(definition further explained in this post if you still aren't satisfied)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

From Behind The Castle Walls

It's a defense reaction.

My defense reactions get in the way a lot.  With the way my life is now, I finally have people worthy of the deepest friendship I can offer - this well of caring that I have ready to pour out to someone I get close to - but I'm still not used to it.  I'm used to being with people I have to protect myself from, and this causes me to have certain reaction formations that come up hard and fast around me at a sign of trouble.

I have a deep-seated assumption that everyone is going to be like all the people I've known before.  Of course, it makes sense; if literally everyone I've known has been a certain way, I would think everyone everywhere is.  The problem arises when I can't get at these assumptions.  Having them used in the wrong situation is one thing, but what's even worse is that they trigger without me being ready for it.  These assumptions are buried so deep in me that I can't just pull them out and examine them the way I examine all my other thoughts and reactions.  I often don't even realize they're happening.

Assuming that people default to ignoring me in conversations caused painful discourse before.  Assuming that they will hurt me doesn't keep me from getting close all the time, but it does throw up barriers when I get hurt that cause me to withdraw in a big way, in order to think and recover.  And I've learned that sometimes people don't take this well.  They might not see the "time to think" part as much as the "withdraw" part, and it might make them think that I don't care enough, or that I can't be close to them just because I need distance at a crucial time.  That time is crucial for both me personally and for the relationship, and how can I accommodate both simultaneously?

It's not fair to put good people in the same mold as the people from my past, and I know this.  It's just that learning to fix it is hard because the thought patterns are buried so deep.  I guess I've been hoping that time and trust will change it, which is a very good solution except when you have someone who wants things to be black and white, someone who wants to know right now that you're dedicated to being their friend.

Do I know how to be a real friend yet?

Is it too much to ask if someone wants me to be fully dedicated to a friendship right now?  I don't really think so.  That sounds like a normal desire to me.  I'm just not normal and healthy enough to fit into it yet, maybe.

I can be a really good friend, but I can't promise that I'll act without these defense reactions for probably a long time.

Does that mean that this is all my fault?

Well, my past has created this reaction formation in me.  So its presence isn't really my fault; I needed it in order to survive and protect myself.

But the fact that I still react in the ways I do can't be removed from my own responsibility for my actions. At what point do I accept all the blame and say that the way I act is solely my choice?

Is there any blame to be put on people who push me to become better?  It's not the other person's fault if I withdraw because I'm hurt, but it is pretty much their fault if they choose to hurt me.  Does that have any place in this discussion?  When we're talking about my reaction, how much does the stimulus matter?

We could say that the blame is spread out between the people who hurt me enough to make my defenses necessary, and me for continuing to act like I'll always need them, and anyone who causes them to come back because that person has hurt me too.  I don't think we can say that it's no one's fault, because if nothing else, the people that caused the defenses don't deserve absolution.

If I'm unable to fix this very quickly, does it become more my fault over time?


These are very difficult questions.  I'm just trying to fix myself.

Monday, June 20, 2011


They claim to always be there for me, and to try to help me with my self-confidence.  So it sucked pretty hard when they called me out on things, both in the same night.  I'm over it today, but it was a devastating experience for a few hours.  And they don't even know how much of an impact it had on me.

I've been trying to shut up this voice in my head, the one that says, you aren't worth anything, stop fooling yourself, people have no reason to care about you or prioritize you in any way.  It came back full force last night in response to what I was being told, and I wasn't sure if I could stop it this time.

I had been asking for help with a problem.   I hadn't realized that they were still discussing something they had already started working on; I had thought they were finished with that topic, so when I chimed in and got no response, well, I reacted based on what I've learned to usually be true.  I'm so used to being ignored in conversations that at first it didn't occur to me that maybe they had heard me and chosen to put off responding for a little while.

