He gazed upon me with that evil Cheshire Cat grin knowing full well all eyes are on us as he said, ”What the fuck is wrong with you moron, I’m talking to you!?!?”
I tried my best to ignore him and looked straight ahead. My face was burning hot and at this point very red as I realized everyone in the classroom stopped what they were doing to watch our exchange. I honestly can’t remember at this point what our group project was that day, but our geography teacher had divided us up into groups. I had the misfortune of being paired with three “gems”.
There was Jennifer, unofficially elected as the most popular girl in school. Do you remember that girl that all guys wanted to date and all girls wanted to be? That’s who I’m talking about.
Then there was that guy most of the girls in school secretly, (or not so secretly) had a viscous crush on. In fact, I was one of them to my own dismay. You see, in my mind crushes were bad things. Nothing, good could ever come of then. I was, after all, an abhorrent social atrocity. No one in their right mind would dare interact with me for fear if what others might say – especially guys. My only course of action? As someone who “knew her place” these feelings were best left buried way down deep, kept to myself.
…and then finally there was TJ. In college, many years later, he would be convicted of rape after his high school girlfriend testified against him in court. He was a legend in his mind with this stupid bleached blonde hair and king shit attitude. I was always perplexed at how everyone secretly made fun of him for these qualities – but never to his face. Maybe because he was superb at dishing it out and nobody wanted to be at the receiving end of his bullshit.
At any rate, we all sat in a circle and I listened quietly as everyone began working on the project together. I felt silly sitting there and wanted nothing more than to crawl into a corner. It’s as if my leper status was burned into my brain as an indelible fact of my existence. I wanted to apologize for my presence that day, but said nothing. Instead, I prayed silently, that TJ would overlook me so I could survive the experience unscathed. However, I wasn’t so lucky.
At one point in the conversation, Jennifer points at me and asks the other two, “What the hell does she think!?”
She then makes a point of noting that I’m just sitting there like a “useless blob” while they do all the work. I wonder to myself why she feels it necessary to talk about me as if I’m not there. TJ pipes in on cue hey moron, answer her!” I refuse, (knowing full well any interaction with him cannot go well: it never has). My crush leans forward and attempts to engage in a conversation, (although not as crudely the other two).
And in that moment, I’m struck by the fact that I have no choice but to sit there like bait on a hook for TJ’s insults.
There is no way out.
I can’t hide
I can’t run
and I certainly can’t fight back.
I have nobody to stand by me and back me up and TJ has a roomful of bystanders to perform for. So what do I do? I decide to just sit there and look straight ahead at the chalkboard and refuse to acknowledge their existence. This, infuriates TJ who the hits me with and endless verbal assault.
Everyone is stairing at us as time stands still. Our geography teacher stands there and does nothing. My eyes well with tears and my face grows hot as I start to zone out…
And in that moment, I experience a severed detachment from my being as if mind is disconnected from my body and everything – including myself – is nightmarishly unreal.
In that moment I faced a cruel and deniable fact: I really was a social leper. These people who didn’t knew what
”How do you kiss someone for the first time at 21???”
This is a question posed by an interviewee in the above video: A Hasidic jew who decided to venture outside the community as a young adult. Ill-prepared for the “real world”, they all had to confront a “rude awakening” to certain aspects of life. I found myself much like them – wholly unprepared for the real world without the provision of basic social skills necessary to traverse it with any success. This comment resonated with my own experiences and succinctly described why those “it years” were so traumatic. I recall now watching this clip for the first time on t.v., as my eyes filled with tears and mind flooded with intrusive and painful memories of all those lessons I’ve had to learn the hard way.
What strikes me most are the depths of my own cluelessness. Was I really that dense!?!?
As memories flood my mind I first experience a vivid replay from a child’s eye view. I remember feeling perplexed at why everyone saw me as a social leper. “I’m a good person, what’s wrong with me…what is it I must do to be good enough?”
This viewpoint is in stark contrast to the perspective that 20/20 hindsight provides me, after years of learning lessons the hard way.
According to Siri, naïveté is defined as a lack of wisdom or judgment; innocence. This concept fits me to a “T” (((or at least the young adult version of me))).
I will never forget the day my parents drove me to college as a freshman. We spent the weekend setting up my dorm room and buying all the necessities. As a bullied child, I had built up this day in my head over the last four years. I felt like a parolee who just completed a long prison sentence. I was so glad to leave high school behind and looked forward to a fresh start. I promised myself I was never going to be that isolated and miserable dork again. Leaving school was like finally removing the “scarlet letter” that tends to accompany a bullied child’s daily experiences. I was literally starving for acceptance and belonging: especially from the opposite sex. Until this point the only kind of attention I received were complete ongoing reminders that I was a reject. My bullies were always male and always ganged up on me in collectivity during school so all could enjoy the spectacle that was “Kathleen.”
Sometimes it was in the hallways were they called me names as I tried to ignore them.
Or it was in the lunchroom where I always sat by myself while praying in silence that my attempts at social invisibility were successful and everybody would just leave me “the fuck alone”.
The point is, these experiences left me with a feeling of unbridled fear and trepidation around any males my own age.
At this point in my life I only had the benefit of one-sided perspective of me. I had unknowingly internalized my bullies words. I was ugly. I was unlovable. I was worthless. There was no way anybody might happen to actually want to be with me. So therefore, if I was actually able to find someone “willing” to date me I’d be the luckiest girl in the world.
My hopes would be instantaneously shattered as I was felt with the a brutal blow of stone cold facts.
I couldn’t run away from my problems because I carried them with in me as unresolved traumas set at auto-rewind.
For whatever reason, my mom saved some pictures I sent home to her of my dorm mates from my freshman year of college. While visiting my parents last Christmas, I decided to dig through some old boxes of things in my bedroom closet. These pictures fell into my lap while I was flipping through my old baby book. I recall the feelings of elation that I actually was included in various social activities….And how it was quickly replaced by hopelessness and despair.
Over the course of my first semester it became clear that a huge cavernous divide separated us.
They were your typical freshman with the sort of typical social life I only witnessed from a safe distance.
And with these experiences came opportunities for social and emotional development.
I remember listening in on conversations while hanging out with fellow residents in the t.v. room or cafeteria. They shared various dating experiences while I listened as a fly-on-the-wall. In time, it was clear my thinly veiled attempts to hide my differentness failed. These ladies were all talking about adult-like experiences in a manner reminiscent of your typical SATC episode.
At this point, I hadn’t yet been on my first date or even had my first kiss: “the flaming virgin”
I recall listening in on s conversation in the bathroom as we all got ready to go out for the evening. Honestly, had no idea what was planned for the evening and was just grateful to be invited. Keri, a popular cheerleader and ballet dancer in high school eyed me while commenting to another girl: “You know there’s a big difference between virgins by choice versus virgins by circumstance. One I have respect for, the other is just pathetic.”
Then there was the day that my mom stopped to visit me after a meeting she had in town.
My roommate had decided to visit her parents that weekend so we had the night to ourselves. She slept in my roommates bed and we spent the evening catching up. That following morning we went shopping and out to eat. As my mother began packing her things and getting ready to go, several ladies knocked on the door. They all introduced themselves and made idle small-talk. As my mom got ready to go and gave me a hug, Keri commented: “You know it’s just wrong to send a child so naive and innocent without firsy empowering them with any real-life wisdom.”
Back then, I sincerely didn’t get it. I was just plain hurt at the time that I didn’t fit in. I wondered what was wrong with me. Why couldn’t I be their equal?
