with -- he ignored the rest and of course didn't give me credit for it), rather than pointing out what could be improved and constructively communicating towards a solution. In our meetings, as per usual for him, he interrupted me loudly in the middle of my points -- his default volume in meetings is "SHOUT." A female coworker and ally agreed with me that his behavior was out of line, and I had a couple of conversations with our boss about it. Boss was understanding and responded well enough, but I was surprised that she didn't seem to see a problem with his behavior until I pointed it out, almost excusing it. "Oh, we all speak loudly sometimes, to make sure the people on the conference call can hear. I know I do it, too." What?? No, this wasn't that at all, he was yelling to talk over me so that only he could be heard, which is a common pattern for him in meetings, when talking to anyone.

Ultimately, I won the argument yesterday, because I finally found and pointed out the one fatal flaw in his proposed solution that could not be ignored. Without giving me any credit for pointing it out, or for having the proposal that would have worked all along, he agreed that what had to be done was basically what I was asking for. I felt so high I was giddy because finally, I had won. But today, I realized I'm still full of anxiety and anger.

Until yesterday, I didn't have the confidence to keep pushing for my point of view during the earlier meetings. I had conceded and was ready to do things his way, even though I didn't agree with it. But why did things end up this way? It wasn't because an intellectual decision had been reached where everyone put their minds together to choose the best option. It was because somebody played dirty: talked loudly, interrupted, and used distraction tactics, such as asking me irrelevant challenging questions that would put me on the defensive and actually distract me from conveying the real reason why his proposal didn't work. If he had communicated in a cooperative way, we could have all found that fatal flaw earlier. But he shut down my line of thinking in a show of dominance.

I'm not good at these kinds of debates because they are very triggering for me, and I have tons of trauma of emotional abuse in these kinds of situations. I'm sitting there in a meeting having a schema attack and wanting to cry or shut down, but deep down inside, I know that I have something valid to say. And if I could just be given enough time, I could argue intelligently and not get caught up in someone else's dirty tricks. But it usually takes me about a day to figure out what happened and what I really wished I had said. A day of sitting there, obsessing and replaying it, because all the way down into my body, I know that something happened that was wrong. Then, once I figure that out, it gets stuck in my head, imaginary conversations where I finally the say the right thing, over and over, and I can't let go.

I don't know what to do. I talked to my boss, she said she'd talk to him about being more open-minded to others' ideas. I don't know that that will be enough. I have a feeling people will suggest that I talk to him directly. I don't know if I have that level of bravery. I also don't know if it would accomplish anything. I had done that in a previous job with a difficult person, and while we had a good conversation and he said he understood, he really didn't. His behavior continued because fundamentally, he didn't understand what he was doing wrong. He lacked the awareness.

I have been in this place before, many times in my life. This is a deep, old trauma, and still a hurting wound. It's the trauma of knowing that I'm right, but people are acting more powerful than me and shutting me down, not listening to me, invalidating me, and making it so that my voice can't be heard. Deep down to my core, I am enraged: at this coworker, at previous coworkers, peers, teachers, "friends", and the originator, my father.

I'm still trying to find peace.

5
General Discussion / Letting go of imaginary conversations?
« on: March 05, 2017, 02:15:04 PM »
A pattern for me: Someone says or does something to me that makes me feel invalidated/disrepsected, and I get triggered by it. I find it difficult to let go of it, and I keep replaying what happened in my mind, sometimes rewriting what happened so I'd express back what I was really feeling, or maybe imagining what I'd say to the person in the future. I don't want to keep thinking about this at all, I want to move on, and it's especially a problem for me at night, because it can cause me to lose a lot of sleep. I'll feel very tired, nod off, but then keep jerking back awake all night, plagued with thoughts about the incident.

I wanted to know if anyone had any ideas for how to soften the reaction and let the mind and body let go of these thoughts and imaginary conversations. I want to also mention that I've been to a lot of therapy, including DBT, and have lots of skills for general relaxation and dealing with negative emotion, but it often feels like all the yoga/meditation/CBT/various other skills in the world are not enough to fight against this strong response that takes over my body and mind.

All I just want is to be heard and validated by the other person, but in many cases, this is impossible because the other person isn't capable.

