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Intrapersonal Investigations

Explorations into how we interpret actions, communicate intentions and can relate to the world in a healthy, uplifting manner.

Author

Amie

Read intentions post for a more dysfunctional description of me. Highly educated for someone with no degree. Highly competent for someone who can't really hold down a traditional job. I consider myself educated in a field that does not have jobs that pay well unless you are participating in a highly unequal distribution of services. The people who need the information I feel I have at my disposal are usually the same people who can't afford to pay for motivational therapy or any other kind of therapy... no matter how necessary. And thus I blog.

If you know what I mean, wait. Assumptions destroy communication so let’s just establish you DO know what I mean…

If-you-know-what-i-mean

I have been coming around to the idea that assumptions are the root of all miscommunication. This is one of those ‘you don’t understand it until it starts working’ piece of advices. The idea that assumptions are what is behind all miscommunication and unfortunate interactions felt weird to me as a more mentally ill person than I am now…  in my old way of thinking, OBVIOUSLY interactions went south because there was a jerk. And sometimes that jerk was me but the main thing making it happen was the jerk.

Since learning about the inherent assumptiveness that was affecting my interactions I have begun to see assumptions everywhere… instead of jerks. What if…. there is no jerk and there’s just a wide variety of people finding their needs in conflict and assuming they know what’s going on when they don’t…?

To some degree, I believe that humans need assumptions to organize themselves. We assume we understand certain subjects and this helps us develop our sense of ourselves. We assume we know what people mean and often we are correct. This article references the necessity of assumptions.

“No one is capable of avoiding assumptions, in their research or their daily lives.  Assumptions are not just statements that one makes in order to make the building of theoretical models easier.  They are simplifications that make life possible.

[P]eople often literally bet their lives that [human behavior is predictable] by driving a car at seventy miles an hour down a highway while separated from cars traveling at the same speed in the opposite direction only by a painted yellow line. And in buying the car they drive they will have bet a lot of money that wherever they go there will be people willing to supply them with oil and gasoline to keep it running and fix it when it breaks down. Human behavior is, in fact, very predictable, and if it were not, social organization would be impossible.”

And most of my educational background in sociology is built around shared assumptions and through shared assumption, shared meanings. The idea that when we interact with a symbol such as ‘coffee with a friend’ we could be viewing it very differently than the friend who suggested coffee. Maybe we think it is a date and they do not. Maybe they think it is a date and we do not. Maybe we don’t drink coffee and view it as a tea meeting. Maybe it’s about networking and not about coffee/tea at all. Maybe it’s a time for a friend to tell us all they’re doing in life and seek affirmation.

Maybe it’s multiple things at once and even if they are somewhat contradictory, perhaps it is a date until it seems like it’s not a date and then it’s a networking thing. The point is that other people live in their own reality and their truths and understanding of meanings is not necessarily what my reality and my truths and understandings. And that’s ok.

The point is communicating them. Because communicating around them without unearthing the needs behind the communication can create problems. People may not perceive the reason for your behaviour the way you want them to if you are not honest with yourself first, and then with others about your needs and desires.

A friend who is less a friend now than someone I know asked me about providing a service I am often paid to do and how much I would charge for it. At this point, I can understand that they needed the service very badly but could not pay for it. They needed an expression of love in the form of free services. But I had been managing to survive based on the bookings of those services for a while and was delighted to think I would be able to continue to survive based on booking more services.

They didn’t tell me this. They just asked how much I cost. I don’t know that they had this secret need. Except through some very back handed iterations of why they had been unable to book services when I was upset that they hadn’t. If I had known their situation prior I wouldn’t have asked about pay but they had never communicated this to me until I was already upset based on a misunderstanding.

I told them the cost and they never arranged a time. I felt used and I didn’t know why. I was angry and felt like my chain had been yanked for some reason and I couldn’t understand why until after I had a complete meltdown about it.

I eventually sent them a fairly nasty and unwarranted message that they had no duty to respond well to.

I apologized for the message. They also apologized for something unspecific and seem to want to be my friend again. But I’m apprehensive of becoming close with people more these days than ever before.

The behaviour they have displayed during reconciliation seemed pointedly placed to drive home how much I had hurt her. I couldn’t understand why this was so upsetting when I apologized for my initial message and taken steps to make sure I won’t do that to them or anyone else again. If they were as forgiving as they say they are they wouldn’t have needed to twist the knife I put in myself as badly. I had a lot of room for them to be mad at me but not to be mad and still be wanting to be around me.

It’s resolved a couple of things regarding messages from my mother. And I don’t know if leaning into this ‘don’t talk about yourself’ thing is super healthy. But it’s the only way that I’ve got control over how people understand me. I always thought if I explained enough that people would understand me. But there’s no way to explain my life that other people don’t seem to judge. And I don’t think that’s just related to my life. I think people are judgemental because understanding is often based on assumptions, shared meaning and judgements. There’s no way to avoid this.

People will understand what they want to understand. And I can put my energy more towards understanding what the needs in a situation are by asking questions and listening.

I can just use this as my personal example for trying to assess what the needs in a situation are before addressing the situation itself… FOREVERMORE.

Constant Vigilance.

 

 

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The pit bull of mental illnesses; Borderline Personality Disorder.

I have always loved dogs. In particular I always loved my dog; who had enough pit bull in him that neutering him was free for my very poor family… which was good, but this illustrates the fear that the general public has about pit bulls. They are banned in some cities and there’s quite the group with an online presence that I’ll not be linking to that seeks to ban them everywhere.

