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Letter to Andy (summary of learnings and ask)

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Hey there-

I know i’ve been flooding you with texts as i process so I wanted to create a bit of a summary along with an ask for therapy.  I’m gonna skip the “what happened and how i reacted” bit because I think you’ve probably got a pretty solid understanding of that. i’ll try to do it in ADHD-friendly format so its nota  bunch of block paragraphs that are impossible to concentrate on because I’m nice like that.

MY LEARNINGS

DISORGANIZED (FEARFUL-AVOIDANT) ATTACHMENT STYLE.

I’ve done a deep dive into Attachment Styles and identified myself as a Fearful Avoidant type (aka Disorganized Attachment).  I have no idea if you’re up on that stuff so for the sake of super clarity: 

Disorganized Attachment comes from childhood when a child is looking for support and attachment from a parent or caregiver, but also the caregiver is dangerous and/or the reason for the need for support and attachment, making the child have to go it on their own without the tools or base level of support.

 This leads to a situation where Attaching/connecting with others feels dangerous, but also avoiding attachment leads to anxiety and loneliness and desperation for connection.

For this reason, I will vascillate between the two, never letting people get too close but also wanting to feel strong attachment to me in a way I can control/feel safe about.  I’ll link a few more in-depth descriptions below.  Interestingly, disorganized attachment/fearful-avoidant people tend to have a larger amount of sexual partners.

General Info: https://jessicalangtherapy.com/blog/disorganized-attachment/

General info : https://thrivefamilyservices.com/a-deep-dive-into-disorganized-attachment/

General Info (and a great site): https://www.attachmentproject.com/blog/disorganized-attachment/

This resonated with me as similar to my experience in relationships (sometimes) – https://www.margeauxfeldman.com/being-in-the-mess/learning-to-trust-in-the-uncertainty-healing-my-disorganized-attachment

EXPECTATIONS OF ABANDONMENT.

Another fundamental belief of FA people that resonates  with me is a feeling of being fundamentally unworthy of love, and that people close to me will eventually abandon me and I should expect that will happen (that’s the avoidant side) along with a spectacular fear of abandonment (that’s the anxious side). I have historically probably sabotaged relationships in order to prove this true.  One of the ways this happens is through co-dependent behavior, which I now recognize a lot in my relationships including my relationship with Kate. I rely on her for a lot and probably more than is healthy in maintaining a solid interdependence .

This seems relevant to the abandonment stuff – https://myattached.com/2021/09/27/boundaries-self-advocacy-for-the-disorganized-or-fearful-avoidant-attachment-style/

UNDERSTANDING OF MY SPIRALING AND DYSREGULATION.

It totally makes sense to me, then, that Kate going on a date and having sex with someone would set me off into a spiral of emotional reactivity.

I felt abandoned and that a significant person in my life had proven me right. I felt unloveable and desperate for attachment, as well as wanting to push her away for having ‘hurt me’. 

This, I think explains why after she picked me up and said she was nervous about telling me, I told her to tell me everything and then spent a lot of energy soothing her and reassuring her that it was all okay and that I wasn’t upset.   I was upset but I was also trying to “earn back her love”.  I was also very fearful of sharing my upset and needs at that moment causing more distance and also ruining her time by leading her down a path of “Look what happened, I did a thing outside my comfort zone and now I’ve hurt Jeremy and ruined everything”.  I get that others feelings are not my responsibility. I think in this case it may have been slightly justified to be gentle about it.

I feel a lot of embarrassment and shame around my reactivity (even though I know it’s as a result of my programming and not my fault) just due to the vast chasm between my understanding of the reality of the situation and where my brain has been at. 

Kate has expressed that she’s trying not to think about it in terms of blaming herself for my trauma trigger, and I have assured her as best I can that basically “yes I was set off as a result of my attachment trauma being poked, but that doesn’t mean I am legitimately upset or bear any grievance for you going out on dates and having sex with someone” and like… trying to separate those things out for both of us.

LACK OF SOOTHING TOOLS

I don’t feel like I have any effective tools for self-soothing when emotionally activated.  In my life I seem to always have either asked for or manipulated others into providing me the soothing I needed (which is a short-term band-aid and not an actual fix).  I’ve been trying to do that a little with Kate this week which is definitely unfair to her since she has a lot of her own processing going on.  I was able to communicate where I’m at and make a reasonable ask, and she shared some of her fear as well (she’s scared that i’m looking for a nurturing parental figure which she can’t be for me, which is fair).

I was talking with Sue (my bff since high school and a friend who i’ve been closest to the longest) and she made the point that my manipulating people into soothing me would have been a necessary survival skill in my household growing up. If I was wounded by my dad, I would have had to manipulate my mom into redirecting the energy she was spending soothing and stroking his ego and direct it to me for a little bit.