At the time, desperate to succeed in fitting in, it was my goal to catch up by making up for lost time in order to somehow gain equal footing. However, it goes without saying that this thinking is sorely misguided, there is no making up for lost time. Things have to just work through the work to naturally overtime and my pathway forward was to remain divergent and unique. So they continued trying to invite me to things but it just didn’t work out as I had hoped. Chronologically, I was your typical 18-year-old girl. However emotionally my development had been stunted. Inside I was at stuck in time as that insecure 12-year-old girl who had just lost her best friend after she moved away to the local Indian Reservation. With her gone, I was left alone friendless and destined to remain socially isolated myself in the world of my imagination – only safe place to be.
And there are no words that can adequately do justice to the experience of this. Inside my head this feeling of pain nagged at me as I asked myself: “Why am I so different?” You see, I honestly didn’t know. Looking back at it, I can attribute the problem to a global isolation that was inescapable.. It started in school where I was known as that girl who didn’t talk. It continued at home where I spent 99% of the time in my room, with busy parents who didn’t know and couldn’t understand.
My father was my idol: he marched to the beat of his own drum and appeared to be above others’ opinions not giving a crap one way or the other.
…And then there was my mother who always appeared so self-assured, confident, pragmatic and logical: As if she had all of life’s answers.
And my sister served to act as as proof that I was a human defect, by succeeding in every area of life I failed at.
I was isolated into the world of my imagination. My body was in school, but I wasn’t in my body. I was in my mind, and learned to exist in an inescapably painful situation by being beyond the point of feeling or reacting to it. Mentally numbed into a zombie-like state for the sake of emotional survival. It is only with 20/20 hindsight that I can see what was then invisible to me. The understanding that I needed as a solution to my problems existed just beyond the pain I was unwilling to face.
My father, the idol, was also socially clueless and ostracized – like me.
My mother, the one with the answers, was also naïve and ignorant – like me.
My sister who appeared to succeed was also struggling in her own way – like me.
When examining the origins of my pathological naivety I must say it comes down to the fact that life developed a one-sidedness based on others’ opinions and my inability to see beyond them.
I have had to examine my own personal narrative to include information that had been previously overlooked. This idea of me being not good enough has haunted and perplexed me much of my life. And until I was willing to confront the traumas of my past, I had no idea why people reacted to me as they did. I just knew it was hurtful and made no sense. With no one guiding me there to help me, I naturally blamed myself. Within me was the thought I’m worthwhile person. Around me everyone had these terrible things to say coming out of left field.
In order to pass PE class all you need to do is simply participate. I flat-out refused freshman year and got an F, which really ticked off my mother.
I was always the last one to be picked. Whenever we games like baseball, there eventually came the moment whe. attention would fall upon me and the taunting began. The usual suspects all jumped in with a barrage of verbal insults that felt like knives hurled upon my soul. I would try, in futility, to swallow my tears but was never very successful at if. My heart has always been clearly visible upon my sleeve as an easy target. In those moments I would pray for the ground to swallow me while in order to be rendered invisible. But, this never happened.
So anyway what I did to survive PE was to conveniently forgetto bring my gym clothes. Our teacher said if you didn’t have your PE clothes you could not participate. This strategy worked for a while and I was able to sit safely in the sidelines. However, at some point my teacher eventually sent a note home informing her of my perpetual oversight to not bring gym clothes. From that day forth I was unable to get away with leaving my gym clothes at home. There was no way out.
So one day after the usual taunting and ridicule, we went to the locker room to shower and change. For the most part, the girls in my class ignore me, which was preferable to the verbal ridicule the boys always dished our. Around me several other girls started undressing talking about normal high school stuff like this party on this weekend or so and do’s boyfriend. I remained quiet and simply went about my business thinking to myself, “they have no idea how lucky they are getting to be normal”. However, at some point, I start noticing everybody giving me these funny looks. Perturbed by the stairs I gave the girl next to me the “evil eye” as she asks: “who bought you that underwear and why don’t you shave your legs?” I looked down at my underwear, having not given it a single thought until that moment. It was the underwear that my mother bought for me. It had pretty little pink flowers on it and was the modest granny style that my mother approved of. They of course have this fancy underwear that you get from the Victoria’ s Secret. The kind my mother would always comment that only “slutty girls” wear. Then, as I began examining my hairy legs I thought to myself in frustration at my mothers steadfast ignorance. Ignorant of the varied social niceties required for one to fit in at the typical American High School, she didn’t understand why sending your child to school with hairy legs and granny panties was so dang important. I begged for normal panties and she would ask “why do you need those, nobody will see them anyway.” I would try stealing my father’s razors, but she would lake them from me. At one point, I just gave up and thought to myself, the boy’s all hate you now anyway, its not like shaved legs and bikini underwear are bound to make a dang bit of difference at this point. I’m not exactly sure what my response was, but I basically asked: “What’s the point? The boy’s here hate me?” I could tell, by the looks on their faces, that I wasn’t making any sense, but at the time I really didn’t give a shit. I had no desire to explain myself to anyone in that moment.
As I reflect on this memory today, I can’t help but think about a new girl back in 5th grade who moved to town. Since I lived in a small town, “new kids” were a rarity and most of us grew up together. I had her in P.E. class and this was our first time having to undress in front of others in a locker room.
Everybody was just developing and wearing training bras. This new girl, however still wore those “underoos” with superhero characters on them. She would dance around like a little girl as everyone looked at her strangely for her odd behavior. I couldn’t help but wonder how this girl could be so clueless, that she was oblivious to the fact that everybody thoughts he was an oddball. Was this me in Freshman year on that day when somebody asked me about my granny panties? Probably so. I remember telling my sister this story one day, and recall her responding bluntly, “Oh my God! There’s no way I’d let that happen. I would have found a way around mom.” In other words, I was still to blame for my own cluelessness. You see, it appears that ignorance is not an excuse. Societal ignorance is equitable to a character defects I suppose – an unforgivable one.
So what defense can I provide for daring to do things like wearing granny panties to PE class? I can see within my mind the opinions of those who knew me from this time: “What’ the hell’s wrong with her? She was such a weirdo!!” In my own defense I simply would like to note that I was really clueless.. At no point has anyone given me advice or assistance on how to fit in and be like a normal kid. The fact is there are so many things working against me. I was raised in a home with two unique parents. My dad is socially awkward and marches to his own drum. My mother was a foreigner unfamiliar to many aspects of teenage life in America. I had absolutely no friends after sixth grade.
Fortunately for my sister who is six years younger, my parents had already endured watching me struggle socially. They wanted to provide my sister different experiences. So the raised her very differently and retroactively attempted to give me those things that she had gotten first. My younger sister was first to get a car, first to wear makeup, first to date. I followed her with these experiences as somewhat of an afterthought.
It is September 21st, 2017, my birthday, and I’m officially 48-years-old: an old fart…
Its 11:25 in the morning and I just had an appointment with my psychiatrist and took time to review where I’m at now. Honestly, I’ve been too busy. While I’m grateful to be on track, everything is happening at fast pace and at the rate I’m on going I won’t get a day off until I can move to a different schedule for my weekend job. I’m trying my best to carve out time out for myself whenever I have a spare minute. However, I realize this schedule can continue for very long.
I’m in the car right now trying to make the most of this drive time, and I’m dictating this post on a handy-dandy app I downloaded onto my phone….
I have this theory that life comes with its bitter pill we must swallow. I know this sounds a bit “Debbie Downer” of me, but bear with me. As I see it, this bitter pill represents an undeniable yet ugly truth of our lives. If we face it directly it causes us more pain then we’re prepared or willing to feel. So what we do is we engage in a willful denial of facts and create a reality that deletes these ugly truth out of the equation. The problem with this, is we end up perpetuating what we deny
We seek answers in the wrong places and end up chasing our tails like a hamster on a wheel. As a reformed-fuck-up, I’ve come to understand that the only way out is through. The truth will set you free.
(I realize I’ve said this elsewhere on this blog before. However, it bears repeating here.)
I feel like that kid in the emperor has no clothes fable who points out that the king is naked and gets in trouble for simply stating facts.