In many places we can see this online debate going on between people that love pit bulls and people that fear them. Aside from the human/dog breed inconsistency, I believe there’s some similarities between pit bulls and people with BPD mostly in the way we are treated. But there aren’t a lot of people defending BPD… not even those of us who have it. There’s reasons for that, I don’t attribute a lot of good things in my life to BPD… more often than good things I attribute negative things to my BPD and I’m sure I’m not alone. In my first foray into researching BPD I found a forum for people whose lives have been touched by BPD… as it turned out that was a forum for people who had had a parent, partner or child that had BPD diagnosed by a doctor OR in many cases self diagnosed by the victim… and felt they had suffered at the hands of the mental illness. They were releasing blame on the person acting against them (in some ways, horrifically) and placing it in the hands of the mental illness. This group had a rule that people with BPD weren’t to be posting because it was NOT about us anymore. It was about the people we have hurt.

To say that I found this distressing is an understatement. I had a full blown crisis with regard to my ability to identify as a person with BPD. Since I have found some other sources about BPD and what it is and what might cause it. Including “I hate you, Don’t leave me.” This book is recognized widely as the definitive book on BPD.

To make this allegorical list about people with BPD to further my metaphorical understanding of BPD being the pit bull of modern mental illness, I will be sort of organizing my points in a similar way to this great article on pit bulls.

Your BPD might not be BPD. Or it might be several mental illnesses in a trench coat riffling through your brain for loose pocket change in some hidden corner of a dank dark alleyway of your mind. Or it might be that AND BPD. Whatever the case, you and another person with BPD are unlikely to be exactly the same, or if you have the same problems you might address them differently. The diagnosis is a blanket catch all ‘one of these things is not like the others’ bucket where the current mental health practitioners chuck everyone who doesn’t “fit” their preconceived (and educated) notions of what various mental health issues look like. Your BPD is probably going to be pretty unique to you.

The only thing that people with BPD really share is that we’re inconsistent consistently. This doesn’t make for a good diagnostic standard and for someone to treat us a certain way “because they knew someone with BPD once” is a symptom of their trauma and probably doesn’t reflect nearly as much on you as it does on them and their inability to see you.

People with BPD are PREVALENT. Enough that you have a 20% chance of running into one as a health care practitioner providing mental health care. This is 1 in 5 (if my terrible terrible math can be trusted, which it can’t). Despite the fact that you are likely to run into someone with BPD… the image one conjures when they think of someone with BPD is HIGHLY STIGMATIZING.

From I hate you, Don’t leave me: “Approximately 10 percent of psychiatric outpatients and 20 percent of inpatients, and between 15 and 25 percent of all patients seeking psychiatric care, are diagnosed with the disorder. It is one of the most common of all of the personality disorders. Yet, despite its prevalence, BPD remains relatively unknown to the general public. Ask the man on the street about anxiety, depres­sion, or alcoholism, and he would probably be able to provide a sketchy, if not technically accurate, description of the illness. Ask him to define Borderline Personality Disorder, and he would prob­ably give you a blank stare. Ask an experienced mental health clini­cian about the disorder, on the other hand, and you will get a much different response. She will sigh deeply and exclaim that of all the psychiatric patients, borderlines are the most difficult, the most dreaded, and the most to be avoided—more than schizophrenics, more than alcoholics, more than any other patient. For more than a decade, BPD has been lurking as a kind of “Third World” of mental illness—indistinct, massive, and vaguely threatening.”

And this quote from IHYDLM, which to me illustrates that BPD behaviours are HUMAN BEHAVIOURS, we just present them more often and in a more extreme way: “The chances are good that you have a spouse, relative, close friend, or coworker who is borderline. Perhaps you know a little bit about BPD or recognize borderline characteristics within yourself.”

If we all have BPD behaviours, and we all work to control them… it makes sense that neurotypical people would judge a person with BPD for failing to restrain themselves or whatever they do to avoid doing the things we do.

It makes sense that neurotypical doctors, psychiatrists and mental health care professionals would be HIGHLY INVESTED in getting the patient with BPD to be ‘accountable’ for their behaviour as if this was going to be remotely helpful. I’ve heard horror stories from others about groups therapy sessions for BPD where everyone is broken down and believes they are fundamentally broken and cannot engage because of their BPD. I am extremely resistant to the personal accountability urges that doctors try to give me because I’m a person that came to rhetorical awareness at the age of five arguing with my dad about how no one expects to be punched in the face if they walk around a corner and that’s why if you walk around the corner and someone punches you in the face it is NOT your own fault for walking around the corner.

I wasn’t that articulate. But that was my point more or less. And I argue that I have an inflated sense of accountability. I ARGUE ALL PEOPLE WITH BPD DO. I believe that people with BPD feel HIGHLY accountable for the world around us. Too much so in fact. This brings me to my next point.

People with BPD are highly empathic and intuitive. Our mental illness can be a chariot of destruction in our lives or a chariot of immense power and calling: It just depends on where we are in relation to our control. Are we under our own hooves are are we on top of our chariot?

I really liked reading this from the Medium. It discusses the ‘gifts’ BPD could be bringing to our table and alludes to the idea that people with BPD can harness our power in a positive way. I’m highly attached to this idea that many of my best qualities are irrevocably linked with my mental illness. That I have the power to become aware of, attuned to, and in control of my poorer-worse qualities and find the hidden good inside them and harness them for good has been one of my lingering hopes that has kept me going through hard times.

****We’re about to get really colloquial in my evidence here. This is my understanding from my research and my understanding of being a person who is able and willing to talk about BPD to others. Many people have brought up the subject of BPD to me and very rarely do they ever want me to talk about it. I’ve decided my best practices is to listen to what they think/worry BPD is and only after they’re done offer information. Seriously. I just need to let people talk. I never let people talk. Why do I never let people talk? … Oh wait. Perhaps my BPD has something to do with that… Shit.****

I believe that there are some common things that I have witnessed in the various people (many!) who have mentioned BPD to me independently of me mentioning it to them. I believe this of family members I’ve shamefully self diagnosed as having BPD. And I believe this of people in general.

