Archive for May, 2012

Reflection: Confrontation & Avoidance

Last night I had a nightmare that a man was threatening me with a gun, like a revolver. I turned thinking if I ignore that he’s pointing at me, the problem would just go away. But, he just yelled out, “No, look at me. I will shoot you.” So I turned and looked right at the gun.

I think the dream was about confrontation and how I try to avoid it. This whole day has been a constant reminder of this type of thing.

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Quest: Challenge Guiding Fictions or “Supposed to” Beliefs

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Last week I had some not so great moments. I could tell my self-esteem was slipping. It was like I had an engine going down and I needed to do something about it fast before I crashed. I noticed my negative self-talk was back and running rampant. I pulled myself out of it by thinking about the positive things that were going on in my life and instead of getting caught up in my anxiety, looked outward and was caring towards others. I realized this could be a little dangerous because I have just been avoiding what I wanted to say. But, I admit I feel a zillion times better and things have been going a lot better. I reminded myself that if I exhibit confidence, that then it will seep out into my relationships and interactions with others too.

The other thing I did this week was finish the next chapter in the Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence workbook, “Supposed to” Beliefs That Lead Women to Stay or Go Back. After finishing the chapters on guilt, I was amazed how easy this went. There is no doubt in my mind that leaving my abusive relationship with my ex-husband was in my best interest and the best decision I have ever made. And there is no doubt in my mind that I never want to be in an abusive relationship again. 

This week “Guiding Fictions” or “Supposed to” beliefs were on my mind. In one of my conversation with my SuperBetter ally, we talked about beliefs that have been very deep rooted in myself. These beliefs may have caused me to make certain decisions along the way in my life that I would not have ordinarily made if I didn’t have them. Some of these beliefs I have become aware of, especially the 7 “Supposed to” beliefs they discuss in the workbook chapter.

Some of these beliefs I realized I developed as a way of coping with what was going on in my life. I don’t know how many of these beliefs I’ll be able to recognize and see how they’re impacting the way I interact with the world. But, at least I am now conscious of the basic symptoms of post traumatic stress that I can now stop and question and even change what I am doing and why I am doing it, which may be the beliefs behind them. I realize that this can take a lot of work and I’m willing to do it because I’m going to feel a lot better and push what I can accomplish in life beyond what I thought was possible.

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SuperBetter: Allies & Game Quest Ideas Revisited

This week I had an interview with SuperBetter to talk about the game and it was awesome because it allowed me to step back and reflect on the game. The game has given me a lot of things I needed to help me make progress on healing from the trauma of domestic violence and other abuse history. It has given me structure I need, the ability to track my progress, Power Packs with Quests, and tips and tricks to help me get to my goals and in a fun way. And I seriously love the secret files. If people would send me cool interesting facts that apply to my day-to-day life all the time, I would probably have the equivalent of the “runner’s high” without having to run.

Re-thinking Allies

There are a couple things I’ve been realizing I need to tweak. Originally, when I went into the game, I thought I’d invite my friends as allies and there’s certain things I think each of them could help with in person when we hang out on a regular basis which I mapped out in the post SuperBetter: Allies Mission Ideas. That hasn’t been the case. I talked about it in therapy a bit. Why are my friends not really engaging in the game? And brought it up in the interview with SuperBetter. My therapist had talked about it as people have a difficult time interacting with people they know in person, online. In person, they see you in one way, and then online, differently. Plus the subject matter I am working with, healing from trauma, is an extremely sensitive and uncomfortable one. People don’t want to deal with that. Both my therapist and SuperBetter suggested I try to work with allies I meet through the game who are struggling with similar problems. I have one ally I met through the game who has been my strongest and best ally in the game. And I would highly recommend pairing up with someone in the game. 

My ally from SuperBetter is in a completely different timezone, but that is not a barrier. We interact mostly through e-mail, in a pen pal type way. I do my e-mailing in the morning and she has my undivided attention. We work through problems that we’re facing, share our ideas for dealing with them, and ask each other for each other’s support. We both have similar personality types and are dealing with very similar problems. 

Epic Wins & Better Ties to Quests (and Putting More Thought/Time into Quests)

One of the things I’d like to start doing a better job of in SuperBetter is being able to plan out or tie Quests to complete in order to reach my Epic Wins. Epic Wins, to me, are really a goal you are trying to reach for. I’ve been planning my Epic Wins around the areas in the workbook Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence and areas I notice within that week or month time span that I am having a particular problem with. When I started SuperBetter, my big focus was on Negative Self-Talk and Hypervigilance because I know I was driving people around me nuts by doing it and they were being addressed early on in the chapters of the workbook. I am guessing the workbook is set up in the way it is for a reason. But, the workbook is not the end-all be-all and therapy is only one hour a week and I use it to bring the things I’m really struggling with to each week. I feel like if I want to really get better, make progress, and continue to keep it up, I’m going to have to make it more part of my day-to-day life. But, it also can’t be miserable and difficult. It has to be fun and rewarding. Some of the Quests I thought up in my 2 posts, SuperBetter: Game Quest Ideas and SuperBetter: Allies Mission Ideas, I haven’t even actually put them into my SuperBetter game! And there’s stuff my ally and I talk about that are great ideas, I also haven’t put into the game. So it’s time to put some real effort into this and make it really fun and rewarding.

Here’s some examples of my current Quests, most of which are from the Power Packs “Social Resilience in 5 Minutes a Day” and “Stress Buster”, that map up to my Epic Wins.