It’s truly a crazy making experience to be told that I’m supposed to treat truth as bullshit and bullshit is truth. Its as if those in my past expected me to help them deny what they hated to see. I was expected to collude with others in the maintenance of the pretty, self-deceptive realities we shared. Unseen facts were my crosses to bear and theirs to benefit from since I was too young to know better.
If you’re a first-time visitor I’m sure this makes absolutely no sense. In this case, I suggest you read through my blog. I’m frankly not in the mood now to provide a detailed accounting of this experience.
My point is, I have this life to look back upon that is very lonely in the truest sense of the word. This loneliness – (in part at least) – meant my daily life was lacking in meaningful companionship, interaction, and belonging. I’m at a point in my life now where I am not willing to pay a price for the ignorance of others – even if this does mean I must watch them hurting. I must speak my truth and can’t afford to save others at my expense. I do not expect others to change or if knowledge my truth.
In this blog post I want to tell my side of the story: (or at least the Cliff Notes version of it)
As I write these words my mind is filled with memories of a childhood where I felt like a defendant in the court of public opinion. I was deemed guilty before I had a chance to speak on my behalf. Nobody took time to understand what I was going through. It’s not that they didn’t give a fuck or pretending not to notice….
…they just had more “pressing matters” to deal with and I wasn’t exactly high on their list of priorities.
Today when I speak with people who knew me as a kid – (whether family, friends or acquaintances) – it’s like a bad acid trip. Through the eyes of all those who know me, I am able to see a version of myself that is always distorted and never flattering. Instead, it is stereotypical and glossed over. When viewing these preconceived versions of me side-by-side, I feel I’m walking through a hall of mirrors
No one took time to understand where I was coming from, when they drew their conclusions. Instead they acted as judge and jury. I was screwed from the outset. You see, acknowledging me has meant facing ugly truths previously swept under the rug. My only regret is I did not stand up for myself sooner in life.
As that man in a monkey suit, I struggle to break free, but the zipper is stuck. I ask someone to help me but they don’t notice my inner struggle. You see I’m just a stupid monkey. I urge them from within to look inside but they can’t see behind this frickin mask. All I say and do is contextualized within this preconceived notion. These preconceptions render the truth of who I am essentially invisible to all – including myself. All that can be seen is this thick layer of bullshit ideas thrown my way.
There’s a standard and legal profession that I’m sure you’ve heard before: beyond a reasonable doubt. So they’ll does this mean?
So in my defense, what facts can be brought forth the produce doubts about the conclusions mad about me in the court of public opinion? What follows is listing of unacknowledged facts – in no particular order that provide a solid argument against these judgments rendered upon me in the court of public opinion:
To continue click the links below
When examining the origins of my pathological naivety I must say it comes down to the fact that life developed a one-sidedness based on others’ opinions and my inability to see beyond them.
I have had to examine my own personal narrative to include information that had been previously overlooked. This idea of me being not good enough has haunted and perplexed me much of my life. And until I was willing to confront the traumas of my past, I had no idea why people reacted to me as they did. I just knew it was hurtful and made no sense. With no one guiding me there to help me, I naturally blamed myself. Within me was the thought I’m worthwhile person. Around me everyone had these terrible things to say coming out of left field As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been an optimal target for bullies. In fact, as the “girl with the cooties”, bullying has always been a constant issue: from kindergarten at St. Agnes up through high school graduation. Admittedly, the bullies changed from year to year, but they all saw me the same way. I was the perfect target: I am highly sensitive and don’t fight back….For those who have never been bullied, you’d be surprised to learn that the actual bullying isn’t the worst of it. The collateral damage it sustains upon your social life is devastating. You see, when you get picked on often enough at school people start to notice and a reputation develops. Now a “loser”, you’re essentially walking around with a scarlet letter tattooed to your forehead. Hapless bystanders, silently observe the altercations but do nothing. Instead they pretend not to notice. Fearing for their own well-being and hoping to retain their status within the social hierarchy, you’re now a social leper. A “dork-by-association” rule starts to govern all social interactions with you. Should someone dare say “hi” or strike up a conversation, they’ll hear about it later: “what the hell are you doing hanging out with that wierdo?!?!”
I struggled in futility to make sense of my surroundings but without my glasses there was no point. Lying on that hospital gurney, all I could see were the bright hot examination lights. As the fear and confusion grew, an animal instinct in my foggy brain was urging me to resist. However, all efforts proved fruitless. As the sedative effects of the sleeping pills took hold, I struggled in futility to regain control of any motor function. All I could manage in that moment was nonsensical slurred speech while flailing about the bed like a crazy homeless drunk. When I tried sitting up, hospital staff surrounded me while tying hands and feet to the bed. The last thing I recall was the big plastic tube they shoved down my throat.
I opened my eyes several hours later to mental clarity and events of the previous evening began flooding back.
I recall waking up to a knock on my door late Sunday night. Laying on the sofa, I was prepared for an eternal slumber. As the door opened, I became enraged with myself for forgetting to lock the dang door. A crew of emergency responders walked in, including my old college roommate (a cop) & a former high school classmate (an EMT).
At the lowest point of my life, there were 2 people from my past who existed as reminders of traumas I was struggling to forget. The idea of this made me so angry my hands began to shake uncontrollably. They now had a ring-side seat to the assorted details of my fucked up life.
Wanting nothing more than to run away in shame, I stumbled into the bedroom but didn’t get far before my old roommate grabbed me by the arm. As she sat beside me on my bed, I was hit immediately by barrage of questions:
“A friend of yours was concerned about you and told us to check up on you. Did you take this bottle of pills”
“Can you tell me why you decided to do this?”
“I can appreciate that you don’t want to talk about it but I can’t help if I don’t know what’s going on?”
As she informed me of her plans to take me to the hospital, a blind panic took over. “I can’t let him see me like this!!!”
A blind panic overcame as I remembered the old high school classmate, waiting in the next room. I felt like that awkward bullied kid again terrified to show my face. The idea that he might spread details of this evening throughout town, pained me. My mind flooded with painful memories of my childhood. He was your adverqfe kid just trying to survive. He always avoided me and pretended to not notice the bullying I suffered – an implicit acknowledgement of the fact that I was the social leper. As a silent bystander he was “the enemy” in my mind. All I wanted to do is hide out in the bedroom. In my mind. I was that scared kid who hid in the girls locker room to avoid the daily lunchroom torture – all over again. It wasn’t until he left that I was willing to leave my bedroom and be escorted to the hospital…
After surviving this nightmare, I was simply grateful the sedative-induced fog had lifted & my mind was finally clear.
I reoriented myself to the surroundings. The ER room was large and expansive with long curtains separating a row of hospital beds. I wondered in horror, how many people were able to witness the “humbling events” that unfolded just hours ago. As a nurse approached my bedside, I asked for politely my glasses. She ignored me as if I wasn’t there and sat down to scribble some notes in my chart.
I laid there in silence, and wondered what I had done to make her angry. Still tied to the bed, unable to move, there was really nothing I could do but wait. I began to recall the conversation hospital staff had while hovering around me just hours ago. They were talking about me as if I wasn’t there, unaware that I was still conscious. A male nurse, at one point, called me a pathetic loser, since “only losers kill themselves”. The ER doctor got mad at him for saying this and ordered him to help someone else.
