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Sometimes I want to say a lot but I can’t bring the words to my lips. So I sit here, staring at the wall in silence. I’ve tried to put my thoughts down here but three lines in, I stop and delete what I wrote. What I need to say feels too big and so tiny at the same time. I think this is why I keep deleting and rewriting. It’s because the moment I get into a topic of sharing, I suddenly become aware that everything circles back to one topic — resilience.
This is an area I’ll eventually open a call for under my press, just not quite yet. But resilience is something that I used to hate. The word, not the meaning. And it’s because when I first got into my psych classes, we were being taught that the reason some people don’t get PTSD (even when in the same circumstance) is because they’re resilient. In my mind, this translated into ‘they’re strong and I’m weak’. But this wasn’t correct. I knew it wasn’t at that time too, but I didn’t really understand why I felt that way.
Now, I’m deeper into my actual school program (not the pre-req classes like intro to psych) and we’re taking resilience in a very different direction. Resilience isn’t being looked at as ‘if you get PTSD you’re not resilient’, it’s being looked at as anyone that develops a coping mechanism is resilient. It means that things like hypervigilance, alcoholism, smoking, paranoia, even some fuller mental illnesses, they are coping mechanisms just as much as running and writing and the other options that are looked at as being the ‘good’ kinds of resilience. Yet, all of these coping skills show resilience. They show a will to live. To survive. And when we put judgment on the ones that can lead to further unhealthiness, then we’re not seeing that people taking part in these other types of coping are resilient. Some may have PTSD, some may not, but that’s beside the point.
Any habit, even ones deemed good, can turn bad when overdone. Running can turn into permanent knee damage, eating healthy can turn into an eating disorder where the person isn’t getting enough nutrition, and these can be just as damaging as a person leaning on cigarettes to get them through. The key isn’t to judge our methods of coping, it’s to recognize that they are there to get us through hard times and that they aren’t meant to be a permanent solution. For some, they may need to feel numb, others may need an adrenalin rush, something/anything to make them feel alive. This comes from an inherent desire to live, not the opposite. And some of us will need more help than others to break away from these coping mechanisms when we’re ready and/or able, and that’s okay too. Some folks resilience/coping mechanisms may affect us negatively, and that’s when it’s good to have healthy boundaries, but this still doesn’t mean that others’ coping skills are about us. Just like their projection and assumptions and judgments aren’t about us.
This was the trap I found myself in today. It’s why this post changed like tenish something times before I realized what I wanted and needed to say. I was focusing on others judging me because they have and continue to, and I can usually look at them and know that their judgment is about them, not me, but today–for the first time–I also realized this is a type of resilience for them. When we project, or deflect, it can be about narcissism…or…it can be about self-preservation. It can be another form of developed resilience. Even narcissism (depending on the level I suspect) can be about resilience. Because resilience isn’t about doing the right thing, it’s about staying alive. This isn’t something to put judgment to, just a thing that is. By understanding this, it helps me pull back from feeling judged, even when I’m clearly and blatantly being judged, and helps me ask myself ‘why does this person need this behavior in order to survive’?
I can look at a woman now–attacking me for my sex-positivity–and see that she must be surrounded by people that shame her or oppress her and that her attacking me is a type of survival for her. It’s a part of her resilience.
I’m sharing this because I feel this is something we all need to take a look at. If we can’t understand that judgment is a type of resilience, then we won’t know to ask ourselves why we feel threatened or the need to survive. And if we never address those things, then our resilience may become a behavior that is an oppressing and abusive force to others. We need to understand what resilience is and how it can look like a negative when it’s really about staying alive. Only then can we actually address the issues driving us.
So much of what I do now is pulling back judgment. It’s something we discuss daily in my field of study. The words, ‘we’re not talking judgment here, just the facts’ are spoken daily to remind us that a user is not a ‘junkie’, they are a human being that needed to be numb or mellow or happy and that drug was their survival at the moment. This doesn’t mean our choices won’t eventually kill us, but it does mean that we are using these coping mechanisms so that we don’t give up. Otherwise, a user would have just overdosed.
I don’t think anyone will argue in favor of long-term habits that are bad for us just because they are part of our coping strategy. But if we don’t see those things as a resilence, then it’s far easier for those ‘in the moment’ strategies to become long-term and much harder to break habits.
Even with this long explanation of my thoughts and where I’m at, I’ve still not done this concept justice. It’s so big and so small at the same time. All I ask is that those reading this think about what resilience means. How do people find these coping skills and how might those same skills translate into healing, growth, and positive change? How can our own coping skills and resiliency serve as a clue to let us know what needs changing in our own lives?