Then, after I went quiet because I was sad and confused about their behavior, he said "don't worry, we're not ignoring you, we're just dealing with this first".  Hmm.  I had been so used to the ignoring that I had assumed they were doing it.  How safe is it to put those assumptions away?  What if I need them again?  I might need my old reaction formations at some point and if I put them away now, I'll be stranded.  I need to remember how to deal with this kind of treatment so that whenever it happens again, I'll be able to handle it without getting too upset.  This is what my mind tells me, even if I see small flaws in that logic.

"You just have to realize that we were working on this first."  Well, that makes sense.  But then I don't know what happened; I guess for some reason I saw something wrong with that, or I got confused somehow, even though I knew it was a simple and non-confrontational truth.  I don't always understand my own mind, but for some reason this time it wouldn't let me keep quiet.  About my doubts, I guess.

"You've told me that I'm important, that my thoughts have value, but this doesn't line up with that," I said at some point in the conversation.  Stupid.  Like I said, my mind doesn't seem to feel any pressure about having to make sense.

That's when it rained down hard.  "Realize that you aren't the only thing going on in our lives.  You are important, but just because you have problems doesn't mean that yours are more important than everyone else's, or that we're going to drop ours to help you.  You need to have enough sensitivity and caring about others to let them deal with their own things and not try to make it all about you."  That isn't word-for-word, but by memory it's pretty close.

And every sentence, every new point was like...it was like standing facing an onslaught, and these nails were coming at me, at my torso and chest and face and they were being driven in and making me wince with every new things that was said.  I shy away from the image of what my face must have looked like while I was listening.  In that moment I became a wounded cowering thing, just waiting for it all to be over so I could crawl away and nurse my wounds as well as I could, waiting and wishing so hard for it to stop.  Wishing I was stronger than this.

Then it was over, it was blessedly silent and I was struggling to breathe.  And there was that voice in my head, the one there to beat me down at every chance; it had started screaming the moment his comments had given it some power to stand behind.  He's right, you know.  You're not worth it, you KNOW better, you should have known not to bring up your problems like that.  If you had any sort of caring for these people, you would have left them alone to find their own happiness and enjoy each other's company without you screwing it up.  Now he's mad at you and he should be.  You're worthless.

Ugh, being attacked in my own head, how do I make it stop?  All the reassurances I get now usually help, but last night they were temporarily torn down, leaving me defenseless in the face of that raw negative energy, eating away at the core of me.

And then someone else, wanting to know what's wrong, calling me until I answered.  I thought "maybe this will make things better, maybe he can help me feel a little better and we can talk through things a bit or something".  But that conversation?  Had him telling me how angry I made him, how much he hates it when I say bad things about myself, how stupid and beneath me it is.  Saying I'm really better than this, that it made him sick and he never wanted me to tell him these things again.

This was costing me so much.  I was on the edge, two seconds away from hanging up the phone, desperate for silence because reaching out was just getting my hand slapped over and over.  But I know him, and I knew that if I were to hang up on him, he would write me off and most likely never speak to me again, just say "I am done with this forever".  When it gets to serious subjects, he can have a bit of a temper if he thinks he isn't being taken seriously, and even though I was having the opposite problem of that, he would have interpreted that way and I would have lost that friendship permanently.  He doesn't know it, but those tendrils of wanting his friendship were the only thing, that absolute last thing keeping me from leaving the conversation and just trying to recover without him taking stabs at me that he probably didn't even realize were hitting so hard.

Try to breathe, just keep trying to breathe.  I didn't know how to handle this anymore except to endure it.  His words still coming through the receiver to my ear, to my brain and then I was crying, and he never even knew that I cried.  I'm not allowed to tell him how I feel about this.  I'm not allowed to say it when I'm dealing with that negative inner voice because he hates it so much, and me having problems dealing with it makes me weak, and it's something he says that I am above, when really it's only something I should be above.

After that I was able to continue in a different conversation, to steer it away when he was finally done ranting after several minutes and talk about something a little more neutral, getting a piece of my sanity back.  Then when I was mid-sentence he suddenly had to go, said he would talk to me later, and left the story I was telling unfinished and hanging in the air above my head where he had cut it away from himself with the last hanging-up click of the phone.

