I don’t trust words, I even question actions, but I never doubt patterns. Unknown.
In an earlier post I wrote about how pattern recognition for me is key to holding on to some form of reality and the person who coined the above phrase couldn’t have put it better.
One of the most troubling aspects of C-PTSD is the layering of trauma. It is not a bomb blast or some other wham bam event that has you trembling in your shoes and that you relive until you get help and finally learn to deal with. It is not coming back from a war that taught you how to kill innocent people that keep you up at night and that leave you damaged beyond repair, homeless and drug addled. It is the layering of little things, numerous betrayals to small to mention, the constancy of the hurt and the feeling you’re nuts for even trying to deal with it. Shit happens to everybody and they get over it, right?
Well yes and no. Shit happens but if it happens often enough and pernicious enough and unrecognized enough, in the end you don’t get over it anymore because like it or not the hurt keeps coming back in self hurting and damaging patterns. Unless you understand what happened and how and when, you will find it almost impossible to walk away from those repeating patterns.
In my quest to understand some of my own patterns I came across one of the most formidable gate keepers any human being can come across and it wasn’t until a female friend I got in a fight with wrote the word Narcissist in the dirty back window of my car some two years ago thst I knew I finally had to feel the fear and face that gatekeeper anyway and face what is known in Psychological terms as my Cognitive Dissonance in order to gain insight into what had been one of the most troubling repeating patterns in my life.
I started, after having come too from the predictable shock of being called a Narcissist (which I am happy to say after two years of study that while I imbued with some serious narcissistic fleas probably not applies to me), on a terrifying journey of discovery in my quest to understand what Narcissistic PD entails and in doing so I started to slowly wean the source of the pattern from the turmoil this caused and will cause for the foreseeable future.
Here is the pattern that has had me dumbfounded for a very long time.
For as long as I can remember I seemed to be attracted to friendships with women that I knew from day one where to involved, to symbiotic and to roller coaster to be healthy and invariably those relationships ended badly.
I wasn’t attracted to these women sexually as apart from one failed experiment in my youth I have never toyed with the idea of exploring my sexuality towards my own gender due to lack of interest (which was not lacking when it concerned the opposite gender) and the attraction wasn’t physical but emotional and intellectual.
What characterized these relationships was my sense of powerlessness and a sense of foreboding and as I grew older I knew to recognize them and keep some distance but never the less I always ended up involved more than was good for me and invariable a hard swift end of the relationships occurred every time. In fact the argument I mentioned above that triggered my journey was at the end of one such relationship.
My role in these relationships always seemed to be the one of the older permissive but also strangely powerless sister. I was also always the needy one even when I didn’t feel particularly needy but I seemed powerless to assert myself in a healthy way and during the course of these relationships I always seemed to become more needy. It was like I was not allowed to just be me and I was always acutely aware of the fact that these relationships would end abruptly when I asserted myself and would ask for reason rather than emotional turmoil.
These women without fail showed a keen and apparently compassionate insight into what drove people and they where always surrounded by needy, damaged women they where helping while they themselves where mostly engaged in relationships with either damaged guys or single. What was a dominant theme was their emotional superiority while also being a victim. (As I write this I just become so much more aware of this and it just hits me how clear all this should have been so long ago) A victim of her guy (often alcoholic/addicted, commitment phobic or otherwise unavailable), burdened by her female incompetent needy friends, doomed to be the beacon for all these poor suffering souls but also strangely filled with anger and disgust at all the flotsam and jetsam that kept, like me, landing on their magnanimous shores.
These women always seemed to appear when I was down or vulnerable. It always ended when I felt strong enough again to be an equal friend and I felt my neediness was a burden on our relationship. In other words when I proposed reciprocity and a return on their investment (to put it in understandable terms) after they helped me in my time of need I seemed to unleash the rage I described above leaving me devastated and confused as I was only proposing a more equal division of the friendship. One in which they could count on me to share some of the burdens as well as the joys.
I can’t count the many times I was left blasted by this and why I didn’t recognize what was happening at the time is beyond me as now it is so abundantly clear, now that I faced down the Cognitive Dissonance that kept me from going there where my hurt at an earlier betrayal (or rather many, many small little betrayals) lies.
What finally forced me to go where I have tried with all my might not to go was that shortly after I started this blog I received news that I was named in my mothers will.
She died three years ago and I wasn’t that bothered about not hearing about a will during that time as I realized that leaving my family for “no contact” probably wasn’t conducive to being named in a will or having my family get in touch with me for it.
It wasn’t until my stepfather whom I haven’t seen or spoken to in 25 years decided to ask his oldest son to take over handling the estate in order to escape what was for him an extremely unpleasant situation caused by my sister that forced to be back in some vicinity to my sister that the quarter finally fell.
