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Hello all. Late Friday afternoon I went to a 'Mindfulness and Self-Compassion' group therapy type event held at my therapists offices but held by a different therapist. The center specializes in trauma, especially severe trauma. I looked forward to going, despite failing sandbox as a child (re: doesn't work well with others), but it quickly became frustrating. Nevertheless, I came away with some good questions that I'm trying to sort through now and would be grateful for help.
At the end of the therapists definitions, explanations and exercises, she asked us four questions. They were, from recollection, we did not get a written copy:
First of all, as short as the questions were, I can't follow a sentence the first time through. I've known that about myself for quite some time. If the cooking directions on the package of whatever it is that I'm cooking has three steps, I'll refer to the directions about eight times. Some here have suggested that I may have Aspergers – don't know if my problem with directions are related but it may be. One thing that I've noticed is that if I know in advance how many words, sentences, or seconds the direction is going to be – I will have it memorized regardless of how long it is. Without that information before hand, I'm lost.
This might be too much information but since I find it fascinating, I'll give another example: To get to my house, go down Maple Street for a half mile, turn left on Main Street and I'm the third house on the left is simple, but it seems that I'm always prepared for ninety-nine steps. Discovering that the directions are over after 'third house on the left' - I'm lost. Tell me in advance that there are twenty-seven turns and I'll be able to recite them back to you verbatim. Give me two steps without an advance directive and I can't do it. (So, Mrs. Yagr gave me the questions for this post).
So first problem I had was, I couldn't remember the question to be able to write my answer. Second problem I had was more challenging. We were given a minute to write our answer down. Thirty seconds were spent trying to reconstruct the question to the best of my ability, second thirty seconds were spent trying to contemplate the question because really, often the way I would answer such questions is in accordance with my values and beliefs rather than a reflection of the reality of the situation. What is the value in spontaneous responses without being given time to contemplate? ← real question, would love speculation.
As for question one, I did discover something about myself that I suspect was unintended. My answer was, “It depends what tone of voice and mannerisms I think will communicate most effectively and be most helpful.” At times I will speak softly and gently; at other times I may raise my voice. There is very little spontaneous about my reactions. For example, my then three year old daughter was playing in the yard one afternoon and the ball she was playing with rolled between two parked cars and into the street where a car was coming. She ran after it. Obviously, as she was three years old, she was pretty close to the street already for her three year old foot to be able to kick it into the street – she was not a fledgling football player, so I had very little time to react.
Once I got her safely back in the yard I raised my voice at her. I rarely did so, but I wanted to impress upon her the seriousness of running into the street and so I reacted in a way that I knew would be memorable to her by raising my voice. To be sure, I had been scared, but it was not fear that caused me to raise my voice – it was a choice. I do the same thing with loved ones even now. How I react, particularly with a show of emotion, is almost always a choice. Interesting stuff – probably an aspect of hyper-vigilance but I'll think more on it.
Next, how do I talk to myself. I tend to dismiss any and all emotions and make a decision based on what I think will yield the desired results. The third question was, to me, very clearly 'no', which brought me to the fourth question: What would my life look like if I spoke to myself the same way I speak to loved ones? Well, that doesn't work at all! My first thought was that it would be like throwing fertilizer on any self-loathing lingering around and probably kill myself within a week. Talking to myself in such a way as to get a positive result seems incredibly patronizing.
Which brought me to the question, am I patronizing my loved ones by modifying my response and reactions in order to be heard and understood? What would an alternative look like? As for 'right speech', many of the ways in which I could communicate with them instantly becomes undesired (by them) if I match my words to my interpretation of their experience. I mean, we probably all have a friend or loved one who has, at one time or another, succumbed to self-pity. While we may have nothing but compassion for their situation, and even understand where this is coming from and think that we might fall into the same trap that they are currently in if we were going through the same thing – a swift kick in the backside might be what they need at that moment rather than commiseration. Don't know...rather confused. Looking for clarity on any of this. Incidentally, it took me all day to write this in between three naps so please be patient if you ask a question and I can't respond for a bit. I am very interested in responses but can't always do so in a timely manner. Thanks.