A pattern of tolerance for the negative

A theme for the week: tolerating triggering situations for the small benefits they may bring.

It was a topic of conversation during Monday’s session. It came up during the week, it came up again today, and it’s wrapped up in the self-harm… Dr C pointed out the pattern to me Monday, and suddenly it’s weaving it’s way through everything (well, at least, I’m noticing it). It’s even a thread through my healthier coping skills: Breathe through the tuff stuff to get to the other side… as Dr C pointed out Monday, it’s what I did to get through as a kid, and it’s what I keep doing. I get that it would be good for me to change that pattern, but there’s some comfort in it. I tolerate the bad for the bits of good…

There are however, aspects of life where I don’t follow that pattern anymore. My relationship with L is a great example of that. There is no tolerating of the bad to get to the good. Sure, we have disagreements, and both of us have our share of being jerks at times, but I think we have a healthy and supportive relationship. We try to address things as they come up, and we love each other. We avoid trying to make the other feel weak, scared, or small. We build each other up. We hold the other’s self-worth when it tanks. And we genuinely care.

It certainly wasn’t the image I had for a relationship growing up. I always thought I’d marry an abusive serviceman who would beat and rape me daily… I’m not totally sure where I got that idea from, but it had always been there. I would imagine being left alone to deal with the abuse, as everyone would ignore his behavior. I would be told to be quiet and let him do whatever because his job was stressful. I would swallow the fear and just get through the day…

So yeah, some places I’ve broken that pattern, but other places it’s still very present. I tolerate triggering shows and movies because there’s some part of them I’m interested in (Game of Thrones is one of them). I focus on the good parts of it to get through the uncomfortable parts… yet when Dr C suggested I stop watching it in favor of not having to repeat the pattern, I cringed. As triggering as parts of the show may be, other parts are highly engaging.

Similarly, when hanging out with some people, I sit through conversations around triggering topics because I’m not sure how to effectively set a boundary around it one they start (and I’m triggered). I know Dr C and I talked about effective ways to politely set that boundary, but when the moment came, my mind was blank. I listened to my friend talk about her familial abuse history. It triggered flashbacks and dissociation. I felt myself slip into a more detached space. For the life of me, I could not find the words to ask her to stop. The only 2 options that came to mind for changing the topic would not have been very comfortable (for me or her). So instead, I listened to what she said from miles away, and responded when I thought I should respond. I really wanted to scream or run out of there, but I was raised to be polite and courteous. That would have been neither (though probably right on target for a trauma response)…

Anyway, so yeah. Patterns. Fun.


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