But also, to quote her: “And it seems like having to put a ton of energy into developing that skill doesn’t leave a whole lot of capacity for developing other tools. But also your dad went out of his way to smack at any attempt you made to build healthy coping mechanisms, emotional support networks, or like joy. So yeah, hard to build a toolbox if someone is yanking out the tools and demanding that you return to manipulating them the way they’ve taught you to to get their attention and soothing (and to stroke their ridiculous ego needs) And hard to build a toolkit if getting what you need from your other parent is contingent on manipulating them to pull their attention from attending to the ego needs of the first.”

INNER CHILD WORK

One of the things in the ‘healing fearful avoidant attachment’ literature focuses on re-parenting and listening to the inner child and offering it what it asks for.   I tried a meditation about this (https://insighttimer.com/saqibrizvi/guided-meditations/abandonment-healing ) and i broke down crying. As I said, i really shouldn’t have been doing it out in public. But I guess thats good knowledge for me. 

I’ve also found a methodology that is called Ideal Parent Figure Protocol started by Dr Daniel P Brown (who i THINK Is also part of attachmentproject.com?) where this is externalized and the process is more like “imagine yourself as a child, and now imagine yourself in a situation where you needed support. Now picture an ideal parental figure or figures giving you excited love and unconditional support and seeing you” etc.  There’s a video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2au4jtL0O4 which was also really emotional for me.  

It’s also demonstrated effectiveness in treating cPTSD which I definitely think is part of my experience.

A QUICK ASIDE: KATE’S ATTACHMENT STYLE

Kate has identified as an avoidant-attachment person which means that growing up she learned that she couldn’t trust her parents and caregivers for support so built walls and became self-reliant, and keeps people out.  She has a need for space in order to feel safe, but also has a deep need for connection which may be either suppressed or frustrated, and will shrink away from strong (anxious) attempts at connection, creating a pursue/retreat cycle which is toxic to relationships (this is what I feel about our sex life). 

After doing a lot of reading, however, I have a gut feeling that she may actually also be Fearful Avoidant? She has general anxiety disorder and a lot of worry and interpersonal strife and stuff.  Fearful Avoidant people can lean more toward the fearful or more toward the avoidant type. It would be really interesting if we were the same type and could be really helpful in untangling conflict and areas of disconnect.  I found a video on “how two fearful-avoidant people can thrive in a relationsip together” which seemed really relevent to both of us https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLe7zQDv95M …

MY ASK FOR A PIVOT (KIND OF)

In a way I’m glad this all has happened (even though I still feel slightly dysregulated and i realize that hyperfocusing on it is not actually helping, which is why I’m trying to summarize and go do something else for a little bit) because it has yanked my attention toward something that clearly needs to be a priority for me.

  • I don’t want to remain in a place where stuff that is a thing that is maybe mentally uncomfortable but within my hypothetical tolerance threshold send me off the deep end.
  • I want to develop internal tools for processing and getting perspective and soothing rather than NEEDING to rely on external sources for soothing rather than support. I get that it is part of my programming and not my fault and that people can be happy to provide that (especially other anxious attachment folks) but i don’t want it to be my only option.
  • I want to do the reparenting work (even though it feels scary as hell) and learn how to give myself what I need.
  • I want to move from co-dependent behavior in relationships to co-regulating behavior https://www.instagram.com/p/Cck0WUgLO-V/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

So, slightly off topic but I think i’ve actually been doing a lot better in terms of setting boundaries for myself and asking for things from people (several people have commented on noticing a change).  Still suck at sharing my feelings (or even knowing what they are), but progress is progress.

Anyway I really appreciate your availability as i text flood at you, and I’m grateful for the hard work we have been doing. I think I’ve made more strides with you this year than I have with my last 4 or 5 therapists.

-Jeremy

-- 
Jeremy Meyers
Small Businesses Website Refreshes and Redesigns (portfolio.jeremymeyers.com)
Lead Producer, Deeper Context (www.deepercontext.com | @deepercontext)
Twitter @JeremyMeyers | Blog (www.jeremymeyers.com) | chat clients & Skype: JeremyMeyersFTW
Phone: 646-594-6515


So, what's your story?

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July 21st, 2022 at 4:05 pm

Texts to Therapist re: Kate Dating Reactivity

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as a followup to my email, diving into Polysecure the book and some youtubes and i think it’s basically exposing the raw nerve of insecure anxious attachment system of mine as the (not entirely accurate) sense of security that came from being Kate’s only sexual connection becomes less true… which will need some processing hel

thanks. I’m doing attachment trauma reading and trying really hard not to burden Kate with helping me process stuff that’s coming up around everything because that feels unfair to her even if she’s generally willing to do it to be supportive. it’s hard to find a balance when i already feel like any asking for help or boundaries from anyone is an imposition, but also in trying to change that have a fear about setting myself up for isolation. (not asking you for a response rn, just infodumping).

