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#467934 - 07/24/14 05:35 AM The startle response
focusedbody Offline


Registered: 02/03/13
Posts: 373
Loc: NY

Lately I've been interacting more with my mother and something has been slowing coming into focus.

She has a feeling that I have been "mentally ill" for a long time. While I don't like the judgmental use of the term, I wouldn't argue with the experience of having my mental faculties damaged by something that feels beyond my control.

What I'm wondering is if part of what she sees is a kind of "startle response" in me, that may go back a long way. It feels related to a kind of vigilance, where I fear someone compromising my sense of self. As I hone in on this, I get emotional. It feels like such an early fear, and one that keeps me from experiencing others.

Would love to hear from anyone with similar issues.

FB
_________________________
Lose the drama; life is a poem.

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#467966 - 07/25/14 01:41 PM Re: The startle response [Re: focusedbody]
gaatt Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 11/02/08
Posts: 124
Hi FB,

My mother has been labeling me "crazy" and "hypersensitive" for years.

I think it's part of her denial of the insanity of an entire culture. It came to a head when I showed her a book about the psycho-emotional aspects of auto-immune illness. She jumped on it as proof of her theory until I pointed out that she too suffers from an autoimmune illness. She has no interest in healing the emotional roots of illness in herself, yet expected me to do the same. It's a strange double standard. She's cooled off since then on pushing me to do things I've already been pursuing for years (emotional healing) on my own.

I'm definitely more vigilant and more stressed than most people by very normal situations. I sense the sexual frustration of women very keenly. Unfortunately it can draw me into situations where I get subtly beat up/stressed out. The key to healing for me seems to be in coming to peace with my maleness (less judgemental of it) and protect myself from angry women while working towards getting my own needs met.

I hope this helps.

Cheers,

GAATT
_________________________
"Love yourself and watch...Today, Tomorrow, Always." Buddha.

My Story: http://www.malesurvivor.org/board/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=468661#Post468661

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#468269 - 07/31/14 12:51 AM Re: The startle response [Re: focusedbody]
focusedbody Offline


Registered: 02/03/13
Posts: 373
Loc: NY
Gaatt:

Your pointing a "double standard" is key to this pain and this dilemma. I've asked my mother to consider the impact of my father on her relationship with me. It raises the bar on how we relate to each other. If we were to talk about it, what might be revealed is some more of the dysfunction that resulted from her being trapped by him.

The specific response I am talking about is "psycho-emotional" as well. Itís possible that my mother has her own startle response, to which she closes down and then seeks comfort in. When I see it in her, It's a kind of lost look, with perhaps a little look of shock. I have probably been one of the people who has provided comfort. Of course that was not always healthy for me. These days I'm trying not so much as provide comfort, but instead let her know that I am present enough to hear her express herself (which is a lot better than just collapsing on me).

In my own case, my experience of a startle response feels like it is accompanied by a deep frozen feeling and nervousness. In the midst of feeling frozen, it feels that I can't escape that way of responding. I suppose itís a kind of deer caught in the headlights kind of thing. In the work Iíve done with trauma, I am slowly coming to witness it happening. Physiologically, I have been able to let some of the experience in.

Something in this also reminds me of a post you made about a "sexual charge post-trauma". Lately I've been aware of a kind of charge in my system as I get closer to this stuff and the experience in my family. Perhaps it is related to maintaining the experience of shock. Why I would want to do that is beyond me, but maybe it's so that I won't forget it.

In terms of how I relate to others in the midst of it, there's a lot of being trapped in a dynamic fraught with mixed messages and habitually repressed emotion. I'm doing a lot with expressing more of my feelings and point of view. Itís a kind of funny feeling at first when messages start to feel less messy. I probably donít trust it, so I tend to feel that it might be unreal. But it is also the case that as I am more honest with myself (and the men on this site), that I feel more consistently myself. Go figure.

Thanks for your response here. This feels like a conversation that may just be starting, like a few others at the moment.

With hope,

FB
_________________________
Lose the drama; life is a poem.

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#468356 - 08/01/14 09:26 PM Re: The startle response [Re: focusedbody]
gaatt Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 11/02/08
Posts: 124
Originally Posted By: focusedbody
These days I'm trying not so much as provide comfort...