Sitting by me at eye level, I could tell by his kind eyes and sincere voice that he genuinely cared. He told me it would be okay and he would make certain the nurses took good care of me…
I squinted my eyes and searched for a figure in a white lab coat. However, the ER was quiet, and the nice doctor was no where to be found. The nurse remaining by my bedside, was stoic and cold. Without a hint of acknowledgement she approached my bed and forcibly sat me up & turned around to search for my clothes. I sat there stunned and dizzy, as the my fuzzy surroundings began spinning about. I struggled to grab hold of something, however my arms were still tied firmly to the bed and my hands felt numb. As my untied hospital gown started gradually falling down my shoulders, my breasts were exposed. With no curtains drawn to ensure privacy, I became fearful that some random person might walk by and see me sitting here. I asked her to pull up my gown up or close the curtain. However, She ignored my requests. Frustrated and ashamed, I noticed a phlebotomist milling around, ogling at me with an evil grin on his face. I bowed my head down towards my feet in a futile attempt to use my hair as a privacy shield. After what seemed like an eternity, the nurse finally turned around and pulled the curtain shut, so I could finally be spared another second of feeling like a side-show oddity.
She was 16 years old and brought in by an ambulance to the ER. Her parents called 911 after finding her in the bathroom with her wrists slashed.
She arrived covered in blood and could have passed for an extra for a slasher flick. Her arms were wrapped in towels as they wheeled her in. I was instructed to clean her up so the doctor could do the stitches. Her mother stood by, crying uncontrollably as I wheeled her into a room and pulled the curtains for privacy. After getting her into a hospital gown, I laid her down on the gurney, unwrapped her wrists and began scrubbing the dirt and dried blood away from her arms. After a period of silence I asked her what happened. Her affect remained flat as she shrugged shoulders and contemplated my question for a minute. Looking away, she replied: “I’ve had a rough time at school and my parents are getting divorced.”
I continued cleaning her up and recall saying that I was sorry I was to her about the hard time she’s going through. I attempted to reassure here I was there to help and available in this capacity should she need anything. Beyond the polite smile and thank you, I could see she was in a world of pain. I recalled my own suicide many years ago. I shuddered at the possibility that the care she was being provided might make her to feel like I had several decades ago.
As I continued to scrub away the blood and grime, the details of my life quickly fell into the background. Before me, was a human being who is just hurting. She simply wanted the pain to stop. I wished in futility for a way to make it better and continued cleaning her silently and meticulously. Sounds of ER chaos unfolded just beyond the drawn curtain. The air was ripe with a cold and emotional neutrality that reflected a jaded “I’ve-seen-it-all” mentality. I could recognize the “survival mode” mindset in the staff working that evening. They were overworked, stressed, and entire hospital was short-handed. Everybody was focused simply on the tasks at hand with cold and steely determination. A sadness grew within me as I began to witness this clashing of perspectives. I was vividly aware of the client’s needs and the hurt overwhelming her. However, as a healthcare worker, I also understood how difficult the job an be at times.
In that moment, it was clear to me that the client’s need for compassion, and understanding, would be met with a clinical focus on the overarching goal of simply ensuring patient safety. She could expect to receive repeated punitive reminders that what she did a very bad thing…
Finally, some parting words as “food or thought”:
“Perhaps nowhere is the ability to empathize with another person more important than when one is interacting with a person who is on the brink of suicide. This is true whether one views one’s task as helping the individual choose continued living over suicide or, more rarely, as helping the individual make a wise chose between suicide and continued life. The ability to hold a person within life, when that is needed, and to allow a person who has chosen suicide to die, when that is needed, depend on an experiential appreciation of the other’s world view. Finding hidden or obscure ways out as well as seeing that there is no way out require both the ability and the willingness to fully enter the experience of the individual ready to suicide and, at the same time, not become that experience…” (Linehan, 1997, p. 353).
Linehan, M. M. (1997). Validation and Psychotherapy. In A. Bohard & L. Greenber (Eds.) Empathy Reconsidered: New Directions in Psychothrerapy. Washington DC: AC 352-392.
As usual my therapy session last Friday was very illuminating.
The session begins when I brought up some of the issues that came up over the week: (read this & this). I then shared with him my “major light bulb moment”: The most painful thing about my childhood was the consistent failure of all involved to acknowledge that I was hurting. At home as well as school, all involved, I am the problem, and it’s solution. Context didn’t matter and the role others played in the perpetuation of my own misery were irrelevant. I was the problem, it was my fault. Healing and moving forward has involved examining the context of the problem and that the issues were much bigger than me.
As I progress in therapy, I’m beginning to understand the depth of the unresolved crap that I carry inside me from my childhood. There was never an opportunity for me to express how I felt, or share with someone what was happening at home, at school, or with the extended family. My misery was an all encompassing thing 24 hours a day that defined the reality of my existence. I struggle, at times, with a doubt in the reality of my experiences, since all involved refuse to hear or acknowledge what I’ve been through….
Something happened at work that really disturbed me quite a bit….
I find myself, in a knee-jerk, matter complying with this bullshit idea that I must protect others from what they don’t want to see. This habit is so automated that I can tend to do it quite a bit. I hold within myself the reality of my emotional experiences, in order to get through my day. I present a pleasant demeanor the majority of the time and appear pretty “even-headed” with such adeptness that it scares me at times. In fact, a patient I cared for complemented on my pleasant and patient attitude. He’s actually a very sweet individual & I enjoy caring for him. However, the floor he’s on is always short-staffed and the nurses are clearly all “on edge”. The lights are blinking like a Christmas tree and I’m trying to keep up with patient’s demands while getting vitals. He calls often asking for small things and I know he’s lonely and needs to talk. I become stressed & overwhelmed inside but try not to let it show. At some point in the evening he states his sincere appreciation for me and how I always made time for him when nobody else did. I smiled and responded with a quick thank you.
On the way out the door, I recall feeling dumbfounded and perplexed. My mind was jostled by this complement & I instantaneously “snapped out of it”.
Until this moment, I was just feeling annoyed that I had to be on this particular floor. It was a very heavy floor that was always short-staffed. As the float pool tech, I felt I was being shit on and seething inside. I began my shift with an internal piss-n-moan rant running in the back of my mind. It wasn’t until I received a bit of acknowledgment from a patient that I started to reflect on my own thought processes that evening. These thoughts had been acting as an internal narrator of the events of the evening:
“I can’t believe I’m dealing with the same person’s crap again for the fourth day in a row. Why is it they have to shit on me & assign me to the stuff nobody wants to do? If only they knew what I have on my plate, I just don’t have the patience.” My eyes began to well up with tears as I began to realize how good I was at “smiling and taking it like a man”.
By about 1:00 a.m. things start to quiet down & I’m able to sit down and have something to eat.
I found a quiet place so I could process what I learned from the meeting with my psychiatrist yesterday. This pervasive tendency to suppress my emotions into the subconscious level of awareness was truly all-encompassing. This just happens to be yet another consequence of the happy family game crap that I participate in. This desire to create a certain public image involved hiding certain things and accentuating others things. When my parents tell me they remember a happy girl, I believe they are sincere in this assertion, (however incorrect). I came to realize, they were the beneficiaries of my coping mechanisms. I protected them, and the family, at a huge expense to my own well-being.
The fact is, denying my truth was unhealthy. Today, I’m so good at keeping things inside that it is almost a knee-jerk action.
This is why today, when I talk about my childhood with the family, they have such a very different memory of things. I kept the reality of my day-to-day life out of their view. I protected them from what I knew they were incapable of handling. I would like, at some point, to tell the truth of my experiences as an act of defiance. It would be a useful and essential opportunity to state publicly the reality of my life experiences. However, before doing so, I need to prepare myself with the frustrating reality that some people might react very negatively to my story. I would need to carefully weigh my options and consider my true motives for doing so….
My biggest struggle today is with a slow grieving process. Neglect is a painful, yet frequently overlooked experience, in some respects just as painful as abuse…
Underlying everything that I’ve gone through is just the idea that I was alone.
There was no one there for me at home or in school. The consistent message that I received is that context was irrelevant. My own perspective wasn’t as important as is the idea that the problem is me and I need to fix it myself. And the funny thing about this assertion, are how I react to it differently at varied levels of awareness….