I guess i just didn’t expect this level of dysregulation over something that would be pretty rote on my side in terms of what happened and how it does or does not affect my relationship with Kate generally.

is me – https://www.attachmentproject.com/anxious-attachment-relationships/ is Kate – https://www.attachmentproject.com/avoidant-attachment-relationships/

if as someone with an anxious attachment i sometimes use sex as a means to feeling validated and loved and secure and my partner as an anxious avoidant attachment feels uncomfortable any overwhelmed with bids for connection that require vulnerability and focus in the moment, then that is probably a pretty mutually unsatisfying dynamic

(for the record, the avoidant thing for her is a thing she’s identified herself and told me, it’s not me diagnosing)

theres a lot of memes and articles about like “anxious attachment and avoidant attachment are a bad relationship combo because their needs and comfort are diametrically opposed”. and surprise surprise my anxious attachment sees that an thinks “oh no, we’re going to have to break up because we will never be able to meet each other’s attachment needs in a satisfying way”.

or “I’m never going to be able to have the kind of fun satisfying sex life that i want with my person because i think of it as a means to connect and explore and be close and she thinks of sex as a way to gain status and maximize distance and separation and really prefers emotion-free sex”

but of course that explains why for her it was fine and no big deal and less complicated and for me it felt painful and disconnecting. because for her that was getting her need for sex at a safe feeling level of connection and for me it felt like she was out doing a connection-building thing with someone that she’d just met when it can be like pulling teeth for anything like that to happen between us more than once every few months or whatever

and why it felt viscerally dangerous to me (the implication that she’s backing away from me and towards not-me super casually and without care for me which of course both as her partner who knows her well and as a person with a decade of experience building connections with other people i know is not accurate, but i guess that’s why it’s called a trauma trigger and not a considerated response

really the Internet seems super anti avoidant attachment pairings, especially pairings with anxious attachment people. but also probably people in okay relationships or also avoidant people in general are not the ones writing or seeking attachment based relationship advice on reddit or whatever

sure. the posts i see from avoidants are more along the “i hate that I’m disappointing my partner over and over i just feel really suffocated, what do”. i imagine there aren’t really very many self aware avoidants who are super happy with where they are

boy people aren’t kidding when we talk about poly surfacing old wounds

but maybe not entirely anxious avoidant but more that this situation triggers the anxious side of disorganized attachment? because i think i can minimize bonds while wanting them, too

also

i guess the label doesn’t really matter

my experience when hearing about the sex she had was simultaneously betrayal and rupture and also need for reconnection and giving soothing, plus embarrassment at my reactivity. i spent a lot of time reassuring her that while i was feeling overwhelmed and reactive, i wasn’t upset at the fact of it and she hadn’t done anything “wrong”. which to which she basically said “yes, i didn’t do anything wrong, and i told you immediately”

maybe we could try EMDR? am i making it up that that’s a thing you mentioned at the beginning?

(TUESDAY 7/19)

this all happened Saturday night and now it’s Tuesday night and I’m still feeling dysregulated and I’m so tired.

#goals https://risingwoman.com/healing-anxious-attachment-abandonment-wound/

is it ok to keep texting or would you prefer i compile into an email?

note to self: don’t do childhood abandonement healing meditations while out for a stroll if you are not prepared to be a crying mess on the sidewalk half way through

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July 20th, 2022 at 12:31 pm

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Bdsm thoughts

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I’m kind of in a weird spot with bottoming because I have a good sense in general that I enjoy ceding control of my autonomy to others sometimes and also sensation stuff but 1)not really well versed in the kinds of physical things I either enjoy or don’t enjoy in person and 2) still trying to figure out my vibe as a sub/bottom.most of my experience on that side of the slash has been virtually. Also one of my growth edges is being center of attention and also it’s a thing that feels good to me so… I really liked the cage because focused attention, that was the good feeling/discomfort for me. And why I tend to like nurturing/gentle topping rather than strictly disciplinarian. Just a fine line. Dunno really

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July 2nd, 2018 at 1:34 pm

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NetFlix Wish List

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TV:
mash
sctv
farscape season 3+
alias
the unit
battlestar galactica
dead like me
homicide season 5-8
beavis and butthead
threes company
animaniacs
pinky and the brain
quantum leap

MOVIES:
father dear father
man about the house

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March 11th, 2016 at 11:31 pm