  • People with BPD want to be forces of good in the world.
  • People with BPD have the skills to be forces of good in the world.
  • People with BPD tend to be intuitive and perceptive humans that can see the threads of different nexuses of social dynamics.
  • People with BPD often have an understanding of power. They see power structures in a way that other people do not.
  • This can lead to what many describe as persecution complexes. When we see ourselves at the mercy of power structures we are more likely to attempt to bring them down.
  • People with BPD are likely to try to attack power structures outright OR attempt to act within power structures to bring them down from the inside. This kind of does make us dangerous.
  • Because of our perceptual shifts, when we are not in control of how we are perceiving reality we run the risk of ‘discovering’ that something we must take action against is happening and act before we have all the facts.
  • People with BPD are impulsive. This makes us whimsical and magical to be around on good days and shifty motherfuckers on the bad ones.
  • People with BPD bleed their emotions into the world around them. When they are in a good mood this is not a bad thing and they can change the flavor of a room when they enter.
  • People with BPD are often helpful, to the point of self-detriment. When they are not regardless of their good reasons to not be helping they still feel beholden to be helping and can suffer immensely for being asked to help when they are not able to. They don’t have boundaries in order to prevent these feelings.
    • This is hard to address because it’s boundaries that people with BPD need to address this issue and boundaries aren’t really intuitive for people who have suffered adverse childhood experiences as people with BPD often report.
    • In the same way that Alzheimer’s disease strips the myelin sheaths in our brains, I believe that people with BPD have had the boundaries stripped from them through external circumstances. Maybe you were raised without them. Maybe your parents didn’t know. Maybe school was horrific.
    • I hate you don’t leave me, describes people with BPD as emotional third degree burn victims. We have no skin, simple things that wouldn’t usually be harmful can be devastating to them and this is what I mean about the not being able to help thing being an unknowable torment.
    • This can also be anything. We are walking around as (Again by I hate you don’t leave me) emotional hemophiliacs. We cannot stop the wound when we are hurting.
  • People with BPD have a highly developed sense of personal accountability. This doesn’t mean that we are placing accountability in the right places… it just means we have a super well developed sense of personal accountability. In the times I have been outraged I have often believed that my outrage was enough to change the world. When I have wronged people, I have often believed that I was the worst person, wronger of humans and wrongest of the wrong. That my actions are inexcusable and detriment the fabric of reality. When I have seen others acting in a very ‘BPD way’ I have seen them believing that their ‘stab at thee from the depths of the internets’ posts were going to really change minds and win opinions online.
    • For this reason, excessive attempts on behalf of the psychiatrists and doctors to get me to acknowledge the harms I have done to my own life through the lens of my BPD have been REALLY REALLY HARMFUL. If you’re trying to get someone to put accountability in the RIGHT place when they have ALWAYS put accountability (and a lot of it too) in the wrong places without addressing that they are putting accountability in the wrong place… I think you’re harming someone.

How do we stand up and advocate for ourselves the way we as humans CAN, the way that pit bulls cannot. We don’t need advocates to stand for us. We can stand up for ourselves and say “I have BPD. And I can harness my energy towards the Light.”

Building lasting foundations in a polyamorous lifestyle.

Lasting foundations.

We put out a request for topics from the group and I was so excited to see a question about how to build lasting foundations in poly. I think it’s a synthesis topic that involves both some theory on relating and some practical tools, it is also a wide subject that we can’t cover all of in one single meeting but if we discuss it today we can go deeper next time. More than this, I’m just barely touching on some subjects that I feel could have a whole discussion on their own.

I’m Amie. I am not an expert in lasting foundations and feel like a sham for even talking about it because I’m pretty sure I am an expert in short lived connections. I have borderline personality disorder as a result of complex trauma from multiple situations and I have had to learn a number of things very intentionally.

Building lasting foundations for a polyamorous lifestyle: it’s just the same as for monogamy but with more steps; more complex but essentially the same. Skills that work to build lasting polyamorous foundations would help people build lasting monogamous foundations. In the end, building lasting foundations is something that all people can do with each other. You don’t need to be in a relationship with someone to do it. But we are going to talk about it with regard to polyamorous relationships … but really most poly information to me… is interpersonal information that you can use anywhere.

For this not to go down the rabbit hole of personal foundations, I had to cut a lot of what I’d say about personal foundations OUT. If there’s interest we can go down that rabbit hole later and gleefully so. Or if you want to have a discussion with me about it we can do that.

Suffice to say your personal foundation is everything you are, everything about how you move through the world: your privileges, capabilities, power, disadvantages, resources; both internal and external, and everything that happens to you is going to affect it. Your personal foundation is the place from which you perceive the world and build all connections… to people as friends or lovers, to places like school or work, to hobbies, to anything. And understanding what your personal foundation looks like is going to MONUMENTALLY help with building onto it in a lasting and sustainable way and the sad thing is that because finding out what your personal foundations are IS SO SUBJECTIVE …. all the advice that is so abundant in our world about ‘finding yourself’ might never help you because those other people figured something out for themselves and you aren’t necessarily them. And so we have a lot of advice like “You can’t love someone until you love yourself.” And that quoteable STILL offends me even after I did some work on it to understand it for myself… So I will show you my work on this quoteable to give you an idea of the process these little formulas can incite:

“You cannot love someone until you love yourself”

What is love to another person? When I don’t love myself, how am I using other people to distract, run away from, or obscure the fact that I don’t love myself? If I don’t love myself, how respectful does it feel to expect someone else to love me?

Do I expect that my partner also doesn’t love themselves? (Probably not) Do I expect that they will come to me for love and I shall give them love and when I need love I will get my love from them?

If I love myself does that mean I don’t need another person to love me and thus I will be less likely to find one because the need behind me looking for another person to love me is less? What’s stopping me from loving myself?

Is it good for me to address the reasons I have for not loving myself? What’s stopping me from addressing those reasons?

If I end up saving myself from those reasons… does this mean I should never have been having problems in the first place and it was all my fault? (NO. You are a new person with new information and new approaches if you are addressing your reasons for not loving yourself and so being able to solve your problems eventually doesn’t EVER mean you never had to go through them).

