theferrett: (Meazel)
[personal profile] theferrett

So because I’m still really sort of processing, I’m going to core-dump in my journal for a bit about the problem I alluded to earlier.  (And please take special note about the “Don’t do that, then” style of advice.)

What I’m struggling with right now is the Kobayashi Maru of emotional traps: how do I tell someone I’m hurt when I’m not even sure I’m right to be hurt?

Thing is, when I’m in a hypersensitive mood, I see neglect in everything.  Hey, did you not put bacon on my cheeseburger?  How could you?  You know I love bacon.  Your lack of bacon must mean that you’re purposely out to deprive me of bacon.  That’s really a shitty thing to do, you know, fucking my cheeseburger over when you could just tell me the love is over.  If you really loved me, I guess you’d have remembered the bacon.

No.  I honestly get like that sometimes.

Over the years, I’ve learned to calm down and process… but it takes me a while.  Because sometimes it’s not bacon.  Sometimes, someone’s done something genuinely shitty, and it turns out I need to talk to them to say, “Okay, what you did was mean and unfair.”

What I do know, however, is that talking to them in this tizzy does no one no good.  I’m accusatory, no matter how hard I try not to be.  I’m defensive, because I know I might be silly.  And even if they do apologize, an apology generally isn’t enough because I’m so hurt and saddened and vulnerable by having to reveal my inner processes that I need not just an apology, but a full-on reassurance that I’m loved and not stupid on top of it – because the problem is not that you did this thing, but thing made me feel full of self-loathing and neglect, and I want to not feel that way any more.

Practically nobody does that.  Mostly, an apology is about the best they can muster, especially if I am being stupid about things.  (Which is, you know, often.)  But at that point it’s not about the bacon, but this stir of terrored intensity that I’m totally unloved.  Going, “Sorry, you need bacon” doesn’t cut it at that point.

People say they want to know.  But I’m so unreasonable in these times that I know it’s better to withdraw.

Now, in an ideal world, I’d withdraw for a couple of days, retreating into myself while I process and emerge with a measured conclusion.  By then, a simple bacon apology will do (if in fact I decide I need to mention the bacon at all), and we can move on… Except I’m chatty, so people generally notice my absence.  And they ask, “Hey, did I do something wrong?”

(I can also try to fake it and talk to the person who wounded me during this time frame, but I do such a shitty job at pretending nothing’s wrong that they invariably notice.  I know I’m being foolish, but the emotions are pretty overwhelming, and it’s like trying to carry on pleasantries with a man who’s kicking a puppy.  I’ve tried to do casual conversation for years, but in my downtimes I don’t have the social skill to fake it.)

So here’s the paradox:

KOBAYASHI SCENARIO #1: I TALK TO THEM BEFORE I’M SURE THIS IS ACTUALLY A PROBLEM.  But I do it poorly, because I’m emotional and unreasonable.  Shit blows up, and they feel I’m unfair and grasping (which I may well be being), and I injure the friendship.

KOBAYASHI SCENARIO #2: I ADMIT SOMETHING’S WRONG, BUT TELL THEM I’M NOT IN A GOOD SPACE TO TALK TO THEM ABOUT THE PROBLEM RIGHT NOW.  Yeah, that trick never works.  The minute they know something’s wrong, they panic, and pepper me with questions about what they might have done until they know (complete with misintentioned reassurances that no, they’ll be fine), and then we’re back to Kobayashi Scenario #1.

KOBAYASHI SCENARIO #3: I SAY NOTHING, AND HOLD MY GROUND.  They notice something’s wrong.  they get mad at me because clearly I’m bent out of shape and not saying anything, and by the time I’m ready to talk (or let it go) they’re furious because what the fuck, man, you were just so cold and mean.

Whatever happens, whenever I’m injured, I wind up doing damage.  Which sucks.

I’ve since learned that #1 is the best option, but it still sucks.  Because then there’s a big fight, and I come out of that fight feeling whipped and saddened and hated for who I am, and I have to put on my Big Girl Panties and pretend “Hey, everything’s fine even though we’re pissy at each other!”  Which takes even MORE energy, this happy-go-lucky pretending that everything’s cool even though I feel less loved than I ever have in our relationship before…. but eventually it heals shit over.

(I used to dig deeper to try to “fix” things when I was in this mood, which shredded friendships like a woodchipper.)

I dunno.  I just wish I didn’t have this hypersensitivity, or the social ability to pretend that things were fine when they weren’t, but years of effort has shown that I’m not likely to acquire these tendencies any time soon.