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Difficulty Tracking

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Freedom agency

 

External expectation

  • Smart
  • Society
  • Parenting

 

Internal expectation

  • “Good fit”
  • Qualification

 

Identity

  • Stuck
  • Momentum
  • Squeezed

 

Fear

  • Consequences of action
  • Consequences of inaction
  • Rejection
  • Invalidation
  • Replication of toxic interaction
  • Learned helplessness

 

Shame

  • “Deserving”
  • Self fulfilling
  • Metashame

 

Permission

 

Solutions

 

Action

  • Identification and logging of “no”spaces
  • Reinforcing virtuous cycles
  • Habits, structure and accountability
  • Proceduralize Gray areas

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December 10th, 2015 at 11:14 am

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Road Trip Epiphanies

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Me

– I can unstick myself from a lot, but (trigger word) after a certain level of unstuck i think myself out of it

– Vulnerability is uncomfortable.  If I’m comfortable, i’m not being vulnerable.  Being open with information and feelings is not the same as being vulnerable.  Most fear is the fear of being vulnerable.

– I feel pressure to become Important or do to One Big Thing Well.  I may be happier doing some things that i enjoy throughout the week and not worrying so much about Using My Smarts To Change The World Or Make A Million Bucks.  My resistance to this is my brains telling me that its just an excuse to not live up to my potential and be lazy.

 

Couple

– I will take responsibility for my fair share of sexual communication challenges, but i will not take responsibility for more than that, because it doesn’t help either of us continue to unstick. This is not putting myself “above the problem”, this is acknowledging that we both have individual stuff to work on and allowing that to happen rather than trying to fix it.

– Kate is sometimes scared of “letting me go” and abandonment stuff. I’m not sure how best to (or whether i should) reassure her that she is home for me.  I know this is something that just comes up sometimes (for me too)

– I do have to be sympathetic. I do not have to be accommodating, when it becomes the same as pushing the responsibility for situation on to my partner

-a major source of sex life stress is not communicating our needs to each other before or in the moment, so we end up guessing or waiting to get something wrong so it all goes off the rails

– How can we work with each of our very different decision making processes together in order to make collaborative decisions less stressful.can we untangle their mutual dependencies

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May 16th, 2014 at 10:06 am

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If i had no fear, i would figure out a way to launch a project that involved finding collaborators, even if it is something small like a podcast or collaborative blog or something.

The things that are standing in my way are that i don’t feel confident with my equipment because i’m not sure how to get the most out of my zoom recorder and how to get the laalier working, and also that i’m not sure who i’d want to collaborate with, whether i know them or not, because i don’t have that mny friend s in atlanta, and even when i do have friends i’m not sure that they will want dto do stuff with me

there is a story in my head that i’m not really that good at any thing, not enough to be ‘the guy’ for it. not good enough at writing to be an author, not good enough at podacsting to do that, not good enough at being on-camer or off-camera, not good enough at digital strategy, not good enough at any one thing, because my interests are so wide, rather than deep. but maybe that is something that’s holding me back and that i should figure out how to let go of. it does eem to hold m back from collaborating, which does keep coming up as something that i miss doing.

I do my best work when i’m collaborating, which is increasingly rare for me.. my freelance gig has quite isolating int hat people expect e to just come up with these posts in a vacuum, even though i’m supposedly speaking for the company. I suppose it does make it easier to not say much in them, which is fine i suppose, but that’s another thing that takes up my time that is not a creative outlet, which i miss.

I have a bunch of half-written blog posts but I guess i don’t feel passionately about them or i would have finished them by now. In thinking about lifestyle upgrades, i think figuring out a thing to partner with someone on should be much higher on the list than it is.

I guess the thing to do is to learn how to acknowledge the voice telling me that i’m not that good at things and go and do them anyway. Of purse that’s easier said, though that might also be the same voice.

how does one find people to click with creatively? or does the idea come first? and how to push forward. maybe doing some more writing about it would be useful. Maybe doing something would be useful
maybe getting equipment i’m more confident in would be good
which thing that scares me should i do first?

lifestyle upgrades

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August 4th, 2013 at 10:13 pm

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train notes

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emotional disengagement leftover teen rebellion from being called sensitive so mch growing up

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July 13th, 2013 at 5:50 pm

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A change of scenery

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Moving to atlanta has made me see how much of a rut i was stuck in in NYC.  Hope it doesn’t continue here.

 

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July 13th, 2013 at 5:50 pm

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Things i could change

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i could be more motivated to do things for myself

i could make new in -person friends more easily

new things didn’t seem like such a big commitemnt

i could try things

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July 13th, 2013 at 5:50 pm

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