In fact, I believe there are different levels of knowing.
I can take in the logic of what someone says and filter it against my own experience. Yet emotionally, my feelings betray me. When re-experiencing old trauma, I don’t care about logic, all I know I feel shame, hurt, and invalidation. I ask myself about the purpose of this secrecy and why I’m not supposed to say anything. Why are they so insistent on not seeing certain things? There is fear, pain, and simply a desire to avoid those things that hurt to much to look at too long…
…So the frustrating thing is I’m left to figure things out on my own. Like the serenity prayer, I focus on what I can change and let go of the rest. It feels so lonely simply because there is no one in my life who was there that the way things went down. Instead, when the past comes up, it was me and my problems.
My mind is like a safety bubble within which I reside reside in order to avoid the body’s messages of the unresolved emotions I’m not ready to deal with…
I have a pervasive and f-d up tendency to separate the goings on in my body from an awareness in my mind
I am starting to appreciate the real consequences of this coping mechanism. It has repeatedly slapped me in the face over the last several weeks. I am going through stuff throughout the week that impacts me. The emotions and thoughts don’t present themselves until I am at my final straw. Emotions bubble over & become too much to handle. The cycle has been repetitive over the last several months…
I spend too much of my life with this happy smile on my face that allows everyone to believe that Kathleen’s doing just fine. The happy game I play is now my own. My outer presentation never fully justifies the reality of what I’m feeling in the moment. I know that the reality of my childhood was a perfectly crafted performance. They acted like they were fine and I had to act like I was fine not so we could seem like the perfect happy little girl & everybody we were okay…
HOWEVER, below the surface my dad had checked out, my mom was stressed, my sister felt alone, and I was depressed….
So I just dropped the boys off at home after picking them up at school, & am in the car dictating this on my iPhone…
I have a few errands to run and decided drop my kids off so they can do their assigned errands and start homework. I’m now stuck in traffic after stopping by Starbucks to pick up three Bacon Gouda Sandwiches since I am just too darn lazy to cook.
This particular Starbucks is in a very busy area, so I wait for my food about 15 minutes and unobtrusively people-watch. There are several small groups of high school and college students studying. Wandering in and out are full-time working adults, picking up something to go really quick.
As I finish giving my order, I notice this lady walk in. She’s about my age and has two children with her. The oldest is boy about 12, I’m guessing. He is carrying a school bag and is wearing khaki pants and a button up shirt. His hair is perfectly combed. Her daughter is about 5-6 and dressed in a pretty sunflower dress with matching bows in her hair and matching flats with white hose and a little purse.
As they walk by me, I notice her perfectly crafted appearance. She has her hair pulled back into a neat bun. Wearing a professional business suit, expensive shoes and fancy handbag, I notice her makeup is perfect down to the bright red lipstick and expertly drawn eyebrows. Together they look like the absolutely perfect family you find in empty picture frames at the store.
I then begin to think what sort of first impression I must leave…
I was up late last night finishing up some internship paperwork. My husband ended up taking the kids to school so I could sleep in until 9 o’clock. When I woke up that morning, I spent about fifteen minutes on my appearance before walking out the door. I threw something on that fit my personal standard of comfortable while still falling within the “business casual” dress code. I recall looking at my reflection that morning and cringing. As I got dressed, my lumpy out of shape body was truly a depressed sight. I berated myself for getting out of shape and longed for the day when I can find time to exercise. I pushed these thoughts out of my mind and told my inner critic to shut up. I reminded myself that I was working 65-70 hours a week. As a recovering shlumpadinka, I’m unfamiliar with daily makeup and hair routine. I try my best to cover-up my uneven skin and apply light eye shadow while leaving my hair as the last task, before walking out the door.
A feeling of sadness wells up inside as I gather the remnants of my once-long hair into a ponytail.
It was down to my waist last year, when I asked a friend to layer it a bit. I was hoping for a more professional appearance that fit my future counseling career. Anyway, my instructions to leave the length at about my shoulder blades were ignored as she made the executive decision to cut it at the shoulder. I now struggle every morning to get every last bit of shorn hair into a neat ponytail. I simply have no desire to look at it, and the ponytail is my only option….
By the time I reach Starbucks to pick up the Bacon Gouda Sandwiches, it as almost 4:00 p.m. and I had given up on the hair by that point. The ponytail was falling out and I looked like a disheveled mess. As this lady makes her way to the register she throws a quick side-glance in my direction that kind of spoke volumes in a way that words didn’t have to. I politely smiled at her and walked to my car.
On the way home, This experience reminded of some cousins on my dad’s side….
My dad is the oldest of four boys and has two brothers that are close in age. Throughout their lives they hit all major life milestones around the same time. After finishing their degrees, they married within the same year and got their wives pregnant shortly thereafter. For this reason, I have one cousin a month older than me, and another who is eight months younger than me. Since we are all female there was an upper-middle class success-based comparison between us growing up…
What stands out to me most about this experience, is a feeling of less-than-ness that I intuitively knew had some sort of historical component.
It was also clear to me, that we weren’t allowed to talk about it openly with anyone. For this reason, these experiences burn in my mind as unresolved questions that residing in the attic of my mind. My father was raised in that perfect all-American family. He grew up in a cute gingerbread house that stood on the top of a hill overlooking a creek. It was built in the late 1800s and on the historical registry. Every year we visited around the holidays and I marveled at how perfectly decorated everything was. My grandmother had a love of all things beige, and I was impressed at how clean she was to keep everything. The routine was always the same. We visited every thanksgiving and endured a 13-hour drive in the ’77 t-bird with no legroom. My dad and his brothers would gather in the kitchen with their parents and talk at the same time in loud booming voices. As a young child, they were all imposing figures, standing at around 6 feet in height and always perfectly groomed.
My grandmother, always reminded me of June Cleaver. She cooked thanksgiving meals in nice dresses & high heals in at perfect house, creating the perfect family meal.
I have to admit overall I’m pretty lucky. I believe the most profound legacy in a family is psychological in nature. In this respect I can’t complain. Nobody in his family has ever divorced and I am stranger to the idea. Everybody in the family is an “upstanding citizen of the community”. The ladies stay at home and the men hold respectable jobs, (i.e. lawyers, bankers, dentists, college professor, etc). They are able to uphold the upper-middle class lifestyle, and attain their own perfectly decorated homes. Coming from this background, if all I do is repeat what I know I’m doing pretty well. I am happily married, an upstanding citizen, well educated, and living a good life.
However, I am a firm believer there is a “shadow side” to everything in life.
I noticed the small things each visit that indicated there was more to the story of than meets the eye & longed to know more…
The first indications of this came from my father. My dad’s brothers all wore suits and ties like my grandfather. Together they presented a perfect image. However, for whatever reason, my dad bucked tradition and did his “own thing”. He lives in jeans and button up plaid shirts, (always un-tucked), with the sleeves rolled up just below the elbows. He never fastens the top two buttons and stained t-shirts are always visible above his collar. Completing this ensemble is a thick leather belt with keys hanging on the side that make a klinking sound when he walks. He also loves gaudy rings. My favorite is the one of a grim reaper riding a motorcycle and large ruby eyes. My earliest memories of my father are of playing with his scraggly beard while watching his untrimmed nose hairs wiggle when he would breathe. I always imagined that they were huge wooly bear caterpillars crawling up his nose.
While this description paints an “interesting picture”, I’d like to add that as a child, he was larger than life.
I looked up to my father as a hero and was proud to say I was a lot like him. As a bullied child who never fit in, his unique unapologetic attitude towards others’ opinions gave me comfort. I remember wondering what was wrong with me and why nobody liked me. I hated myself for being different and standing out like a sore thumb. My father’s stubborn refusal to be anything other than who he was, provided a feeling of comfort. It gave me hope that I could survive the bullying, if I could only be myself in the world, just like him…
Anyway, I recall an incident one year while visiting the grandparents on thanksgiving.
