You cannot find peace by avoiding life.*

joker I learned something about myself recently. I suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder, PTSD.  You would think that somebody who had over 25 years of sobriety and has done a whole bunch of therapy would know whether he had this condition or not before now.

devil-aIt’s a slight play on words that I learned about my PTSD recently.  I have known about my reaction to threatened violence for a while. What I learned is that when a person says to me, “you are,” “you will,” “you can’t,” “you will never,” “you’re not,” “you’ll never be,”” or other statements along that line of communication, I shut down emotionally. Because what happens for me is I see that intimidating adult wagging their finger at me and telling me how less than everyone else I am.

???????????????????????????????And I know that it’s PTSD because the first instinct that I feel is anger, I want to protect myself against the imminent violence which used to be associated with those words. If the statement has an inflection of threat or condescension it is all I can do to not tell that person to go somewhere where the sun doesn’t shine.

A couple of examples. Last night I was leaving a meeting that deals with depression in sobriety. There is a gentleman who attends that meeting who I don’t like it all. Why doesn’t matter. So after this meeting this gentleman says to me in a loud voice that everyone else could hear, “Hey……, can we resolve this conflict that we have?”  I am about 25 feet away from when he says this. I turn around and look at him and say, “I don’t have anything to say to you.” He says “I need to work this conflict out.” I repeated myself and said “I don’t have anything to say to you,….”

monk-and-prayer-book-victoriajzI stop, turn around  and he looks at me and then he says, “……. you need to work the steps around this issue.”  I looked him directly in the eye and said tersely, but not angrily, “If I need a sponsor to help me I won’t call you.  If you need to work the steps around it that’s not my issue.”

I turned my back to him at this point, and walked to my car. He continued on with some discourse about the lack of quality of my sobriety.  The feelings I had when he told me that I needed to work the steps were rage and anger. I didn’t act on it so incence-dean-forbesthat was an improvement. Once I got into my car and turned it on I turned up the radio really loud and drove out of the parking lot as he was standing there pointing at me and I think wanting to talk to me.

(An aside. Yesterday morning the guy confronted me at my Saturday mens meeting and this time he didnt leave me alone until I stood up and told him to get the F away from me.  My friend Mike B said.”that guy dont listen.”)

The second example is a friend I had a few months ago when they would get angry at me they would start saying, “you’re not ready,” “you’re not mature enough,” “you haven’t done the work,” in discussing our relationship. They would say it in a angel2not so gentle voice. Not angry or mean, but without any kindness in their voice.

What I realized happened to me when I heard those words was that I shut down emotionally. I can’t even say that I got really angry, but what I can say is that I was through with any conversation that was going on at that time.

perfection-of-the-spider-web-ray-bilcliffI worked really hard to try to overlook the choice of language, but at times I didn’t succeed.  Wait, I didn’t succeed. Because after those words were spoken to me, I was done having any sort of discussion about what was going on because when people point their finger at me and tell me how I am less than when we’re supposed to be in a mutually supportive, loving relationship, I shut down.

table-topI don’t fear the violence that I used to when those words were said, but the emotional charge around them is still powerful. I hope someday that those words don’t have the effect on me that they do, because much of communication between people in the world today is about “you,” in relation to the other person that we’re dealing with.

We have forgotten that all communication can only come from I!

Better to seek forgiveness than permission!

123 Fanatic

*Virginia Wolf



6 thoughts on “You cannot find peace by avoiding life.*

  1. Whatever meaning we attach to an event and the meaning we give it will be true for us. I believe that healing occurs over time and that is why it takes time for some of our deeper pain to emerge only when and if we are willing and able to heal those part of ourselves. I have learned the best gift to give myself is to be gentle with myself. As I have learned to be more gentle with myself, I am able to be more gentle toward others and they in turn have become more gentle towards me. Anger sits on top of FEAR so whenever I am angry, I ask what am I afraid of here. That is what I believe the purpose of the FEAR line in the 4th step is for. To help me understand all my resentments are grounded in fear. Looking past my anger to the root has helped me heal and to create a state of being I really wanted when I started this journey 26 yeas ago…. When I stop fighting (anyone or anything) really means for me when I stop fighting with myself (that internal dialogue) then I can be free. How to break free from this part of my thinking mind is to recognize that when I live in past thoughts I’m living in a state of insanity, because the past no longer exists and in this moment I am reliving the past when my thoughts dwell there. When the mind chatter starts, I bring myself back to the NOW. I am here now. I am fed in this moment. I am in the U.S. with access to health care and shelter. In this moment I have no fears, no problems, no worries. It is only when I drift into the past (I feel depression) or project into the future (I feel anxiety). These are tough habits for me to break, because I was not taught, and didn’t know how to stay present, and frankly the present growing up was a painful place to be. So I have learned to be gentle with myself. When I drift back I think isn’t that interesting. I do not think “this again? Why am I not further along? What is wrong with me?” Instead I think , Oh this is the easiest path for my mind to take because it’s well worn and familiar but let’s create a new pattern, a path to joy. That takes focus, discipline and a desire to stay in the NOW.

    • Larina,
      Thank you for such an in depth contribution to the post. There is a quote in the “12 by 12,” which to me states something that we have almost no way to deal with, when working the steps, as well as culturally. On page 79-80 it said, “In many instances we shall find that though the harm done others has not been great, the emotional harm we have done ourselves has. Very deep, sometimes quite forgotten, damaging emotional conflicts persist below the level of consciousness. At the time of these occurrences, they may actually have given our emotions violent twists which have since discolored our personalities and altered our lives for the worse.”
      We need to find a way to do this work. James Hillman talks about it as does Carl Jung in the work he did in the Red Book. Until we do, all the mindfulness work will just be a band aid on a gashing wound.
      Thanks again

      • Jim,
        We can focus on all the is joyful and by directing our thoughts to those things we expand our view. This expansion naturally burns off the darkness. It is a discipline not many of us stay with with all the distractions in modern society that take us away from our mindful practice. It is the path to freedom. It is hard work. It is slow. When we judge our thinking and our progress we only add to our dark thoughts. We can discipline our minds in this simple way….. But only if we really, really, really want to!

  2. I react to those kinds of “orders” being given to me also. Post traumatic stress will bring up the emotions you felt during the original trauma. Words like “You have to” and “You need to …” were usually followed by more yelling from my abuser. Then if I did not follow the orders, there were punishments and retaliation. Our PISD mind goes right from the “You better..” to the punishment that followed when we did not obey (or did not obey well enough or to their satisfaction.)

    But I do not your feelings about that guy are off base, PTSD or no PTSD. He sounds like a narcissist that will not be ignored by any woman that he wants to order around. I am surprised that the moderator of your meeting did not say something to him, about being aggressive to another member of the meeting.

    I felt enraged myself just reading about him continuing after you had said that you did not want to talk to him. Are you able to mention to the moderator that you feel harassed and it may affect whether or not
    you will be able to continue to attend the meetings?

    What authority does this guy have, that you should feel obligated to bow down to him? Meetings should be about boosting people’s self esteem so that they have the confidence in themselves that they can get better. He was attacking your self esteem and challenging your right to be left alone if that is what you wanted. You should be allowed to sit in silence at those meetings, if that is what you want.

    Good luck. I hope he stops bothering you.

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