Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Dealing With Memories In Real Time.

One of the joys of my 'recovered' life is the assurance that recovery is real, ongoing and evolving. One of the surprises of this journey is how even pleasant memories can clog up your thinking, like a phone system with overloaded circuits. In my last post, I experienced one of the rare 'happy' moments from my childhood. It felt wonderful to let my mind remember and my body re-experience that calming affect of a beloved animal. I figured I was all done and expected no further information from my little seven-year-old self.

Now, I realize that there is also the troubled, confused and terrified seven-year-old who still longs to be whole. Before, when I was in the throws of active retrieval of the painful memories, the more subtle difficulties were swamped by the gross mistreatment, neglect and abandonment grief work I had to engage in. I want to try and share what I'm learning in a new stage of memory recovery. A good memory surfaces and because it is good, you let it happen. No tears, flashbacks, or need for assistance. There are issues of confusion which also surface, but since they are subtle, I don't immediately realize what is happening.

The other subtle issues begin to come forth. For me it is a tremendous fear of rejection based on sharing too much of the 'wrong' kind of information. The adults in my world were usually in various phases of drunkenness, so their irrational reactions make sense to me, now, as an adult. As an open and growing seven-year-old, I had to force myself into 'secret agent' behavior, just to survive. If I had a real feeling: "don't show it. Think about it first, evaluate the risks involved in sharing it and assume, no matter what I do, it'll probably just get me screamed at." I always talked to myself, as there wasn't anyone else around.

My aunt had bought me one of those glow-in-the-dark rings. It was a blue stone and I really loved it. I just thought it was the neatest gift I'd ever gotten. I knew my aunt always felt unappreciated, as when drunk, this was one of her favorite 'rants'. I felt really happy inside, that I could both share my joy and make her happy at the same time. Man, did I call that one wrong!

She started to cry and screamed out that all the work she'd done for me meant nothing, but I liked a damn dime-store ring! The lecture was one of her three hour rant-o-thons and I promised myself I'd NEVER make that mistake again! But in the 'big' picture of recovery, this little emotional lesson got buried under the more pressing problems of survival. Now it is safe and my confusion can emerge and find healing. Here's what happened to me.

Fear of rejection from friends is a major part of my temperament, and it would still be so, if I had a 'normal' childhood. Us talkative, performing, romping types are terrified of being rejected by the people we care about. I know this, and try to keep that nagging "Do they really like me, or are they just being nice?" doubt tamed down, usually through prayer. I love people like myself, talkative, emotive, performers, romping and playful spirits. We are all very sensitive, and don't have a problem letting you know when we are surprised, irked, joyful or confused by something you do. I love that direct communication, as the subtle stuff just goes right over my head. I miss it completely.

I forwarded some information to a buddy who works with mobile devices. He responded that he did like the information because he's working on a new product. Something for the blind. My heart soared, since, with the duties involved with my church's website, I've put my own 'project for the blind' on hold. I wanted to really talk to my friend. One of my long emails, full of questions, opinions and my talkative 'me-ness', but I found myself shutting down. It was truly strange. I stared at the email and did nothing. I felt this absolutely crazy fear, and avalanche of negative assertions: "Oh, geez, you've already emailed him several times. He doesn't want any more from you. One of these days, he's gonna tell you to shut up and go away. Don't be stupid, he's just to polite to tell you to get lost, but if you keep forcing yourself on him, he may find the ability to over ride his normally considerate nature." (Note the perfect mind-reading, future-predicting and entirely NEGATIVE quality. This is an example of an "old tape". It has been a real long time since I heard THAT particular old tape. I shut down my computer and went to bed.

My buddy, aware of my passion to help the blind community was wondering why I didn't react. True to both of our natures, he was right out there: "What no response...?". Not realizing my little seven-year-old was calling the shots I moved right into panic mode. "Oh no. Now I will get into trouble, because when I share how I feel, he'll know I was lying, or I would have shared it last night..." This is the moment I realized who was trying to handle this situation. Other things were happening which seemed out of the ordinary. I wasn't picking up on observations - mis-reading (not understanding) references to things I'd said, earlier in the day. Once I spotted my poor little seven-year-old trying to do my totally alien life (from her point of view), I realized that I am still involved in remembering, healing and self-integration. Oh man, I get tired of this!

But, it is okay to explore being seven in a healthy world. The pastor's wife at church is another playful spirit, and when we get together, one or both of us get 'shushed' by the class leader, because we are talking to each other and not being attentive to the class! My church seems like it has been designed to facilitate my mental health. The class leader will admonish us, but she's trying not to laugh, as she does it.

I have found new levels of prayer and trust in God. I actually cried at church, in gratitude, last Sunday. God is bringing up all that subtle stuff, so when I recognize its around, I can pray about it and he heals me. This is the new process for me. I used to not react to an incident for days or weeks, now I am reacting in hours, or minutes. I'm getting healed. I'm getting free.

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