Thanks FB,

I feel like I'm doing something similar. I'm pulling away from being my mother's "entertainment" and placing more emphasis on my own healing and pursuing healthy connections with others (like you). My mother isn't really interested in open communication with me about my healing process and she isn't doing anything obvious for herself at an emotional level either. Sincere communication about feelings was never a part of our family dynamic. She's just happy that my physical health is improving.

Originally Posted By: focusedbody
I'm doing a lot with expressing more of my feelings and point of view.


My feelings recently have caught my attention. I've recognized that feelings of lust, anger, and jealousy are all feelings I have difficulty experiencing (I tend to repress them) and judge very negatively. They often occur in the presence of some kind of a sexual charge. They also remind me quite strongly of my father. (Wouldn't want to be like HIM eh?). They also conflict with my saintly, pretty boy, mamma's boy identity that I've worked so hard to create (probably to extract the little love available from my mother when I needed it so badly in my early youth).

There's a meditation technique that I'm starting to explore that simply involves sitting and making efforts to feel a negative emotion (like the ones I just mentioned), paying attention to the body sensations primarily and then after 15 min. stopping and just sitting silently. There is something quite freeing for me in this technique. I get to experience the "bad" side of me without involving anyone else at all! It also doesn't involve repression or expression. It feels much safer than when I experience them in anyone's presence (like seems to be happening with the odd woman these days.)

Originally Posted By: focusedbody
Lately I've been aware of a kind of charge in my system as I get closer to this stuff and the experience in my family.

I've found a while ago that when I was feeling sexually aroused it was often in response to my mother's presence. It was intensely confusing for me and very disturbing. I would often try to "dump" it through masturbation. More recently, I've seen it paired to other women and my own fear or inability to maintain a direction where I'm honouring my own needs. I get lost in their needs (to be entertained emotionally). I have a strong longing to be loved which I project on women (who generally aren't interested in helping me with this need of mine). I think the charge is so intense because it's an infant's survival need. I'm slowly finding ways to respect and satisfy my own needs in any way possible.

Thanks for writing.

Sincerely,

"GAATT"
_________________________
"Love yourself and watch...Today, Tomorrow, Always." Buddha.

My Story: http://www.malesurvivor.org/board/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=468661#Post468661

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#469775 - 09/06/14 11:48 PM Re: The startle response [Re: gaatt]
focusedbody Offline


Registered: 02/03/13
Posts: 373
Loc: NY



Gaatt:

So here's what happened.

Moments after I refused a habitual response with Mom, she collapsed for real.

She fell on the floor and had trouble speaking.

I know this sounds scary and frightening. Not only because I was the only there. Not only because she and I handled it okay and she was feeling better even before EMS came.

What was scary and frightening was for the little boy in me to know that I could not continue to indulge her state of not being present with me. An old impulse would have been to "comfort" and "console" the part of her that was having trouble communicating and truly expressing herself moments before she fell. Instead of doing that, I simply did not respond but looked at her as if to say, "what exactly are you saying to me".

This was what was frightening. Could I have been the one who sent her into collapse? I, who had held her up for so many years?

The answer has to be no. Because before she got into that state, she had already lost touch with what she was feeling. There is no amount of effort I can make to protect from her own feelings that would truly help. She has to take that step on her own.

(Ironically, before this happened she had been considering talking to a counselor.)

Since collapsing and being in the hospital for three days, she is okay.

What is curious here is still the way we respond to each other. It is as if the constant threat of a "charge" and a "startle" are there. I am left wondering if the collapse is simply a reaction to the startle. But that is speaking from my experience and not hers.


Originally Posted By: gaatt
I've found a while ago that when I was feeling sexually aroused it was often in response to my mother's presence. It was intensely confusing for me and very disturbing.


Being sexually aroused is not in and of itself unnatural, even with a parent. And as a parent, I experience it all the time with my children. Denying the feeling is what gets one into trouble.

What creates the confusion and disturbing part of the experience is what accompanies the arousal. If there are impulses that are not owned and don't add up to being in the present and in reality, then there can be a loss. That is what happened to me all the time, and I tried to ignore it.

Coming to terms with feelings, including the negative ones as you mentioned, seems to be a worthwhile path. Doing so can temporarily increase the confusion for me, but with practice and breathing and a lot kindness and patience, I tend to get better.

Continuing to wish you space and time for what is needed,

FB
_________________________
Lose the drama; life is a poem.