What pressure does it put on my partner to have me not loving myself? Is it fair to them to expect them to love me for me AND them?

These are the things I had to ask myself before this quoteable made any kind of sense. You might ask yourself different things. If you don’t feel like you love yourself I argue that you are listening to the voices in your head that have protected you by whispering your fears into your ears and it is HARD to address that voice. Lisa Roth does it beautifully here.

Now I’m going to talk way more than I want to about trauma and abuse in a discussion that’s not about trauma and abuse. But these things affect almost all of us and I believe that we need to be aware of trauma issues. I came to understanding my personal foundations through understanding my trauma and this is just an extension of what I want to say on personal foundations. But more than that… even if you don’t believe trauma has affected your life. You’re likely to run into people for whom trauma HAS affected their lives.

If you have trauma issues they will arise in various ways and be found in your personal foundations. If you have triggers because of various trauma issues they will be found in your personal foundation. Please come to the talk on abuse and trauma to learn more about how triggers can affect your life. The only thing I want to make clear here is that there’s a difference between things that trigger you to unreasonable behaviour and trauma based triggers. They often look the same, but they are not. Someone can trigger you to start applying your personal understandings of what you think a situation is without properly ascertaining that the situation you’re in warrants that. Now. Some people might take issue to the term ‘unreasonable behaviour’, but I’m attached to the description. Triggered reactions in my experience as a person who has triggered reactions still, to this day… I have rarely been reasonable when in the midst of being triggered… and never before I knew what triggers were, that I could have them and what a triggered reaction even was in me. I found the modern discourse on what triggers are to be extremely unhelpful. I am not triggered by most things people think are triggering, such that I’ve been very surprised each time I realized I was triggered. I only started being aware of what my triggers were two years ago and I’ve been having triggered responses and understood that I probably have some trauma issues for almost a decade.

Friends of mine use ‘trigger’ in their discussions to allude to anything that evokes an unpleasant emotional reaction. And I think it is important to mention that just because you are triggered doesn’t mean that you are traumatized, but people with trauma issues have triggers and they don’t always know what they are. So the process of knowing what to do when you are triggered is REALLY IMPORTANT. It is essentially the same for traumatized people as for neurotypicals: take a step back, see what about the situation is bothering you…. and address it… this could be a ten year process…. each. TIME. So for people with trauma issues, they may have to spend longer to uncover far more unpleasant feelings and their causes, then address them and then that doesn’t guarantee that you will be done. Because you’re going to be triggered again. Possibly with the same root cause… just in a different way. Only after you have addressed the issue should you even consider whether it’s right for you to reengage the issue.

Question for readers: Do you feel you have triggers and would you feel comfortable sharing them and whether they come from trauma? As an example I’ll give you some of mine: Kids. KIDS ARE SUPER TRIGGERING FOR ME. Being around them, looking at them to see if they have trauma issues, hearing their little voices (but only in groups). Lots of things I don’t find triggering in the general environment will be triggering for me in a school.

Yelling. Most people don’t like being yelled at, but I am triggered to unreasonable behaviour when yelled at. I almost never manage to ask someone why they are yelling at me, ask them to stop and reengage the issue. I almost always either freak out so hard at someone that they truly understand how BAD a form of communication yelling really is. Or they never ever see me again and neither of those things are reasonable.

What are your triggers?

When it comes to abuse in a relationship, my mother had trauma issues on her own that were made much worse by my abusive father, whose abuse was primarily driven by his own inability to deal with his own trauma issues. He NEVER thought he had a choice in how he was treating his family, or he really thought that his available options were screaming highly personalized epithets at his family in hours long meltdowns… or beating his family with two by fours and he was choosing the very best option available to him. And that made him a GREAT guy and a great dad. She was told in the end by a professional that for them to be a couple, she needed therapy to address the hurts and trauma of the relationship… AND to address her personal trauma issues. He needed therapy in order to assess why he was behaving abusively and stop. Then they both needed therapy together to even see if they should be a couple. They divorced promptly and he was very surprised. What my father subjected my family to was a long list of behaviours that I had to learn consciously as an adult that not only were they not ok… but that his abuse wasn’t what LOVE was.

Abuse cuts your ability to know what your personal foundations are on their own because an abusive environment warps reality. Healthy coping skills will not work in an abusive environment because the abuser will not let them and so the coping skills a victim learns are either flawed, damaging to themselves or both. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible as a victim of abuse to heal and victims of abuse are not broken. Humans seldom break in a way that is not mendable. We just need to relearn ourselves and how to move in the world in a healthy way intentionally because we were TRAINED not to be healthy for the benefit of someone else.

If you have spent time in an abusive environment; be that work, school, growing up or in a relationship: you MIGHT have some problems addressing what your personal foundations are. If you don’t understand now, it’s hard for me to describe what your brain needs to do because the worst part about healing from abuse is that nothing makes sense until it starts working… and once the things you’re doing start working it is hard to look back and wonder how you didn’t come to the conclusion your newly rewired brain is making now… all along. But you REWIRED YOUR BRAIN. You could not come to these new conclusions before and holding your past self to your new self’s standard is a recipe for feeling bad.

For the purposes of this discussion, I am assuming that if you’re looking to build lasting foundations with other people that you have might have some work to understand what some of your trauma issues are and perhaps a process for what to do with unaddressed trauma issues. Once you deal with one trauma issue, dealing with the rest become both easier and harder. You can’t always deal with every trauma issue in the same way, but the processes come to be familiar.

This process can look like: being present with your emotions and feeling them rather than being either driven by them or driven to avoid them, or being aware of what your own motivations are… What do you GET out of an interaction? And why do you want to get that feeling/thing/experience. Do you know why the things that make you feel good make you feel good? Do you have judgements about how you are feeling? Can you separate yourself from them? If you can do this about things you like… you can do it about things you don’t like. Why didn’t you like something. What were you feeling? Some people need a chart for how they are feeling in their body and have to really sit with themselves. There are people who can’t tell you how they are feeling at any moment in time because they are so consciously living outside their body at any given moment because their feelings are so bad they cannot deal with them. If you don’t know how you’re feeling reading this… try this.

