Tag Archives: processing

Thoughts from a Dark Valley: Lenience as Trauma Response.

In these quiet, internet-free days, I continue to discover things about my past and myself that I have been avoiding.

I have determined that my desire to be free of jealousy or possessiveness, both on the giving and receiving ends, is as much a trauma response as hyper-independence is.

I have always wondered what makes some people deeply jealous and possessive. Some men will say they are protecting their partner from all the bad men out there. It seems they are protecting what they see as a possession that can be taken because they fear they aren’t good/strong enough to keep it. I don’t know how most women come by their jealousy, but I suspect it isn’t terribly different reasoning regarding the rationale vs. the truth.

To be fair, in the early years, I had my own jealous fits. In time, however, I became secure in the love of my spouse. I got angry at hypocrisy; when expectations, like no lunches in groups including the opposite sex or no drinks after work, only applied to one of us, but I never feared he would cheat on me.

Obviously, there are experiences that engender this insecurity other than just personal feelings of inferiority. Surely, insecurity is often a trauma response. I’ve examined again and again where my own insecurities come from and I don’t wish to delve into those events from youth and first marriage in this entry. Suffice it to say, I do understand insecurities and still have my own.

Nonetheless, when I look back over the decades and see just how much damage all this “protection” has done to my self esteem, my ability to function in social settings, and my trust in men, I wish I had been more aware of the real dangers of jealousy. More accurately, I wish I’d listened when the experts said, “jealousy is a toxic trait.”

That toxicity isn’t as simple as causing strife in a relationship or even the painful destruction of a relationship. It can be, when it does the kind of emotional damage it did to me over decades, real trauma in the form of complex-PTSD. *

I understand that trauma and c-PTSD more each day relative to hyper-independence and lenience. My desire to be free of any incumbrance of jealousy or possessiveness in a future relationship, to go so far as to tell a love interest , “hey, do whatever you want, just use protection,” and mean it, is also a trauma response. It is not out of some sort of virtue or feigned equanimity that I would tell a man, “I won’t get jealous or possessive. I won’t demand utter fidelity in a relationship.”** It is because deeply ingrained insecurity was used on me in so many painful and unnecessary ways (deliberately or otherwise) to drive me into a cave of isolation through self-hatred and fear.

I will NEVER allow anyone to do that to me again nor will I be the partner doing that to anyone else.

It’s a sort of partners’ version of the abused child who, upon growing up and having their own children, becomes excessively lenient with their own children.

Likely as not, it spells disaster for me and future relationships. It already interfered with one. Many American men expect to be able to do whatever they please, (“men are programmed to have as many partners as possible” goes the story) but their women damn well better be pure as the driven snow. If I tell a potential partner that he can do as he pleases, he will likely hear, as one man said to me, that I want to “sleep with five hundred men.”

I have no such desire. I would like the sometime partnership of one loving and decent man who doesn’t seek to own me.

Otherwise, I will never allow a man to dictate my behavior again, either through insecurity or insults like the above, ridiculous “500 men” comment.

This is me, for now. Perhaps in time, I will balance the trauma response with something more socially acceptable, but for now, the barest hint of jealousy, and it’s concomitant behaviors, dominance and withdrawal of respect, will send me running.

*This is not a self-diagnosis. Qualified mental health care personnel have made this determination and always should be consulted.

**To be clear, I respect and admire fidelity and I would expect it in myself if in a long-term relationship. I simply refuse to demand it or have it demanded of me.

The Weight of Fog: Processing and revisiting the last two years.

I’ve always loved Texas winters. Our glimmering summers can be brutal and suffocating in their airlessness. Winter, at least when I was young, was tolerable. I could move, breathe, and be active.

Here on the immediate coast, winters are particularly damp and gray and in the past week, each day has been punctuated with fog horns much of the day as boats move up and down the Intracoastal Waterway.

Aging has a way of changing your views of these things. I don’t mean the obvious stuff like how it’s damp cold and it gets into your bones and it’s harder to warm up. I don’t mean things like the fear of slipping on algae-coated stairs or driving in darkness after 6 pm. I’m not talking about the pure physicality of the seasons anymore.

I’m talking about, yes, again, grief.

Once again, it is the anniversary month of the loss of Big Dog (January 13th, 2019), my father (January 12th), and my mother (January 29th). I survived the holidays and my isolation by working and keeping in touch with my family and friends. Early January was filled with distractions on the political front and I have had concerns with some personal relationship stuff.

But here I am, revisiting my older blog entries and memories and how last year at this time not only was I reliving the loss of my sweet, furry boy and my parents, I was also in the throes of a separation that only I and my husband of the time knew about. The looming death of that relationship seemed it might be avoidable. It wasn’t.

I’m feeling sick currently and can’t know (yet) if I am just suffering a cold, allergies (Cedar Fever season is starting), or the dreaded COVID-19. Results of a test taken Sunday should come back soon. Whatever the cause of this malaise, I am leaf-drifting back into my grief. Thinking of Big Dog. Thinking of Dad. Of Momma. Of Elise. Of Twenty-nine years. In the midst of the sadness, the days have, one after another, been foggy and drizzly. My floors are constantly damp. My dryer has died, so clothes hung to dry refuse to do so. These little annoying things make me angry at winter. Angry at loss. Angry at grief.

Why can’t it be over with already? Why can’t I just be done with it?

I remind myself this is a process. I stumble through little relationships with friends and potential suitors and find I am not able to be present for those people the way I should because this recovery process is so all-consuming. I am not unhappy most of the time. I am not happy most of the time. I am simply here and functional (sort of) and waiting to get back to being a full human being.

No matter how hard I try to peer through this dense sky around me to see what might be ahead, I remain clouded with doubt and distrust. I know, in my heart, not “all men are X.” I also know that I am just not capable of judging them with any kind of clarity or fairness, right now.

No matter how much I know I must move forward in all areas of my life (work, art, caring for my dog), I am often hamstrung by anxiety.

No matter the weather, I am fogged in.

This winter has been unpleasant for me not because it is cold, gray, foggy, and unforgiving, but because even on the blue-sky, sunlit days, I recall the past two winters of pain. Summer will bring with it still other memories (good and bad) of my first year alone and the turmoil of that season.

This is what age does to us. It loads us down with memories throughout the years such that beautiful days and ugly days alike become representative of pain and joy alike. Winter is no longer just chill and rain. Summer is no longer just heat and children playing in the surf.

Seasons can become weights. Perhaps they can become buoyant breezes again, eventually.