All I'm saying is, I was feeling a little overwhelmed.

And I know, at least I'm almost positive that they thought they were helping, that this is the kind of tough love that is going to be beneficial to me once I get over being upset and realize that they were right.  And although they are usually the best thing possible for me, usually know exactly what to do to help me in my personal growth, this time they were actually wrong.  I know what tough love looks like, and it has been used to help me before.  I can recognize it while it's being used on me almost every time, I can see the truth in things.  But what was being said to me last night only powerfully awoke that voice, and hurt me in a very deep way that neither of them know.

So I come here to write it, to give it words.  It's something that I feel compelled to do and it helps me.  No need for a reason.

It's something I'm glad I can do.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Hear Me Rawr

I feel wrong every time I like something pink and admit it.  I feel squirmy inside when I find something I like that has ruffles.  I look at something "girly" and my eyebrows furrow, my nose scrunches up, my lips tighten.

When I like something or do something I term "girly", it's work not to feel disgust with myself.  Some of these things are worse than others.  Showering with several bath products to make me soft everywhere is feminine in a good way, but having a kit with clippers and a nail file is...gross, because it's such a girl thing.  I don't know if these are things that someone else would be able to predict even if they've known me for a while, but in my mind, they all have their place in the hierarchy, and seemingly random things are tolerable or even good while others are barely even forgivable.

I know why this is.  I can't - and have never been able to - identify with or understand really girly girls.  Needless to say, ditsy women are completely beyond my scope of comprehension, and I just try to learn how to function with them when I need to.  The mindset is something I can't really wrap my head around; I can't practically imagine being in that head-space and making decisions from there.

Wrapped up with all this non-understanding is my dislike.  Too many bad experiences with females.  I've been hurt by too many women and girls doing things that are associated only as things that females do, and I've seen way too much from them.  The gossiping, trying to be cute and failing, slutty attitudes, and mind games?  Those are only a few things off the top of my head that I've had to deal with and they drive me insane.  Women sicken me entirely too often.

Cut back to my own issues.  Even aside from the social repercussions in a more globalized sense (a.k.a. my interactions with other females), I have this internal conflict.  For an extremely long time, I've had this clenching retreating reaction to liking girly things or acting in certain feminine ways.

Like I said, my mind can be startlingly specific as to whether I quickly accept something or not.  Long hair is great; high heels are subject to intense suspicion.  Shaving your legs is wonderfully feminine; wearing fake nails is gag worthy.  It would be hard for even me to predict if I were to be on the outside of my own mind.  But despite the disparities, there's a huge variety of the things that get a bad reaction out of me.

The issue gets tough because as a woman, I have certain naturally girlish tendencies.  To add to the torture, I see many things, often online, that I find myself liking and immediately mentally punishing myself for because they fall under the "girly" category.

And that's where I am now.

It's a process, although admittedly a much shorter one than most of the ways I'm growing right now.  Mentally, I'm gradually adjusting to the idea that I can do or like girly things and it's still okay, I'm still likable, that it might even be cute or appealing in some way.  This bad reaction in me still rears its head like a particularly bitter dinosaur on a regular basis, but I'm dealing with it better and seeing it just a little less often than I used to.

It's all part of what these incredible people are helping me with: the slow progression of negating the vicious self-talk and learning how to not hate myself anymore, to start having some measure of self-confidence and self-esteem where I have always been lacking them and letting them become more downtrodden with every bad person that has come into my life and left their mark on it.  I run into situations with girliness now and often remind myself that just because I am a woman with feminine tendencies, it doesn't have to mean that I'm channeling the girliness in the type of girls that I despise.  There is a disconnect between that horrible misuse of femininity and me that I'm beginning to actually see.

And to me, that's definite progress.

Friday, May 20, 2011

What's The Difference Between A High-Risk Customer And A Victim?

Scenario: An obese woman pays more for health insurance than her slimmer neighbor because the insurance company deems her a "higher-risk" customer.  