After many years of therapy most notably during a period in my twenties when in group therapy I learned about projection (Most notably my own) I developed with the help of some awesome therapists the tools I use today to build healthy relationships with people. It is easy to for me (and I do it diligently) to scan the patterns in other peoples lives because it helps me understand what makes different kinds of people tick which helps me to keep relationships on an even keel as it enables me to respect their sensibilities without feeling too responsible for them and it is also relatively easy for me to address patterns in myself that allow me to take responsibility for my actions and make amends in relationships with friends after they point out to me that something I did hurt them.
The last four years I have had to work hard to rebuild bridges with some people I love very much for example because due to my C-PTSD triggers and being in a very bad place four years ago I damaged these people when acting out to “protect” myself.
But apparently, as I have learned over these last two years, what is not so easy for me is to recognize patterns when those patterns in myself or others indicate that the relationship I have with them is of a particular dysfunctionality that can not be resolved by negotiating reasonably in order to achieve mutual love and respect.
And as patterns are won’t to do you repeat them until you get where its coming from and you can give it a place in the Pantheon of hurts you have to get over if you want to get on with your life.
In this case a memory I have over the last 24 hours came back to the fore and in hindsight, armed with the last two years of study and the discovery of the term Covert Narcissist fell into place with the thunder and lightening of sudden insight. Not because it was so very hurtful in and of itself but because it was the first time I started to consciously feel Cognitive Dissonance and that event was one of the first times a pattern was set which let to me getting into relationships I could not properly assess because of it.
Here is what happened;
My parents, sister and I where on a holiday in what was then known as Yugoslavia. We were staying on a wild campsite on what is now the Croatian coast. It was on a little peninsula into the sea. We learned how to use a snorkel and I was at that age just before boys but old enough to listen to adult music. I remember being independent enough to be allowed to swim long distances out of the coast alone and look at the seascape for hours with my goggles. I remember learning Croatian words that charmed the shit out of the local restaurant owners and teaching my sister little dance steps (with her competing but being just that little bit younger for me to be able to hold onto that older sister behavior). It was hot and my mother found a scorpion in her little sewing kit and I was the one to tell her to get her hand away from it. A snake used to hang out in the shadow of our car and it was wise to shake out your sleeping bag before going to bed. In fact we slept outside often because it was to hot to sleep in our tent.
It was in this environment that one day my sister and I were given a bar of chocolate and during what was a pleasurable time my sister suggested we share a bar of chocolate and I took mine out and we shared it while having sisterly fun.
It wasn’t until a little bit later at the hottest part of the day during the time everybody was under a tree or somewhere in the coolest of places that my sister disappeared. When I found her she was in her tent. The hottest most uncomfortable place to be and she was eating her bar of chocolate. Alone.
I remember the sense of betrayal at her dishonesty and calculated callousness in manipulating me to share my bar of chocolate with her while knowing full well she was going to eat hers without me. Her hiding in the tent to do it made it clear that she had no intention to share even a small part of it with me.
But what made this a crucial event in my life was not that my sister chose to behave this way. What made it crucial was how my parents and more specifically my mother reacted to the event.
When I pointed my sisters dishonesty out to my parents they did not interfere in the situation by finding out what my sister was doing and pointing out that since I had shared my bar with her maybe it would be nice if she shared her bar with me too. In fact they did not interfere at all. I was told to respect that, while I was willing to share my bar with her, my sister was entitled not to share her bar with me. It wasn’t so much a “Wow, your sister is showing herself to be quite selfish and that should teach you in the future not to give her anything” as a “you’re the oldest so you should be above this and she can do whatever she likes”.
It was the first time I found myself in this situation of enforced powerlessness but it was a pattern set from that day on I now realize looking back.
What makes it so hard and dangerous now, in my adult life, is that to this day my sister persists in this pattern and why wouldn’t she? It never had any consequences for her other than that she got better out of it. I don’t know if she remembers the incident but it was the first time I can remember where she gained the advantage with the help of my parents and to this day she uses them to keep it that way although now her children have also been recruited in the isolation game.
It is for this reason that I am so incredibly anxious (and I can see it so clearly now) about what comes out of my native country while awaiting my sisters signature on the deed activating the will of my mother (or the decision to fight the will). It is as if my sister has taken the bar of chocolate being the will of my mother to her tent again.
I know one thing, my father will not take the bar away in order to make sure she shares it with me. All I can hope for is the fact that Notaries on the whole are applying the law and the will as it is written is perfectly clear and maybe the notary acting on behalf of my stepfather will be able to finally pry the bar of chocolate from my sisters hands to make her share.