Betty phoned Liz, “I feel like I have dropped a stitch and the hole is getting bigger.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” Liz asked, picturing a hole in a jersey but she wasn’t sure.
“I feel hollow and hurt after my run-in with Daryl. It is a pain that is just getting bigger and bigger, but I know that my mind is running away with ideas. That’s why it feels like I dropped a stitch; it should only be a one stitch size hole but now it is gaping. Daryl just says I am overdramatising things. It’s a familiar feeling; a familiar scenario. When I am misunderstood: I feel sad; like a reject, worthless, and confused.”
We all know that lock-down contributes to the pressurized situation: we are at home, inside with the same people, day after day; less to do than usual, bored and frustrate; children demanding to go to friends, bickering and being unreasonable; and a messy house. Dissatisfaction and impatience bubbles up, so it is important to keep in mind that the effects are going to impact us all in the long run. As I mentioned in my post about trauma from last Wednesday the effects of covid 19 are much like the effects of other traumas.
When we get tired and stressed we become frayed at the edges. Tolerance levels lower because we are putting up with the circumstances as they are. With the stress build up each one of us becomes like a walking piece of dynamite: some of us smoulder and hope our feelings will fizzle out if we wait long enough, while others of us ignite and blow up. Maybe most of us are somewhere in between where we grumble along in discontent. We don’t live in a bubble, even if we might be physically isolated we are usually not socially isolated as most of us have some contact through social media. Small encounters of friction between us become huge issues because of cause and effect of the pressure.
As friction arises you land up feeling like the other person doesn’t understand what you said, your beliefs, or what you did, or who you are, so in your defense you feel overlooked and loss of connection. This is why Betty feels this gaping hole all of a sudden after a misunderstanding.
Why does it happen?
Let’s discus Betty: It’s true that corona virus has put Daryl and her in a pressurized situation, just like many of yourselves, which is intolerable but more often than not they have created layers of experiences for themselves throughout their life and it’s not the first time a misunderstanding has happened. So it more than likely an old wound that is being triggered because the present scenario activates remembered feelings or incidences from the past which made her feel worthless: as she put it “like a gaping hole.” It is like a metaphoric image of a wound.
That incident taps into a reservoir of past trauma and pain which mingles unconsciously with the new situation in the present moment. It is so easy to get overly caught up and invested in the feelings that come up trying to prove self-worth all over again. But it isn’t the original person who she is dealing with now, it is Daryl, so she spends new emotional energy trying to prove her worth to this present day person, Daryl (probably wrong person.)
She ends up hurting more, feeling more misunderstood by Daryl while he is antagonized, and feels rejected by her response in the process. She has created a yet another scenario in the long life of scenarios throughout her life that supports her feelings of lack of self-worth. She has proved to herself again how worthless she is. Not that it is true but that is her perpetuating belief system.
Questions you can ask yourself to help you reflect.
This type of thing happens to all of us when we allow our hurts from the past to hook into present day situations. If you find yourself identifying with this type of scenario where you feel hurt you might find that you either get angry and flair up, getting grumpy or shouting or you might withdraw so that you don’t have to deal with it and you become quiet and disinterested in the person or even events.
This is where your powers of reflection can be useful, either on your own or with someone you trust and respect. You might find some of these questions in this list helpful in reflecting:
What was this incident about?
Who triggered it?
How did I feel?
What did you want to get or achieve?
Why were you made to feel …. (Add your feeling you experienced, e.g. worthless)
How does this in anyway remind you of a similar feeling or situation from your past?
You can ask the same questions of that scenario.
How are they similar, these two situations?
Maybe it is the feelings that are similar.
What did you do as a result of this situation?
Did you flair up or fizzle away? What is the pay off of this behavior?
How did this action help you? What was the pay off?
Did it feel like it was a protective behavior?
What does it tell you about yourself?
We assimilate messages from when we are young. Here are some messages we hear in life and you might be able to resonate with some of these:
I am nothing, I know nothing, I am worthless, I might as well not bother, it is their fault, I am going to fail, it is my fault, I have been rejected, they hate me, I am forgotten, I am not seen, not noticed, I am an imposter, it’s not fair, it’s not worth it, what is it for anyway, I am a spoiled brat, I don’t matter, nothing matters, I am too demanding, or I am not worth the effort, you are bad or I am bad.
You need to re-frame the message.
These messages are like recordings that play over and over again in your head and heart; most times they are not helpful to you anymore. They might have achieved a purpose originally but they are out dated.
So if you feel like a failure because you have messed up remind yourself that “Success is sometimes the outcome of a whole string of failures.” Vincent van Gogh. Instead of saying, “I am a useless failure” say “I can learn something even if I make a mistake it is a chance to practice and so I will steadily achieve success and confidence.”
Other positive messages for some of the above negative messages could be: I am worthy of effort; my contribution is important; it is important for me to share my ideas; what I do matters; my feelings are important; I am remembered; I am valued, I should bother; spending time, money, effort or interest on equipping me is valuable; I am seen and appreciated by those who love me, etc.
What is important is that you begin to see yourself with compassionate love and grace then you will start to understand that you are precious and worthy. Henri Nouwen said, “If fear is the greatest enemy of intimacy, love is its true friend.” When you fear rejection, shame or annihilation it keeps you from intimacy with yourself and others; love is intimacy’s friend because love disperses fear from the heart and sets the heart free.
Perhaps this personal freedom could be the valve that contributes to releasing the pressure from the lock-down pressure cooker. After all when we feel more whole in ourselves we have a greater capacity to weather the interpersonal storms and still love others and know that we are loved and therefore of value.
I wish you well in all your interpersonal relationships.