Last bit on trauma I want to impart is disassociation; which is a huge un-weildy confusing thing for people with trauma 22221577_2007940516155250_6538066841502962714_nissues. I learned about it in a sociology class about what kinds of problems people can have when they have been traumatized. Disassociation will make someone not pay attention to you. You can actually have conversations with people who are disassociating and they won’t remember it, or they won’t remember the details because they weren’t with you. Coming to understand whether or not YOU are disassociating is hard because you aren’t in your body.

Disassociation is the most dangerous response to a trigger. It is the “freeze” response.
There’s fight; which is my ‘make you understand how bad a tactic yelling is by yelling at you myself’ there’s flight; which is my ‘you never gonna see me again.” There’s freeze, which often looks like no response because the disassociating person has left their body because that’s how they’ve learned ends the yelling fastest… and there is the fawn response: where you attempt to keep everyone happy as a method of safety. Read Pete Walker’s article linked. A traumatized person might do every single one of these things at different times, or they might do all those things at once in different parts of their brain which is AS confusing to witness as it is to live.

I had no notion that my trauma issues were nearly as bad as I thought they were until that age. And slowly I realized that instead of just having had an experience of school so holistically horrible that I was not only scarred for life but would never be able to talk about my bullying with anyone else because when I use the word bullying, 95% of the population brings to mind their experience of bullying and addresses it as such. This doesn’t mean to say I was bullied worse than 95% of the population because I do meet people who were bullied in a way I consider worse than myself. The 5% that is excepted asks me what this experience was like before forming their own preconceived notion of what I went through. They are RARE. TREASURES. Who understand that people’s experiences vary and don’t hold other people to their own standard.

And I knew this one issue was a serious problem for me… But wait. There’s more. Slowly, as I had to address why I thought it was ok to treat my husband the way my father treated his family. And that I maybe just maybe had a rotten childhood. And so in the past eight years or so since I learned that nightmares about your dad aren’t normal parts of the human experience…. I’ve come to realize that there are a LOT more traumatized people running around out there than you’d ever believe… and if you aren’t one of us… you’re still going to have to deal with us. People with trauma issues can be wonderful to have around. We have SUPER POWERS. I can find things like nobody’s business because I grew up with a father that both misplaced things frequently and lost his shit so prolifically when he did so that (for example) he woke me up screaming in the middle of the night to find his shoes he’d thought I misplaced. I was TWELVE. I found his shoes.

So please don’t read this or hear me as saying that if you have trauma issues you cannot have long lasting connections… Don’t let yourself walk away with the idea that people with trauma issues are risky or to be avoided. Let me be clear. You cannot avoid the people who don’t know who they are. You don’t HAVE to be alone to work on your trauma issues and other people can be very helpful… but they have to know what they’re getting into and you have to know what you’re asking of other people.

If you don’t know what you’re asking of other people… the answers you get won’t make sense. “Love me” is nebulous and confusing because what love looks like for different people can be very different.

I’m going to post a request for people to share what their trauma based super powers are on the poly 101 group so I want you to think about what super powers you might have as a result of any traumatic experiences you have and consider sharing them. But I don’t want you to answer now because we’re so close to the second half I can taste it.

So if you think that was long and boring, now we come to definitions, tools and tricks. First: Definitions.

  • Wants versus needs: This is subjective. Only you; not even Maslow, get to determine what it is you want versus what you need. Asking yourself if what you desire is a want or a need allows you to be flexible on how you get your wants fulfilled and helps you be firm on your needs. ALSO. An understanding that other people have wants and needs helps you respect other people’s needs.
  • The help you want to get versus the help someone wants to give you: This is a nebulous concept and all I really want to get across is that the help you’re willing or able to give might be different than the help someone wants. The help someone ASKS for might be different than the help they want. Either because they don’t understand what they want or how to get it or because they just don’t know how to ask. This really is an overarching principal thing and not really as relevant to the rest of this conversation. But it is important to note.
  • Privilege/disadvantage: is a spot in a spectrum that defines external constraints on your access to; or efficacy of, resources… which we will discuss at length.
  • Resources: The things you have access to in your life to make it better. The place from which you stand (your personal foundation) is composed of these building blocks, and they compose a part of our experience that can shared; however, the shape of them can be different for all of us and that affects how we use them. How we use our resources is resource mobilization and that is a skill of it’s own.
    • Inner resources, we carry these with us all the time. Though they can be depleted or made less effective by mental illness and inequity, once you have them they are often with you for life: creativity, intelligence, discipline, courage, knowledge, perspective (which was called attitude but I like perspective more), skills, passion and awareness.
    • External resources, are things we build to or build from. These resources tend to compound. Any one on it’s own isn’t perhaps enough to get by, but the more you gain, the more likely you are to keep gaining them. Sadly this works on the way down too. Once you lose one, you’re more likely to lose others and if you lose them all and end up with only your inner resources you’re going to have a BAD TIME… but you might not have as bad a time as someone who lacks the inner resources that you have. Some examples include: Money and opportunities to make money, with which you can attain Assets; like housing, technology to work with, a vehicle, or a bike. People, through which you can gain opportunities to make money or to help you through hard times.

Resource mobilization: How are you mobilizing your resources? Having all the resources in the world won’t help you if you don’t know how to mobilize them sustainably. And this is important. Sustainable versus unsustainable resource mobilization features in my actual description of what abuse is: short term rewarding, unsustainable behaviour towards another person.

  • Last points on resources. The article I link to about inner and outer resources in my critique of said article is really a love letter to inner resources. As if inner resources are the be all and end all of resources and one SHOULD desire to remove external resources. This is because the external resources are the most linked to privilege and inequity. Inner resources are EASIER to harness and mobilize in a positive way that is celebrated by our society. And I don’t think that judgement of unsustainable resource mobilization is helpful to anyone.