My sister was just a toddler so I’m guessing I was about 7-years-old. As my father took off his jacket and hung it in the kitchen closet, my grandmother began giving him the “once over”. A look of disappointment fell across her face and she turned away to stir the food on the stove. Once my dad left the kitchen to join his brothers in the den, the ladies sat down to chat a bit. My grandmother took a spot next to my mother and commented, “I was never able to get him to wear a suit but always believed his wife would succeed where I failed, I guess I was wrong”. My mother sat there with a stunned look on her face as my grandmother looked at her with disappointment.
And then there were assorted side-comments & stories about my father, alluding to his “differentness”.
I remember being asked on several occasions by younger male cousins during the holidays, why my dad was “so weird”. Then there was one year, when we visited my uncle’s house & my aunt said something interesting. This was after dinner & the ladies were sitting down in the living room. Since my aunt knew my dad from a young age, I had many questions. According to my aunt, there was a point in high school when my father just decided to stop talking to everyone and spent all his time in his bedroom. Apparently this happened during his last two years of high school when he was having trouble getting along with his parents. I wanted so badly to ask my dad about this, but my mother warned me, under no circumstances was I to discuss it with him….
So against this backdrop, I endured the emotional impact of thisconstant comparison. The fact that I stood out like a sore thumb didn’t help matters.
I couldn’t help but wonder about this feeling that history was repeating itself, yet frustrated that there was no opportunity to talk about it. When we were little, I recall no real feelings of being different from them. We all enjoyed playing together. However, as we reached our pre-teens, evidence of my odd-ball-ness became painfully clear.
One Thanksgiving on the way home from grandma’s house we stopped by my uncle’s house.
He was just 15-months younger than my father. As, almost-Irish-twins, they have lots of stories to tell. The adults gathered in the living room, as my aunt suggested I go bicycling with my cousin. She was just about one month younger than me at the time. A look of anger flashed across her face as she stormed out the garage. Encouraging me to follow her my aunt continued insisting we go on this bike ride. Sensing my cousin’s discomfort, I told my aunt that I was okay and started walking inside. However, my aunt was insistent. A heated discussion continues for – what seems like an eternity…
…To make a long story, my aunt wins the argument and this cousin ends up being forced to take me on a ride around town on bicycles. She first grabs an old bike for me to ride and tells me she needs to “adjust the gears a bit”. She then warns me not to bicycle next to her because she has friends in the neighborhood and doesn’t want to be seen with me. As we start riding, I notice that the bicycle doesn’t go very fast and begin to realize she screwed with the gears so I am unable to keep up. I try my hardest to stay within eyesight of her, but it’s useless. She peaks her head over her shoulder every so often to make sure I’m keeping up. However, I have difficulty maintaining a steady distance from her since I don’t know how to readjust the gears. My eyes fill with tears, as I realize that it is officially undeniable that I am an oddball. Her figure gets smaller and smaller down the strange and lonely streets until I’m completely lost.
By the time we reached high school, it was an undeniable fact that I was Raggedy Ann standing next two perfect china dolls.
My mind is chuck full of memories like the one above, that gnaw at my gut like day-old sushi. There was that year when a cousin got mad at me for going to a mall she frequented, out of fear that her friends would see me. Then there were the family dinners on thanksgiving in which my cousins would sit close together and exchange stories of their life. I could see our differences most painfully in that moment.
We were on opposite sides of an invisible fence that defined who was and was not “socially acceptable”.
Today, as I recall these experiences I know the how come and why of it all. I am able to provide an explanation of things here, here, here, or here or here. However, this clinical explanation does absolutely nothing to wipe away the twinge of sadness that fills my heart when I type this. The nail on the coffin to this story was my sister’s advice when I shared this with her recently: “Just ignore it, it’s years ago.” That’s easier said than done since the pain still burns in me as if its yesterday. It amazes that while we lived in the same home, we remember the experience in highly divergent ways.
If I have my way, I hope to never lay my eyes on those two *&%#@ again!!
A male friend told me once that I looked like Joey Ramone because of my long black hair, glasses, & large nose. Our friendship began somewhat incidentally in the waiting room of a job service agency where he struck up a conversation. On his way out he asked for my number. We went on a couple of dates but it didn’t really go anywhere. He had gotten out of a bad relationship & I was trying to recover from the “it years”.
It was the mid-90’s and we were both in our 20’s: no longer kids but not quite adults. As was the case for many of my generation, we completed our college degrees only to find ourselves no better off financially. I held a variety of secretarial positions while he worked in retail. Dead broke with no promising career options, we hung out a lot simply to curb the occasional bouts loneliness.
It’s been years since we’ve spoken. We grew apart because in time, I started to feel like his mom. He would come over and raid my fridge and use my washing machine. Or stop by to borrow a “few bucks”. When we would actually hang out, I would have to hear his long and often complicated dating stories. He reminded me of Jack Black in that Shallow Hal movie.
“You know all the guys on the floor are telling me I should dump you for the girl with the huge tits.” He informs me of this in the weeks and months after I lose my virginity to him. I am insecure and desperate for acceptance, love, and belonging. He said I was just average looking: about five, (six on a good day). He said my breasts were too small and wanted me to get implants. I had scrawny chicken legs, an ugly nose and horrible hair. On top of that, I had no sense of style and was more ‘”inexperienced” than the other women he cheated on me with. In short, I was a pathetic charity case…
A desire to avoid re-experiencing the pain of rejection from my child was so strong while I was in this relationship. It overcame logic or sensibility. The only thing I could see was anxiety and panic, nothing else was able to filter inward. I needed to avoid rejection – it was just too hard….
As women, we are all made to face a world that assigns us value based on an array of random qualities which happen to define our meat suit. As someone who falls within the “have not” category, there is still quite of unresolved bitterness I need to work through. The above video reflects fairly accurately how I’ve adjusted to this reality.
“Seriously? What the fuck is fuckable?? I don’t know if I can answer that question for you, but I can share my own experience. When I was 19 or so, I was standing in a Starbucks in West Hollywood with a director, talking about the upcoming film we were about to shoot. It had been a long road, but we had finally made it. Waiting for our coffee, I could see that he seemed a bit uneasy. I asked him if everything was ok. He said yes. I didn’t believe him, so I asked him again. He looked at me and said “Heather, I’m sorry, we have to give your role to another actor. The producers don’t want you.” I didn’t understand. I had been attached to this project for two years, and now two weeks before filming, I’m being let go. I asked him why. He looked me dead in the eyes and said “They say you’re not fuckable.” Well, fuck me. Even as I write this, I can still feel the pain, shame, and humiliation that came over me in that moment. This is a part that I had been so excited to play. She was bold, witty, sarcastic, sexy, but more importantly, she had a deeper vulnerability underneath. She had layers, she was complex. (Matarazzo, 2015, February, 6).”
A second online story that resonates with my experience comes from an anonymous post on reddit by a woman who describes the typical experience of the average “less-than” girl who is occasionally reminded of her inherent meat-suit based value.
“I am an ugly woman. Objectively, I really am. Please don’t argue with me on this one, Reddit. I am not overweight, actually in better shape than most women my age, I dress well, I am great with makeup. But last weekend the world just had to remind me that despite all this, people will go out of their way to kick me….There was a photographer going around the club, taking pictures of the people there. I assume it was for some promo for their website or something. He got to our group, and literally circled us several times, taking several pics from different angles. I was kind of psyched about this, so I did my best to look like I was having a good time, made sure he could snap me at my best. But after a while I realized he wasn’t circling us to get our best angles. He was trying to get a frame without ME. If I moved closer to the center of the group, for instance, he would tilt his camera a little the other way. I couldn’t believe it until finally, he actually came up to me and asked me to get out of the shot….I felt so ugly right then. For all the effort I had put into looking and feeling good that night, it seemed like it just didn’t matter. So the night ends with me leaving the club. My friend with the bf at home who was dancing with me left with me so I wouldn’t be alone. The rest of my girl friends didn’t notice what had happened with the photographer, so when they asked me where I was going I just told them I was tired and wanted to go home. And since I wasn’t leaving alone, they let me.” throwmeaway4352 (n.d.)