If anyone is curious, the current situation I'm dealing with happened on Friday (2 days ago). I'm a female engineer, and I have a male coworker who constantly asks if I need help, tries to explain things to me that I already know, and tries to "correct" my work before even fully understanding what I did and why. He does not even specialize in my area of engineering, so the knowledge he offers is general and theoretical, and often not applicable to what I'm doing. After he caught my frustration with this once last week, he actually apologized for overstepping, but then on Friday, he was back to offering help when I didn't need help. It makes me feel that my level of knowledge and experience is being totally invalidated. He's not a terrible person and I think I could maybe even talk to him about it, but if I decide to do that, I would want to just worry about it when I do it, not feel like it's constantly in the back of my mind, ruining my weekend and keeping me up at night.

I'm interested to hear any thoughts and ideas, thanks in advance.

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Hi, I'm new here and this is my first post.

I have been in therapy for many years, with a diagnosis of PTSD. Over the years, I didn't learn that much about PTSD, because the therapy I had been doing focused more on skills to deal with difficulties, and I didn't think the exact diagnosis was that important. I did look up stuff on PTSD, and never felt like it quite fit me, but I didn't think too much of it.

I recently got more interested in the exact diagnosis because I realized that I never knew anybody with quite the kind of symptoms I have, and it would be good to connect with others who are going through healing from something similar. So I asked my therapist in my most recent session, and she said that what I have is actually Complex PTSD, which is different from PTSD. Since then, I have done some research on this site and elsewhere to try and understand it better and see which parts resonate with me.

I want to talk about one specific symptom I have in particular, which I never understood that well, but have been really making more effort in the last few months to examine it and not run away from it. I have a fear of being alone at night, that was diagnosed for a long time as specific phobia, but it was not until I started working with my current therapist about 5 years ago that it was diagnosed as PTSD. She said that what I have is more extreme and goes beyond phobia.

There were times in my life when this fear didn't affect me as much, because I lived with somebody else who was around in the evening. So it came up infrequently. However, the problem was still always there, it just wasn't getting triggered. There were other times in my life when I was able to live alone and somehow made it through, but it was always difficult. The traditional method of exposure therapy for phobia (where you expose yourself to the thing that triggers your fear repeatedly until the fear subsides) never seemed to apply to me, because no matter how many nights I got through alone, it did not seem to reliably reduce my fear over time. Now I'm 34 years old, and I cannot recall a time in my life when I was ever not afraid of being alone at night.

This interferes in my day-to-day life because my husband works the evening shift, so I have to be alone in the evening and fall asleep alone most nights of the week. It manifests in very specific ways, like certain rooms of the house will feel a lot safer than others, certain activities will cause the fear to spike, and so it's very difficult for me to live comfortably and do the things I want to do on those nights. It fluctuates too; some nights I'm really doing all right and I could almost forget it's an issue, then suddenly a thought will enter my mind and I will reach a near-panic state.

I have been practicing mindfulness and meditation, and the idea of leaning into the fear as opposed to running from it. From this, I have been able to observe what goes on in my mind and body when it happens, rather than just trying to shut it out. I noticed that I sense what I can only describe as a "looming presence" perpetually in my house, that is somehow observing me, waiting until my guard is down to leap out and do something to me, though what that something is, I'm not quite certain. I have a sense that there is a door in my mind that I am desperately trying to keep shut, because if I open it, something terrifying will happen that will be so overwhelming and horrible that I won't be able to handle it, and it will be the worst experience I've ever had. Yet, whatever is on the inside of that door is trying to come out. I know that I need to make peace with this somehow, to accept and be okay with anything inside of my mind, and be able to sit with the scared feelings, no matter how difficult it gets. I think that's the eventual goal. I just have this fear that whatever is inside is so large that it will destroy me. It's a fear of the fear itself.

I don't know if any of that made sense to anybody. That's the part that I realized I never really met anybody who experiences something similar to that, or even seen it described in all of the psychology texts I've read. Even my therapist said she didn't quite know what that "looming presence" was. I realized that it could be helpful if I found anybody who could just understand. If this could be explained as a psychological phenomenon, so I don't feel so much like there is something "crazy" and "flawed" about me for being this way.

This was long, thanks so much if you even read this far.

-A

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