QUESTIONS FOR THE READERS: What are some of your internal or external resources? Have you ever struggled to use a resource sustainably?

  • Final thoughts: Boundaries are how you can prevent someone from using you unsustainably so that you may remain a resource in their life forever and also keep them in yours. The sad part here is that we are pretty aggressively trained to believe that we don’t need boundaries with the people who really love us and that having boundaries is unloving. But knowing what your boundaries are, knowing how to have them with others and knowing how to communicate about them underpins everything I have said and will say.
  • Question for the readers: Do you have any boundaries you feel comfortable sharing with the group?

So how do we communicate these things? Before I give you some techniques, I really want to drive home how hard it can be to communicate with other humans.

When we as humans want to communicate something we start with a concept in our brain that we can only communicate about as well as we understand it ourselves. How well we understand it depends on EVERYTHING that has ever happened to us (our personal foundation) and beyond that, includes our awareness and perceptual abilities AND HOW WE ARE FEELING AT THE TIME (I will be gesturing wildly here). And all this happens before we speak. When we speak we use ALL of our communication abilities. Presence, physicality, tone of voice, words chosen, and empathy. All these things are skills of their own right and require knowledge… either intuitive or actively sought. Our emotions, if we are trying to control or hide them can bleed out if we aren’t good at controlling or hiding them and sometimes when you are good at this… to control or hide an emotion will cut the meaning from what you are trying to say. And you risk failing to communicate what you mean.

So you’ve said a thing. Now it’s up to the person you’re trying to communicate with to understand what you’ve said as you have said it. They use all of their experiences, knowledge, and skills (the same ones you used to say the thing) from their personal foundation to understand what you’ve said and formulate their response. Then through their own communication ability they speak their formulated thoughts back to you.

And this is how we get to be humans that can have COMPLETELY different ideas; feelings about, and understandings of, the SAME THINGS differently.

This is symbolic interaction, humans are GREAT at it and it fosters our sense of belonging. Shared meanings are just another way we bond as humans. How great is it when people just seem to GET what you mean? It’s so great. How great is it when you find out that they fundamentally did NOT get what you  meant? It’s so not great.  This is how you get to be at the end of a six year relationship wondering how you explained to your partner. Your partner was present as you explained to every roommate you guys ever had. Your partner watched you bitch people out for using soap on your cast iron pan… AND STILL. They believed that it was leaving the pan in water that was the problem (which I did all the time and he was very confused by but still  never asked, because I didn’t cultivate a relationship where stupid questions were safe to ask. Which is crappy. And I have learned.) and he had been washing my cast iron pan with soap for six years.

So knowing these things and having these thoughts, I have struggled with how do I EVEN communicate with other people. Should I try?! Should I just be a hermit in the woods? I
would die of exposure so it’s not an option.

So I have these tools for communication and they’re all individual topics of their own.

A personal user’s manual: a concept attributed to Cunning Minx at polyamory weekly everywhere I find it attributed. This is a fun way to figure out what you would communicate to a partner. What sort of things would you only like to explain once to someone? What things would you want to just hand a prospective new partner a booklet to explain about you? Many people just like the idea of a personal user’s manual as a tool for self discovery. Writing one can be personally therapeutic. But here’s some people who put theirs online as shining examples: This one’s super creative. Here’s cunning minx’s example. And here’s one not geared to poly, but to the military and it’s great.

You can include your approach to polyamory, your thoughts on hierarchy and what that means to you, you can explain triggers and any trauma issues you know of in a personal user’s manual. Anything you feel would be helpful for a stranger to interact with you. The best part? You NEVER have to share it with anyone.

Question for Readers: Who here has a user’s manual and what does it contain?

Scheduled check-ins: You can do this weekly, you can do this monthly, you could do this daily. But I argue that setting aside a time to intentionally check in about anything you might want to bring up with your partner will help create a safe space to do so. This is the time to state any expectations that you have had and been let down on, this is the place to state any worries about unsaid expectations you worry you’re subject to.

If there’s nothing to bring up, using the time to create space for gratitude can be super nice but dedicating the time to what can become obligatory congratulatory adoration instead of potential check in time isn’t great. Scheduled check in times are the place to bring up what you worry will become a pattern. If someone, like say young Amie who didn’t understand how abusive her family life was, responds to questions in general or especially at check in time like the question is stupid or as if they are offended the question needed to be asked. This is not a safe space. And it won’t be very useful as a communication method.

Question for readers: what are some other tools you use to help you communicate?

Non-Violent Communication: This the art of really listening to other people and hearing the needs behind their words or their behaviours. People get down on NVC because the book reads like a religious text… It’s a practice and as an example: I’m not good at it. But I try. We have a PDF download available on the group and I can only summarize it by explaining that the way that we communicate as a society tends to be violent and it doesn’t need to be that way. NVC is a GREAT tool and it actually dissuades people from diagnosing others in their lives. I run afoul of this ALL the time when I am engaging people and asking if they have trauma issues. I am diagnosing them and that’s not really listening. This is why I’m REALLY bad at NVC.