A consistent diet of put-downs and abusive behavior is what it took for my insecurities to become certainties…
My first boyfriend was the first one to make me aware that my meat suit defined my social value in today’s world. He told me repeatedly that I was an ugly, and therefore, a “charity case”. This was a painful punch in the gut much as Heather Matarazzo describes. I was forced to face then that a world existed beyond what I create inside my head that evaluated me harshly against a physical beauty standard. It was this standard of physical beauty that assigned me a value of me based on the random factors that defined my meat suit. As I grew to appreciate the ramifications of this my self esteem crumbled.
Within my mind, there was a slow and gradual erasure of any remaining awareness of inner beauty, until it was completely gone.
So why am I writing this post???
I want to stress here, that this post isn’t about bitterness. I admit there has been a bit of pissing and moaning occasionally on this blog. However, the goal of this blog post isn’t to feel sorry for myself. If I had to summarize all my life experiences and professional education into one critical insight, it would the following:
We become what we believe we are and get what we believe is possible.
This life lesson is summarized excellently in a series of videos on youtube based on books by Shel Silverstein. Many of life’s problems can be attributed to how we are looking at things and not what we are viewing as the cause of our issues. Gaining clarity in life takes a lot of work. For the majority of us, it isn’t we’re “north of 40” that we can begin to feel an appreciable sense of clarity. It is for this reason, that I believe youth is a vastly overrated experience.
I’m sincerely grateful to have made it to be where I am, and have absolutely no desire to wind back the clock of time…..
So, here is the purpose of this post: To Get Real w/ Myself.
Lesson #1: Bullshit is Infectious.
In a previous, I discuss the concept of self-deception as the perplexing ability we have to lie to ourselves, while not noticing we do so:
Bullshit is infectious & needs to be treated as a dangerous contagion In the previous section, I provide examples of unseen aspects of social experience. When you examine these unseen things closely you find that self-deception can become shared. Others’ bullshit ideas, when unexamined, can become our bullshit ideas. Bullshit is infectious and needs to be treated as a dangerous contagion.
Lesson #2: Life is Unfair. Deal with it.
There is a definite social reality which exists, that no amount of intellectual gymnastics can erase entirely. It is true that within the minds of many, this meat suit, is an indelible fact. We are reduced to an idea which doesn’t do justice to the reality of who we are. This “less-than-ness” is painful simply because it is a perception based on bullshit while carrying a life of its own – independent of who we are. I need to accept that there are many people who can’t see beyond my meat suit. However, I must also acknowledge the fact that what I focus upon emotionally expands. For example, when I read stories such as the ones above, emotions bubble up inside. However, while I am aware of these feelings, I do not ruminat over them endlessly. This will decimate many of life’s possibilities and my true inner potential.
(((If you don’t understand what I’m saying, re-watch the missing piece videos))) There’s that part in the first video, where that Pacman dude sets down the pie thingie. That action is huge. It is an act of realizing that he’s running on a hamster wheel, perpetuating bullshit by mindlessly consuming the ideas fed to him by others. Set the missing piece down, and walk away. It does not hold the answers. Like Dorothy and the Ruby Slippers, you hold the solution and just need to believe in yourself.
Lesson #3: Understand Society’s Motives
I don’t want to get too nerd-girl-ish but system’s theory is a useful perspective with which to understand society’s motives for assigning value to women based on the meat suit. In a recent post I state the following:
Systems Theory can be thought of as a lens through which to view the relational processes of individuals and the significant others with whom they interact in their attempts to derive meaning and construct an identity. (Curtis & McPherson, 2000, p50)…hat is first notable about systems theory is its view of individuals as a subsystem within a larger subsystem (Arthur & McMahon, 2005). If one were to provide a diagrammatic picture of this theory, they would draw a series of concentric circles. With a picture that looks much like a target, each level, can be thought of as a subsystem within a subsystem. The individual is a system that exists within microsystems such as family, peers, or work environment. These microsystems, then exist within a larger ecosystem that can be thought of as society at large. How does this relate to counseling practice? Essentially it calls for an understanding of individuals holistically, people aren’t beings unto themselves, but parts of a larger whole (Curtis & McPherson, 2000, p50)
Basically this theory notes how individual’s cannot be understood independent of the social worlds they reside within. Individuals and societies are interdependent concepts in the sense that the whole is not equal to the sum of its parts. When stable, a state of homeostasis exists.
The point is, society and its members work together to perpetuate a system of beliefs upon which our culture and society are built. If you take away the belief system or question it, the entire foundation upon which society is built crumbles. It is important to aware, the valuation processes upon which women are evaluated, are simply social constructs that tend to act as the basis of the “game of life”. They are essential for a social homeostasis, that many defend unquestioningly. They aren’t fact, they are simply the rules of the game. How is it you are choosing to participate???
My husband complains often that our 18 years together still can’t compete with what some assholes said to me umpteen years ago. He says he truly loves me as I am. He sees me as beautiful and doesn’t understand why those words from so long ago can affect me so profoundly today. As my “partner in crime” he calls me out on my bullshit. I use my past experiences as an excuse for why I don’t work through this issue.
This letter is the second in a series in which I create blog posts from old letters I dug out of the hallway closet. It was also written in the months before meeting “IT” (Click hear to read more). It provides a perspective of the unresolved issues lay within me as deep wells of pain. I was willing to do just about anything to avoid treading those waters.
LETTER TWO: Dated 4/25/89
I am taking so long to write this letter that I decided to sit down and get it done. I am in a bad mood. Two things happened to cause it. First of all, at supper I ate at Validine with Keri and Wanda because she asked if I was going to eat and I said yes and went with them…
I don’t know Keri that well, but I sort of sensed that she didn’t want me eating with them.
The problem is that sometimes I feel like I’m imposing. I have sort of grown apart from them all (except Wanda). I have heard them about four times talk about how they went to a movie or something and didn’t think to invite me along and they don’t want to be impolite so they say nothing.
I have wondered if it is like this for me, because when Keri and Wanda sat on a table, I went to join them (I was last in line they got food first), I noticed as I walked down to the table and sat that Keri started to get this look on her face that said, “Oh No!” or “Oh God, go away!” This all makes me ill at was and makes me uncomfortable and bad like I’m imposing or should go away
I want to approach this subject or ask them in some round about way if I am not wanted. But the problem with doing that is if I do Wanda will get a little bugged by it. The reason is, cause they say I’m too timid and paranoid and uncomfortable and need self-confidence. So I just end up going when Wanda asks and feeling uncomfortable cause she seems to be the only one that wants me there. What should I do?
Another thing that bugged me is that I also have a reputation as caring too much of others feelings and worrying too much about it….They began talking about their first impression of someone in the dorm and Keri stated she thought they were “bitches”. She dreaded living on the floor with them and spent 30 minutes talking bout it. After a while I got sick of it and must have gotten a look on my face that showed it.
Wanda then said “Well we should keep an open mind” in a matter-of-fact way. Then Keri said in a sarcastic way some more stuff, sort of repeating how I feel about people talking this way about others. I don’t remember what she said, but it sounded like I was being parodied and it made me feel like I was being made fun of. It pissed me off.
Another thing is that, I have been told a lot that I don’t speak up and that I need to change. T his all has to do with everything that I’ve talked bout so far.