Most people can get behind the basic idea of this, right?  Scientific studies have proven that being overweight makes a person more susceptible to a variety of health problems, blah de blah blah.  If the company has to put out more money on behalf of someone because they're going to be at the hospital more often and will go through more expensive procedures than other people, it makes sense, right?

Except that you can't guarantee that this person will ever go to the hospital for such a condition.  In which case, she's just paying more because she's heavier.

Same deal with someone who smokes or becomes an alcoholic.  Statistics prove they're more likely to cost a lot of money in medical bills, but the individual circumstance could vary with anything from liver and lung cancer to a doctor-free remainder of a lifetime.

Then let's consider the same scenario but in a slightly different context: what if a person suffers from a preexisting condition?  Say that instead of smoking, you have a history of heart disease in your family.  It wasn't your choice, but it makes you a higher risk anyway.  Then you're paying more money for something that's completely out of your control.

Out of all of these ideas, there's one thought that remains prevalent in my mind.  One question has bothered me for years and makes me wonder when consumers are going to start going on the offensive:

At what point does risk-assessment become discrimination?

I have no doubt that eventually this topic should come up.  One day we'll see someone taking an insurance company to court for charging them rates they can't afford based on a situation that they can't control.  I'm sure it's already happened somewhere that I haven't heard of, and maybe they got a settlement or the whole situation dissipated while being ignored by the media, or (the more likely scenario) the customer simply couldn't afford a lawyer and soon faded into quiet poverty.  And yet, despite the unfairness of many of the things they do, insurance companies can point at the math and get out of any conflict.

Statistics prove that a certain type of person will cost more to take care of.  But individual situations?  They can never be predicted.

Saying that a man should pay more for car insurance is essentially saying that you assume he's going to wreck just because he's a man.  Jacking up rates for a woman with a heart defect is making her situation just as unfair as discriminating against someone with a handicap.  

And employers bound under discrimination laws?  They could easily prove with statistics that an older employee is a higher risk because they have more injuries in the workplace, or that a female shouldn't take a hard-labor job because she would present a higher risk to them if her statistically weaker muscles were to give out.  And yet we don't allow them to refuse hiring a person based on age or sex.

Insurance companies aren't held to the same standards as employers are.  Where should we draw the line?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Cost of Morals

"I'm gonna break your face!"

This is probably what my younger self would say to me if she saw me now.

When I was younger, I never thought that I'd put up with injustice.  To "let bygones be bygones" is one thing, but it's another to let people do things that are blatantly immoral or illegal (or both) to you.  Through the eyes of a child, when everything in the world looks more black and white than in shades of grey, there's no reason to allow things like this to happen.

But then...the bills need paying, the professors need a good impression of you, and the landlord needs to be kept happy.  You find yourself sucking up to people or doing more work for less pay or letting it slide when a superior insults you, because you know that it will cost you something that you need to continue your lifestyle if you don't, like that good impression or this month's rent.  As an adult, you begin to feel that letting your morals slide is "just part of how the world works".

Is that really how it has to be?  Does a person have to lose everything if they operate based on their principles?

There are supposed to be laws set up to protect the underdogs, like the employees in an employer-employee relationship, but they often "cost" a person even more than the above-mentioned sacrifices.  Lawyer's fees?  A lost job (and in this economy)?  The continued battle for a court date that the employer can afford to put off, but you can't?  It's easier for a person to let these things slide or fight it at their own meager level of influence, even if doing so could still costs them decreased pay or losing their job.  The justice system, although it seems well-meaning, simply isn't a practical option for lower or middle-class citizens (which includes the majority of people).  Even laws meant to prevent unfair practices aren't carefully enforced, which means they rely on this "I'm telling on you" system of lawsuits that most people can't afford.

And without the justice system as an option, the average person is left with one choice: to give up their personal sense of justice, or to pay some high price for keeping it.

If the younger me had known the price that morals come with, she would definitely think twice before making that choice.  I'm still not sure which she would choose.