  • The four agreements: more not poly theory. Very helpful for poly people.  I used to think they were trite and I still think they’re espoused to people who might not have the fundamental skills in order to uphold the four agreements.
    • Be impeccable with your word. Only say what you mean. Seriously. Do not say what you think someone wants to hear; a) you may not be correct in thinking what they want. b) you risk getting responses you don’t want. Now. What if you thought you wanted one thing and now it is clear that you do not? You can only be as impeccable with your word as you can be in any moment. Part of being present is looking at your own actions and maybe finding evidence that you don’t know how you feel… and saying that instead.
    • Don’t take anything personally: While some people MIGHT do things because of you… the WAY they are doing it is all on them. They have a choice and they are making it. That has less to do with you than them. But if you have to deal with it it might not be pleasant take solace in the fact it’s about them more than you even if you have to deal with it. Or take steps so that you don’t have to deal with it. If you’re feeling like you might be taking something personally. Admit it. Don’t make assumptions. Ask. “Is this about me?”
    • Don’t make assumptions. ASK. CHECK-IN. “I’m worried that you don’t like me as a roommate and I should try to find another place to live because of the tone of this conversation?” is something I do all the time. “I don’t want you to feel pressured to do something, but I’d really appreciate if you did this thing, am I pressuring you?” “I’m worried you’re taking my personal story of an issue with someone else to mean that I feel that way about you.”
    • Always do your best: Your best changes from moment to moment and this isn’t some kind of justification… ‘whatever you did was your best so you should never be held accountable for anything because you were doing your best’. This is about acknowledging that if you don’t feel you did your best there may have been external constraints on your ‘best’ at that time that you can have power over.

Questions for readers: Is there one of the four agreements that speaks to you? How do you relate this to polyamory?

And in conclusion: Transition. I’m starting to believe that transition is either a trap, or the one true way. I can’t decide.

Transition requires trust, communication, awareness, the ability to be present with whatever you are going through at any given time and a host of other things. Many people are able to navigate it. Many people don’t. The only transition I’ve ever gracefully navigated was transitioning out of people’s lives. But I often look back and wonder if there was an alternate reality where alternate universe Amie and the person she needed to not be in that relationship that way with someone did manage to transition to friends or a different style of lovers.

I may never fully understand this and I’m hoping the group has some lived experience for me to draw on.

Question for readers: Have you ever transitioned a relationship? How did you do it?

On top of the chariot or under it: you will move forward with life.

I am struggling lately. Festival come down is always hard for me because I don’t feel like the life I lead is very magical… and yet I worry I am a squib, doomed to know the magic and see it… but not to be able to make it with any regularity.

A friend today gave me a piece of tidbit information on someone’s life that I was overwhelmingly triggered by. It was about a person who graduated with what would have been my class if I’d been more militant about planning my divorce. Apparently their job with the city is up for grabs temporarily, friend speculated maternity leave.

I couldn’t even deal with it. I could have had that life and I threw it away. I never would have succeeded. But its so easy to dream. Its so easy to long for a future you probably never had a chance at… and so easy to blame yourself for having been on the same footing as someone else who was just more well balanced, more ambitious and smarter.

But I don’t feel we were ever on the same footing. Regardless of where we were and what was helping us stay there. I fell.

And I have been under the chariot ever since.

I have seen some semblance of feeling in control again. But I don’t know how to harness all this ME. Coming back from the festival I have felt more me than ever. More able to rise to meet my challenges. And alternately as high as I fly there I plummet thinking that  no, I don’t have the internal strength to do the things I need to do and be able to be successful…

Perhaps the failures are inherent to the model. Perhaps it is deficient and needs to let go of the dream in order to forge a new life out of what remains at a more modest station.

Or perhaps it never had a choice about whether or not it was going to engage the world… perhaps the only choice was how.

Hurt yourself, hurt others, or heal yourself: The choice is yours.

I saw when I was very young that I had the option to hurt others in order to deal with my pain. I told myself that what WE were doing for US was that we would never consciously hurt others. THAT was not who we (Amie and her inner self) were. She does not destroy others.

She will light herself on fire and see who warms their hands. She will burn brightly to remind others that sparks exist. And when her embers are going out, she will rely on others to set her spark again. It was so unsustainable.

These days I want to be a controlled burn. These days I’m working on healing myself.

Because I realize now that the option is not hurt yourself or hurt others… There’s another way. Heal yourself.

It’s harder. But it’s worth it.

I knew going in that polyamory had the skills that I personally needed in order to change myself from a victim to a survivor. But I didn’t realize how hard it would be to gain them. How wonderful it could all be if I could just gain the skills without the painful lessons.

But that’s not the way it works.

How do you heal yourself? I remember reading advice on how to heal yourself and hating it. CONSUMMATELY HATING IT. Always hating it with every core fiber of my being because they made it sound like it was SO EASY. To just love yourself. To just accept yourself. To just love others and accept them for who they are because we are loving and accepting ourselves.

I hated the fucking advice that admonished me for NOT loving myself as if because I was not doing that I would never be able to love and accept others.

I find that many of the people who are MOST loving and accepting of others have a hard time accepting and loving themselves.

But when we are here for ourselves, we can never be alone. This is the dichotomy of boundaries and self protection that we are never taught…. because the fear of being alone is held over us so powerfully.

We are free to chose what we do. As long as we are intentional about our choice we can always revisit it later.

I got the poltergeist blues: update edition.

I had the pleasure to attend a local festival of music and art as a site crew volunteer.

I had a wonderful time despite the stress of my father being on the site crew in full ghost mode.

Everyone loves him there… I only told a few people he was my dad and I made sure that they understood that I wasn’t calling him a bad person just saying that I don’t talk to him. The volunteer coordinator that randomly freaks out at anyone and everyone almost was absolutely WAY nicer to me than she was to other people… because she likes my dad.

My dad was at his most charming and vivacious. He was at his most generous.

My dad was helping. He was there to do a job.

So was I. And we did our jobs.

I am proud of him for holding it together. I am sad that all he needs to do to impress me is NOT harass me. NOT be aggressive with me and NOT follow me when I leave upon seeing him coming. I’m proud of him for not telling everyone he worked with that he’s my dad.

I’m angry my bar is so low.

I am angry suspecting that if he ends up doing more stressful things for the festival that he may revert to his yelling and freaking out ways.

I am disgusted feeling like the coordinator that yells at everyone treated me better because she enjoys my dad.

I am a whole lot of things.

But I held my standards for myself. I was gracious. I was wildly helpful. And I didn’t smack talk him.