And it’s not just me.  Gini’s said she has this same problem with me when she’s trying to figure out whether it’s a genuine issue she’s going through.  So I figure someone must have a way of dealing with the “I need space to process, but people aren’t good at giving it to me” problem.

Suggestions?

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

Date: 2012-03-20 07:09 pm (UTC)
snippy: Lego me holding book (Default)
From: [personal profile] snippy
I mostly do #2, but I also ask my partners to help me with the bad feelings. That is, I feel bad, but I can't tell whether it's about them; I'm still entitled to be comforted for feeling bad. We can deal with it being about what they did later, if I figure out that's true.

So really what I do is say "I feel hurt and I think it's because you did X but it might be because I didn't sleep/forgot lunch/my mom died 8 years ago today/could be premenstrual. I can't tell right now. But I need taking care of anyway." And my partners give me hugs and/or space/time to process. They generally don't get defensive or intrusive.

Date: 2012-03-20 09:13 pm (UTC)
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
From: [personal profile] firecat
I suggest not trying to find a one-size-fits-all solution. E.g., I'm sometimes OK with hearing #2, but one of my sweeties can't handle it ever. Sometime when you're not upset, talk to the people who are affected by this pattern and ask them which of the solutions you consider to be possible for you would work best for them, or if they can think of other behavior that would work better for them. (Not that you can necessarily do the things they would prefer, but maybe a compromise can be reached.)

If you have the pre-discussion, then there might be the option of saying, when you're upset, "I'm having that 'no bacon' feeling."

Date: 2012-03-21 12:27 am (UTC)
thorfinn: <user name="seedy_girl"> and <user name="thorfinn"> (Default)
From: [personal profile] thorfinn
First try describing the situation a third party who isn't involved, and explicitly ask for what you want out of the conversation (probably no advice, but maybe you do want advice, in which case make sure it's clear you may not take the advice), or possibly talk the situation through with a literal teddy bear?

There's also techniques to doing #1 without blowing up the other person - but I'm not sure whether this falls into your category of "don't do that then" type advice, since they aren't necessarily easy to execute if you're already feeling emotional and angry.

And +1 to the other two commenters so far.

Date: 2012-03-21 05:05 am (UTC)
azurelunatic: Azz and best friend grabbing each other's noses.  (Default)
From: [personal profile] azurelunatic
A middle ground between 2 and 3 might be a very carefully phrased prepared speech "My head is really fucked up right now and I need to basically not talk to anybody while I unfuck it."

It acknowledges that "something" is wrong, but not exactly what. And then removing yourself from the situation as politely as possible, because continuing the conversation is not going to go anywhere, with bonus "I'm really sorry but I'm not okay talking right now." The scripts should have the base assumption "it's not you, it's really me, and I'm not okay and you can't help."

Everyone who's not one of the very few select people who gets to help you sort out the fuckbasket who inquires about what's wrong gets this line, so it's not just the person you're suddenly mad at today who gets the "no, I can't talk" when they discern that you're not okay and ask.

In the short term, this can cause some worrying. In the long term, when folks see you doing this consistently, and it's followed by a "Sorry I couldn't talk to you about my feelings then, something was bugging me with someone else but we got it cleared up" or a specific calm discussion of what went down ("I got upset over a bacon incident, but I'm cool now; I really do like bacon though.") it can help things immensely.

Friends who are ok with giving someone space to process when they ask for it, and who respect a "no, I can't talk about this right now" are a really good thing to have. It's a boundary that does need to be respected, and when I personally have a friend who cannot respect that boundary when I tell them I need space, I tend to make myself the space by distancing myself from them.


For a while, my best friend got calls that started off, "Please tell me you don't hate me." "I don't hate you. What's wrong?" and "Please tell me I'm not an inherently horrible person." "Of course you're not. Please get your head out of your ass." My depression had decided that attacking my self-image was not enough, and started attacking my relationships. Between the two of us, the solution turned out to be, I would identify the core need first, and ask for reassurance on that first, without even going into the "You didn't answer when I called this weekend! YOU MUST HATE ME! WOE!" -- because armed with the "he doesn't hate me! We're cool!" I can then say "Oh, okay, good, I feel better now, thanks!" and then we can get to the "oh hey, I tried to call this weekend" and then we hear "I saw, sorry, my dad was in the hospital". In our specific case, that worked. And sometimes it was the "Hey, you know, it would be helpful if I could know up front when you're planning to be out of town for a month at the family reunion so I won't call and freak out because we didn't connect." "Oh, sorry."
Edited Date: 2012-03-21 05:08 am (UTC)

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