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#470381 - 09/23/14 01:25 PM Re: The startle response [Re: focusedbody]
gaatt Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 11/02/08
Posts: 124
HI FB,

Wow, that's quite the experience with your mother! I'm glad to see that you seem to be coping with it reasonably well. Not sure that I'd be able to keep my health intact if my mother resorted to behaviours that extreme.

Originally Posted By: focusedbody
Denying the feeling is what gets one into trouble.

This makes total sense to me. I suppose indulging it could too (particularly with intense "negative" emotions like anger, lust, and fear). I'm recognizing that the world of my youth and much of the world I currently inhabit only has two options available to it: repression or indulgence. Just experiencing the feeling and allowing it to be without feeling obligated to "do" anything about it seems to be fairly rare. Around lust, anger and fear, it was totally absent in my youth. I'm pretty clear that my mother repressed some intense sexually charged anger in herself and for some reason or another I'm still occasionally frightened by it. She seems to be in denial of it. Finding people who are into treating these feelings with more awareness and love is key to feeling safe with them. At the very least, not falling prey to traps like your mother seems to like to set is crucial to me.

Thanks for writing.

Sincerely,

GAATT.


Edited by gaatt (09/23/14 01:33 PM)
Edit Reason: Add a detail.
_________________________
"Love yourself and watch...Today, Tomorrow, Always." Buddha.

My Story: http://www.malesurvivor.org/board/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=468661#Post468661

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#470473 - 09/25/14 10:12 PM Re: The startle response [Re: gaatt]
focusedbody Offline


Registered: 02/03/13
Posts: 373
Loc: NY
Originally Posted By: gaatt
Not sure that I'd be able to keep my health intact if my mother resorted to behaviours that extreme.


As dramatic as it sounds, it really was fairly normal, especially for someone her age. Chances are your mother and many others have done something similar, perhaps just not with the added timing of a real fall. What was of course more interesting was how the youthful part of me had more awareness this time. This enabled me to be more present and genuine.


Originally Posted By: gaatt
I'm recognizing that the world of my youth and much of the world I currently inhabit only has two options available to it: repression or indulgence. Just experiencing the feeling and allowing it to be without feeling obligated to "do" anything about it seems to be fairly rare.


That is the place to get to, I think.


Originally Posted By: gaatt
Finding people who are into treating these feelings with more awareness and love is key to feeling safe with them.


As hard as it can be, being able to do this oneself makes it more likely that such people will feel safe enough to come into personal contact!

Thanks for all your replies. This thread started with describing a response that unconsciously exhibits the presence of difficult emotions without attempting to build awareness of them. It is a kind of repression and indulgence at once, encapsulated in a state of speechless mild shock that remains a block to true communication.

Exploring the distress behind this kind of response is painful but possible with support. The next step of staying with emotions without feeling obligated to act on them is another thing that seems to require effort and guidance.

With heartfelt appreciation for all who walk this worthwhile road,

FB
_________________________
Lose the drama; life is a poem.

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#471173 - 10/13/14 10:08 AM Re: The startle response [Re: focusedbody]
unhappycamper Offline


Registered: 10/21/11
Posts: 623
Loc: VA
I've experienced what a psychiatrist called "exaggerated startle response," for as long as I can remember. Since my Age of Flashbacks began (20 years ago today!), it has gotten much worse. I can't climb ladders any more, because the slightest bump could cause me to twitch and lose my balance. I guess that's what they mean by "hypervigilance."

John

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#471309 - 10/15/14 11:03 PM Re: The startle response [Re: focusedbody]
focusedbody Offline


Registered: 02/03/13
Posts: 373
Loc: NY
Unhappycamper:

Thanks for your post.

Are you doing anything to work through the hypervigilance?

I find that just being aware of it is a beginning step. Then finding small ways to experience safety helps start a process of hope and renewal.

FB
_________________________
Lose the drama; life is a poem.

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#473232 - 12/04/14 07:48 PM Re: The startle response [Re: focusedbody]
RepressedMem Offline


Registered: 11/27/14
Posts: 13
That doesn't sound odd at all to me. I had repressed memories and a lot of PTSD under the surface, until yhe memories were uncovered and now I have full blown PTSD that goes quite a bit further than your reactions.
But I would be cautious to let the one who abused you to be helping you define what mental illness is or isn't.

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