I did get two conflicting reports of how much he talked about his son. One from a man I trust far less than the one who told me he said a LOT about his youngest kid. But I only asked two people.

And I tried to protect myself from a whole bunch of people telling me how great he is by keeping it to myself.

He’s a charming guy. He wants to be liked. Everyone wants to be liked. He did a good job.

No one wishes more than me that I could enjoy a music festival with him. No one wishes more than me that I could interact with him and not have to worry about him talking about my family to me. No one wishes more than me that I could have the relationship with my father that strangers get to have.

No one.

I got the poltergeist blues. Woaaahhhhh.

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My father hasn’t been the man I thought he was since I formed that opinion of him. And the opinion I formed was highly informed by the relative lack of information I had when I was young.

I created a person that not only no longer exists… I don’t believe he ever existed. My philosophical, embattled, and creative father may have existed. But that view of him is so marred by his many flaws that created so many harms for the rest of my family to overcome.

But he’s still around. Not only casting water all over the flame of his memory in my mind… But quite literally setting fire to other family members’ lives.

I got the poltergeist blues, woaaahhh, the poltergeist blues.

There’s more to your metaphor than can be imagined in any one philosophy…. Horatio.

A friend of mine posted a quote that I liked: “Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.” By Barry Switzer.

There’s so much more to this metaphor than I can possibly concisely describe. But watch how I try.

If ‘the game’ of society can be reduced to a ball game that we all ought to be working together to play and I believe it can… then there are people who are born on third base and think they made it home every time all on their own efforts. There are people whose parents worked hard and were able to give them a good pitch. There are people who were able to turn around a really bad inning with some help to set them up for an easy pitch that not everyone gets. There are people who had a good pitch given to them and then have gone on to hit every ball because they work hard. There’s people who struck out even though their parents gave them a good pitch and that good pitch was the only one they were ever going to get…

But beyond that you can still get tagged out. You can run on a fly ball, you can drop your foot from the base without meaning to. You can still fuck it up… and maybe you fuck it up bad enough to spend some time in the outfield… maybe you raise your kids there and try to give them all the skills that you were given so they can get back in the game…. maybe you forget how to play because you spend so much time there.

This baseball metaphor works for me. But the important part is that we’re all TOLD we’re playing baseball. Even if the world is ‘geared’ for the middle class, those from the upper class have an easier time moving within it. They are the best set up for success… they’re not playing baseball. They’re playing T-Ball. And they’re superb at it! How could they not be? There are many people composing whatever I think the upper class is who are WORKING HARD at their T-Ball game and getting far as T-Ball superstars… BUT MOST OF THEM STILL THINK THEY’RE PLAYING BASEBALL STILL. We’re all told we’re playing baseball and that striking out is a possibility…. and sure. Some of them do strike out.

In the middle class you can strike out easier still. And I think this is why they look on at the T-Ball players when they strike out with sympathy… they know what it’s like to strike out… just not while playing T-Ball. They’d like the same level of sympathy extended to them though… because they’re a valuable player they swear… not like those weird people who seem to be doing UFC in the outfield that always strike out whenever they get called in to play.

And in the outfield? The lower classes and criminal underclasses. Well… we were told we’re playing baseball but we really haven’t seen the ball in a long time… in fact, every time we actually get the ball while we’re out here in left field we dutifully throw it back but everyone who is hitting the ball seems to be hitting it out of the park and it never really comes back… (get it? Because when the rich get money it goes in their bank account never to be seen from again? Haha. Classic trickle-down theory. So great.) But so if we could get the ball that’d be great… but we kind of started playing our own game where we hit each other because we never get the ball anyway.

And when we get the ball? Well we can dream and we can try but we’ve never really played baseball and our parents maybe didn’t tell us any tricks on how to play this game and none of the information in school really made sense because we’re definitely doing some sort of UFC out here… so we may not hit the ball that far. We may not hit the ball. We strike out a lot when we get up to play because we never had the practice….

Its more than a ball game. It’s a mind game.

 

The psychiatrist.

I was so offended about a diagnosis of BPD that I bitched at the first psychiatrist until they left it off their diagnosis.

I’m still offended. But only because BPD seems to be the new ‘this person is at fault for their own condition’ diagnosis that they use to not help you.

Because according to Dr. Talarico I am so fucked up that there’s just no point in doing anything long term to help me achieve safe, stable housing of my own because I’d fuck it up anyway. So I need to do a whole bunch of things that won’t help me get safe stable housing so that I can not be fucked up because only then will I deserve housing.

It’s funny because the fact I don’t want to use up my five visits with each practitioner until I’m ready to actually deal with my mental health proactively apparently means I’m just avoiding seeking help. Fuck you you smug fucking shit. I have five visits with each of them. They never mentioned whether it’s five per year but I don’t think it is. I think it’s just five visits. And if I use them up dealing with my ‘mental health’ that is really affected by my housing situation first, I won’t have them to deal with my actual mental health problems which I’m not sure at this point what they are because my housing situation has been so onerous for so long.

Apparently this means I don’t want help and maybe I’m not nearly as fucked up as they thought originally. But also so profoundly fucked up there’s no point in helping me. Yay.

I want to die rather than see him again but all he’d do is shake his head and chortle “Wow. People with BPD are so pointlessly crazy, it’s a good thing we never helped her. She obviously didn’t want help.”

Update: I’m still struggling with this. Like. A lot. I took a book out on dealing with BPD and apparently it’s all about how people with BPD often create a story of trauma to justify their shitstain behaviour to others.

Which plays out because most of the support groups for BPD are about dealing with people who have BPD rather than having it yourself. None of my symptoms of BPD are about harming others and when they have been I have dealt with them to make them NOT a thing because I attempt to move through life only uplifting others. Almost all my symptoms are personally destructive not externally destructive.

But. Lighting the book on fire rather than returning it is probably one of the more BPD things I could do. .-.

…. sooooooo… the fact I really want to light it on fire is  perhaps a problem…

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