I'm bunkered down at home, fearing that the phone will ring. If it rings, I jump and a feeling of dread comes over me. If the doorbell rings, I hide, my heart pounding fast, hoping they won't hear me. What happened?
My boss always seems proud of me, jokes with me, and isn't really my boss--just a coworker. But he's big. He's tall, big boned, and intimidating. Like my dad was. At our last meeting, he seemed upset. I had presented something that it appeared he didn't like. I emailed him, and he didn't respond. I felt like my take on a subject was the right way to go, but I couldn't convince him.
It's so ridiculous! After that meeting, I totally fell apart. I'm in fear. I've missed two days of work out sick. I can't talk on the phone without almost having a panic attack. I can't think about going tomorrow. It is totally insane fear. Like I have to avoid everyone, because people are mad at me.
And then tonight I made the connection between a little boy who learned to read his dad and me as a man who is still reading people. I became so hyper aware of dad's every move, the tone of his voice, when his joking changed even slightly, so I knew when to stop. It's like the boy has to say everything just right, do everything perfectly to keep dad happy. Any slight error on the boy's part means dad changes and becomes terrifying. Meanwhile, mom is either laughing or sobbing. Who's job is it to keep mom happy? It's a totally learned behavior! It is my job to anticipate what will make every person I see happy so that I will be safe and cared for. Anything I do wrong could lead to confrontation, or worse, no one will love me. No one will protect me, and I'll be left alone. And when that happened, I felt like a dirty rag. It's this wrong internal belief that I am responsible for other people's emotions or behavior.
Let's see, can we count how many times that happened to me as a boy?
The only way to defuse the present is to remember that I don't need to do this anymore. I associate disagreement with fear. Disagreeing with dad meant danger. Now I have to remind myself that I'm not in danger anymore. I can trust that even if someone disagrees with me, that doesn't mean that it is permanent. My therapist said abuse puts us in a land of extremes. Everything is black or white. I trust 100% or not at all, and I tend to assume that people will either like me completely or hate me entirely. Like my childhood home. Either dad was smiling or he was exploding. I still get ultra vigilant and then reclusive.
I have to get it through my head that I am not responsible for how other people feel. And if they feel something bad, that doesn't mean I caused them to feel it. I also need to remember that an unhappy person isn't always a dangerous person. I can't believe I'm still thinking thoughts that came from my horrible family. argh.
"This search for the truth--it's not for the faint of heart."--Goren on 'Law & Order: CI'
"The former things will not be called to mind, neither will they come up into the heart."--Isaiah 65:17