For many sexual abuse survivors, these times have been trying. I’ve hardly been able to get on social media. I could get into all the reasons why they are specifically hard for me right now but that wouldn’t help anything. So instead, I’m going to talk about a positive realization that’s come out of all of this abuse-ridden mess.
I’d recently posted about negative thinking and where that leads me—to depression. But what I hadn’t yet figured out is where those negative thoughts come from. Why do I think them? It’s one thing to recognize them and another to understand why I go there in the first place. Because of all the constant bombardment of sex-offenders in positions of power, I’ve been diving into some deeply negative thought patterns again.
As always, I use my tools to pull out of them. But I also noticed something interesting…
The specific negative thoughts I’m thinking change depending on the stimulus. The fact they change not only caught my attention but then I began to ask myself, “Why these specific thoughts?” If they were all the same—like I’m useless, worthless, a loser—and so forth, then I’d not have noticed. But as they change, I began to look at what my body wanted to do at that moment. What I came to is that my negative thinking is tied to my flight response.
I’m not under any direct threat. A perceived one maybe, but not direct. The truth is, I don’t know how the recent changes to the Supreme Court will affect me. Or anyone. I can only speculate based on past behaviors of others. But speculation takes our power. Fear takes our power. So the last thing I want is to be full of fear over something I cannot control.
It’s that fear that kicks in my flight response.
But I don’t need to run away any more than I need to entertain negative thoughts. There’s no need. Past trauma doesn’t get to define me. I define me in the present. And now that I understand where my negative thinking comes from, it makes it that much easier to recognize it and address it before it takes control.
Today, I took the next step and talked about all these things. Plus so much more. Things I’ve not been able to talk about before. I felt myself trying to check out, but I didn’t. There was no need to. I wanted to talk about the things I was talking about. However hard it felt, I did it. And at the end of the day, all of it was just feelings. Nothing real in the here and now, only feelings from past events that my body was reacting to. Which meant I could address my need to flee and realize that it wasn’t necessary. Talking took the power of the negative thoughts away.
I’m sharing because I think many of us get so caught up in our thoughts that we don’t realize where those thoughts are taking us. They acted like a safety mechanism at one point, but now the thoughts themselves are the threat. They are the things causing us to feel more pain, fear, anxiety…and they aren’t needed. When there’s a real threat, we won’t be stopping to contemplate negative thoughts. We’ll be in the actual act of fighting or fleeing.
If we’re going to give our thoughts power, better that we do so to the constructive thoughts. The ones that tell us we’re worthy, we’re beautiful, we’re powerful, that we can make change by being that change… Thoughts that urge us to be present, like understanding that I’m sitting at my giant, lovely desk right now, writing this.
I’m okay with giving my thoughts power as long as they are thoughts that make life better. Anything less, I’m no longer willing to entertain. There is too much life to live and I want to spend as much as possible in the moment.
I’ve tried to write today and I can’t. There is too much online and everywhere I look that is crushing me. I’m dealing, taking time away from it, but I needed some things to inspire me to stay positive. So, I found some quotes that gave me what I needed. I’ll share them below.
Take care of yourselves. These are trying times.
Yesterday I had my 40th birthday. Good people came to see me, cooked me food, drank wine, and it was a glorious day. But I’ve also been depressed. I realized yesterday morning that part of the disconnect I’ve been feeling lately is that I never thought I’d make it to my 40th birthday. And not because I thought I’d spontaneously die. I’ve just always been so suicidal that I never thought I’d last this long. This last week has been confusing and hard.
I’ve also been helping a family member and there’s been a lot of witnessing pain during our time together. It’s good, but also emotionally draining. Which does add to the rough week.
The recent weeks have also brought a lot of revelation of bad habits (seems they always pop up, blasted things) and I’ve been working to change them. These habits are fierce though. They have not been easy to break. I’m nowhere even close to breaking them. My recognition of these habits has helped me see how often I focus on the negative. I’m a glass half empty sort of person. A thousand things can be going great and I’ll focus, hypervigilantly, on the one thing not going great.
While changing a habit like negative thinking seemed easy—after all, I only need to know why I focus on the negative and then I can change it, right? (wrong…)—it’s not easy at all. The more I try to focus on positive things and fill myself with gratitude, the more I circle back to even darker and deeply negative thoughts. It doesn’t make sense.
I’ve been ridiculously depressed lately. This isn’t something I’ve had to deal with in a long time. Like almost two years at this point. Occasionally, yes, but not steady like this. I’ve always tied my negative thinking to the fact that I was depressed. It was the only thing that made sense to me. And people seem to back that up. But tonight, as I was sitting at my laptop completely failing to write what I’d intended to, the thought ‘why do I always focus on the negative’ kept circling my thoughts. So I googled it. And I found something interesting.
I don’t know if there is any merit to it, but I found a website talking about how depression doesn’t lead to negative thinking… Instead, negative thinking leads to depression.