I want so bad to have my life in order and to have a perfect social life. I feel as if I should act like someone else, what they want. What happened today made me feel like I am not really worth it as a person and that makes me what I am isn’t right or good and they are.
I thought growing up that I don’t have to be like them. I am a good person and those who are down on me are insensitive and ned to change (get a heart). How this has me starting to think that I’m bad and they re all good. I need to be more insensitive like them and have to talk and face in the sense that I can’t be me, because it is obvious that I can’t survive in society being me. I hate things being like this, so I guess I’ll have to just start being fake and acting like they want.
Foregt myself and be what it is that society wants. Let me be their puppet.
Why couldn’t I be what they want? Why’d do I have to be like this and how come I’m not a person who doesn’t have any truly good qualities that people respect and like?
I guess this’ll be all for now, it’s 10:30 and I have class at 9:00 in the morning
Sometimes the truth can truly hurt and facing it can appear an overwhelming and impossible task…
The hurt you hope to avoid and not experience and overwhelm your thinking, anything that remotely resembles a prior trauma is like a hotbed of potential pain. Your mind goes into fight-or-flight mode, and seeks out evidence or indication that we’re “going there” into the trauma zone. For me this trauma zone was the idea of being ostracized and bullied like when I was a kid. I couldn’t see beyond the unresolved hurt that simply overwhelmed my mind, heart, and soul. As I noted in the twisted self-deception post (see link above), the formation of bullshit thinking occurs in the following set of steps:
STEP #1 TO CREATING BULLSHIT : We believe something blindly based on raw emotions without filtering through the evidence of experience.
I was very insecure: In the above letter I state the following: “they say I’m too timid and paranoid and uncomfortable and need self-confidence.”As a result I’m constantly misconstruing the actions and/or words of others. For example, if they don’t invite me, I feel like crap: “I feel bad because they never come to my room to visit me and the only time I do anything with them is when I ask if I can tag along.” Additionally, (as I note the above letter) when they do invite me I still feel like crap: “I went to join them (I was last in line they got food first), I noticed as I walked down to the table and sat that Keri started to get this look on her face that said, “Oh No!”
I Isolate Myself & Don’t Join Their Activities Unless Invited: For example, in the above letter I state: “the problem is that sometimes I feel like I’m imposing” and in the previous letter I state: “they never come to my room to visit me”
STEP #3 TO CREATING BULLSHIT: Life reflects these beliefs
I create life experiences based on unresolved bullshit. As a result, the experiences reflect the bullshit. For example in the above letter I state: “What happened today made me feel like I am not really worth it as a person and that makes me what I am isn’t right or good and they are.” In reality, it was my perception of events the created the experiences, not just the experience itself. It would be interesting if I could go back in time with my clear headed adult mind and re-experience this event. How different would it look like. This leads me to the final step in bullshit creation:
FINAL STEP: We use experiences as evidences of beliefs
I was digging in the hallway closet and ran across a couple of old letters. They were written in the months before meeting “IT” (Click hear to read more). As I reflect on them today, I feel it helps provide a snippet of what unresolved issues lay within me as deep wells of pain. I was willing to do just about anything to avoid treading those waters.
LETTER ONE: Tuesday 11/29/88.
(((I am a freshman in college & writing a letter to my 12-year-old sister. I have no friends & only her to confide in. Despite the gap in our age, we saw eye-to-eye. While she had many social outlets, I was ostracized. Middle & high school were years social isolation. My development stagnated a bit.)))
Hello, I am in my room right now and it looks really neat, now that I have all this stuff on the walls. I just found out that my roommate is trying to get a room with Tammy Terryberry who lives in 915. I’ll be glad to see my roommate go, but I’m going to have to find a new one now.
There is something that’s been bothering me a whole lot, but I can’t tell anyone, cause I don’t think there isn’t anyone that would understand.
I have one goal that I have set for myself, and I hope that I reach it, and I have been wishing and wishing about it for as long as I can remember. What I have always wanted was just one good friend: Someone that is my age who makes me feel as good and as confident as I feel when I’m around all of you. I want one really special person in my life that understands me and likes me for who I am and accepts all of it, the good and the bad. I also want a person who would always be there fore me when I need someone.
I am having problems looking for friends, though. I just want 1 good friend and maybe about 2-6 additional ones I can hang around with and I would be just fine and feel happy and content.
My problem is, that I feel as if all the people on my floor don’t like me as much as I like them and like each other more. I feel bad because they never come to my room to visit me and the only time I do anything with them is when I ask if I can tag along. They never visit me and ask me to go anywhere has as much as they ask each other. I don’t feel like I belong.
I always thought I was a nice and likable person once I open up to people and let them see what’s inside. But it seems now as if that’s wrong. I used to not let the fact that I didn’t belong, (when I was in high school) bother me because I thought that they just didn’t know me and so it didn’t matter what they thought cause it wasn’t true anyway cause they never really knew me. But I’ve discovered that I’m wrong cause I’ve let them know who I am and I still have sort of the same problem.
They don’t totally accept me because there are things about me that really bug them. I”m too inquisitive, too quiet, too weird, too shy, or unconfident, bull-headed, or this or that.
I know it is just constructive criticism but it hurts because it has gotten me to realize that when I socialize with people I have to just act, not like myself but the way they want me to, jus so they accept me. I THINK THAT IS BULL SHIT. I don’t want to have to act a certain way that pleases them. I want to be me and just do what comes naturally and what suits me.
But it seems as if it isn’t just that they don’t know me and it doesn’t matter what they think or that they don’t accept me. Because they do know me. It hurts.
I have finally found out there IS something wrong with me and that is why I never belong. I’m sort of like a social plague. Why do I have to be me. it is so hard to be a person with so many personality and character flaws that are annoying other people.
I feel like I have to change overnight and go out of my way to act like the person they say I should act like. I am also jealous of all of them for not being me.
It’s ten minutes to 2:00. I have class at 2:00 and have to go now, but I’ll write again soon.
Your Sister Kathleen,
P.S. Write Me Back Soon.
Wow!!! Does this letter bring me back to the “good old days”…
This letter was written just months after I left my hometown. I was grateful to have this experience behind ad looking forward to a “new beginning”. The problem was my high school, the classmates who loathed me, and the bullies that made my life hell. So in keeping with my new blog goal to do less telling and more showing, how can I contrast the “clinical and academic perspective” polluted throughout this blog with a life story? My thought has been to use what I’ve written as inspiration for future posts.
Listed below are random quotes from previous posts that are useful in putting this letter into a useful perspective.
….When you look at it logically, why would a person lie to themselves into believing a thing they do not want to be true?
“…I have finally found out there IS something wrong with me and that is why I never belong. I’m sort of like a social plague. Why do I have to be me. it is so hard to be a person with so many personality and character flaws that are annoying other people…”
In the above letter, I somehow end up believing something I do not want to be true. At first glance, this would make no sense. However, I enter college with a slanted perspective based on past experience. Why would I believe something I don’t want to be true? I became what they thought I was and got what they believed was possible… Here are the critical steps, in the formation of bullshit thinking…
The purpose of self-deception is so we can live in our own preferred version of reality. This version of reality supports our preferred system of beliefs. It also edits out those things we do not wish to understand & hate to accept. It is like an emotional “hot potato”. We would prefer to willfully deny this fact through an array of cognitive mental gymnastics, than accept reality as it exists.
Sometimes the truth can truly hurt & facing it can appear an overwhelming & impossible task…
Bullshit is infectious & needs to be treated as a dangerous contagious….When you examine these unseen things closely you find that self-deception can become shared. Others’ bullshit ideas, when unexamined, can become our bullshit ideas. Bullshit is infectious and needs to be treated as a dangerous contagion. What do I mean by this? Here’s my personal theory on how we inherit the bullshit of those around us and consume it blindly….