The author went on to say that negative thinking is a result of trauma. It’s part of the fight or flight response. Since it’s part of that process, that means the body will tire out and feel drained when that rush or ‘flee’ passes. What comes in place is depression.
Because depression is about disconnection, it means that we can take a break from feeling. Depression is often described as being full of apathy. Nothing matters, you don’t care about anything, not even if you live or die sometimes. This process is designed to give the body the relief it needs.
The reason this author said it is successful—though not ultimately helpful in the long run—is that negative thinking is also tied to fear. It’s a fear-based response. Depression shuts off a great deal of fear by filling us with apathy. To overcome depression, we must overcome our fear-based thinking that caused the focus on the negative. Since negative thinking originally comes from looking for danger, it’s hypervigilance.
Some signs of negative thinking are judgment (not discernment, that’s different), complaining about all that’s going wrong in your life, perfectionism, self-doubt, feeling sorry for yourself, but then there are other aspects that I didn’t realize were negative thinking. Like worry for others. Or feeling sorry for others. When we do that, we’re still putting judgment on their experience.
Negative thinking is also contagious it seems. Once one of us goes down that path, those around us can easily jump on the negative train. Misery loves company, no?
It’s important to stop this cycle at the onset.
Recently, I’d been allowing feelings to surface that I’d long suppressed, and what came with it was the negative thinking and then depression. This isn’t to say that all depression comes from this, but after reading, I know mine does. I have no chemical imbalances in my body. Mine is mental—thought related—and I’ve known it for a long time.
Now that I know, some of the suggestions I’d read were to let things go, to get rid of toxic people, focus on solutions, set better boundaries with others and the self, use the word ‘yet’ and stop using ‘but’, and so on.
My suspicion is that this is partly what makes trauma so difficult to heal. Especially if we’ve been raised in a household that focuses on the negative, lives by a false reality, or the never-ending ‘one day, I’ll be thin’ or ‘one day, I’ll move here’ or ‘one day, I’ll be rich’ but without ever taking the steps to make these things happen. So children get indoctrinated into this negative, no action, ‘one day things will get magically better and I never have to do the work to get there’ thinking and when that adds to trauma, it becomes this horrible cycle that is difficult to get off of.
Somehow, though, I think this understanding is going to help me.
A few days ago, I wrote D and told him I knew what needed to happen with these things I’m still working on. My solution was simple, to change them. To take action. I didn’t and don’t expect myself to get it overnight. Self-compassion is so crucial when trying to learn to new ways of thinking and new behaviors. And sometimes to take action, we have to revisit trauma and that can start us on that negative thinking cycle again. But the more knowledge I have, the more I understand that this cycle isn’t a wheel. It’s a linear cycle and that means it has an end.
This has been a strange day full of emotion, but also realization. For me, my negative thinking causes my depression. And this is the place I’ve felt at home and safe most of my life. Of course feeling happy and thinking positive is going to feel uncomfortable at first, but I’ll get there.
In the past two days, so many people have told me that their forties were amazing. That I’m in for good days ahead because at forty, we finally get over ourselves and stop caring about a lot of shit that doesn’t matter. We often gain a confidence in our ‘lack of fucks to give’ that helps us find the joy we’ve been missing out on. And you know, I think they’re right. This next year alone is going to be amazing. I’m coming out with some phenomenal books with my press, for myself as an author under other presses, I’m even going to travel outside of the country (I’ve only ever been to Canada before), I’m starting the UW this week, and these are only the things I’m aware of now. So that’s where I’m starting. I’ve got a lot of wonderful things in my future and happening even now. They are a great place to focus on the positive.
My 40’s are going to be great.
Kintsugi has a release date! January 1, 2019! If you are interested in doing a review, please let me know via firstname.lastname@example.org so I can send along an ARC (efiles only).
Presale links: https://www.books2read.com/u/4NGpx8
Kintsugi is the Japanese art of using gold (and other precious metals) to repair broken pottery. The ritual is complex, intentional, and contemplative. Upon completion, the once-broken vessels are made whole. They are stronger and possess a different type of beauty than before.
Kintsugi is the perfect metaphor for healing trauma.
Healing is multifarious. Not only does it require effort on the part of the survivor, but also those around them. The most effective healing takes place when there is a network of support. One where others can listen, witness pain, and hold space for the survivor.
This collection is designed to highlight the varying approaches to healing and to honor our individual needs along the way. Some authors are taking their first steps in these pages, while others share their successes in reclaiming their bodies, confidence, sexuality, and joy. Each story is unique – sometimes straightforward, but often counterintuitive (because if healing were simple or straightforward it would surely be easier).
Kintsugi is not for the faint of heart.