Stress & Muscle Tension

  • Learn About Stress
  • Find an Oasis
  • Doing the Meditation Deed: The One-Time-Only 25-Minute Challenge (OK so I did all the others but haven’t found 25 minutes to meditate yet. I must do this Monday night!)
Avoidance
 
  • Find a Dentist
  • Make a Dentist Appointment
  • Track when I won’t ask question to avoid conflict
  • Go to places or do something I associate with my abuser

Self Advocacy

  • I am thinking of loading the “Being Awesome” Power Pack for this area
  • Ask for Help – regular reminder to ask for help (or anything, including “excuse me”) which is something I have an insanely difficult time doing and should probably get to the root of, why?
  • Say Excuse Me to ask someone to move – I need to make this a regular Quest
  • Stop Negative Self-Talk

Social Anxiety

  • Pay It Forward – Do something nice for someone in your life. I did this yesterday! 🙂
  • Give the Gift of Experience – This will be done Tuesday and I can’t wait to hear their reaction! 🙂
  • Three Things That Rocked – Write down 3 things that rocked over 5 days (recurring Quest)

Hypervigilance / Anticipation

  • React instead of anticipate
  • Broken Babel fish game – Draw cartoons from the week of things I’ve heard, what I thought they meant, and what they really meant

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Quest: Guilt & Forgiveness

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I know this is another post on guilt, but I needed to continue to work through to end of this week. I asked Thomas Skinner, a US Army veteran who writes about his battle with PTSD on http://www.understandingPTSD.org, earlier this week, what things have worked for him to overcome guilt? He responded with:
“working on forgiveness, and living, thinking and talking in the present.”
I knew what he meant by living, thinking and talking in the present as I’ve worked on that a lot already in earlier Quests in SuperBetter, but I wasn’t sure what he meant by forgiveness…

Until later in therapy this week, I worked through that my guilt is very connected to the belief I built when I was a child that everyone should be forgiven no matter what. I developed this belief to help me cope with the way my caregiver treated me when I was a kid. And then when I met my ex-husband I applied it then to when he first showed signs of abuse, that he should be forgiven. “It’s ok. He’s just having a bad day and things are difficult and that’s how some people react to that.” The same idea could apply to myself. I never knew what I always did that was so bad it made my caregiver angry as a child and then again with my ex. So I needed to be forgiven for what I did that was wrong that made them so angry, which was nothing really or nothing in my control. I need to forgive myself. I need to let go and realize I can’t possibly be responsible for everyone. And I will make mistakes and it’s ok.

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Quest: Overcoming Guilt – Acknowledging I could not prevented or foreseen abuse

Yesterday I had a strange nightmare I was summoned for court for something I didn’t do that required the punishment of death. It was weird. The papers I received were the size of a square coaster and had Polaroid type photos of my abuser doing the thing I was being accused of caught on security video. I received the papers on a Sunday, but they said I had to go to trial tomorrow and they also had a date I was to be put to death, which was the next day. It just shook me up cos I didn’t know if it was real in the dream or my abuser found my address and was playing a prank on me. I think it all means I’m still dealing with guilt.

“Your heart is always willing to forgive. It’s the mind that always plays the blame game.”

This statement that its a “blame game” hit home for me with regard to guilt. I once talked for awhile about how at work it bothers me that everyone is quick to play the blame game and I think it accomplishes nothing but hard feelings among each other at work. It does not resolve the problem. Sure, it can get to a root cause for the problem, but that’s no help if you have no ideas for solving it. So maybe I should once again be applying a principle I use at work that I don’t use with myself. It’s not doing me any good to beat myself up for not recognizing I was in an abusive relationship and for not leaving sooner. Its not doing me any good for feeling guilt for leaving and letting down my abuser and for thinking everyone is judging me poorly for being divorced, for my marriage failing and for being in an abusive relationship in the first place.

I gave myself a quest today to acknowledge that I could not have prevented the abuse and I could not have foreseen it coming. I can think I could have all I want, but I know in my heart it is true that I couldn’t have. My brain is just having a hard time with it.

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Quests: Overcoming Guilt and Thinking Errors

I have a lot of ground to cover in this post. In my last post on Guilt, I had only gotten through the first 2 parts of the chapter “How to Get Rid of Your Guilt” in the workbook Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence. A few weeks later I have finally finished the 3rd and 4th parts and the Analyzing a Second Guilt Issue section of the chapter. I have still not gotten the results that the authors of the book expect, for me to feel “I was in no way responsible for causing what happened.” I still feel responsible for not recognizing earlier that I was in an abusive relationship and for never mentioning what was going on to anyone in my family or to a friend. So I need to walk through this again one by one and have some kind of conclusion I can live with on it. Here it goes.

Analyzing Guilt — Part 3: Analysis of How Responsible You Were for Staying

Who or What Contributed to My Staying?

  • 50% – My history of good times with my partner
  • 100% – My socialization or learning history that taught me to believe that marriage is forever
  • 100% – My socialization history that taught me “if you make your bed you have to lie in it”
  • 100% – My partner saying that I promised him that I would never leave him
  • 100% – Friends and relatives who encouraged me to stay
  • 70% – My socialization history that made me very prone to guilt, allowing others to influence me by making me feel guilty
  • 100% – My socialization history that taught me to believe that if the marriage doesn’t work, I failed.
  • 100% – My socialization history that taught me to believe that if someone apologizes to me, I am obligated to accept the apology and go back to the way things were – a fresh start, so to speak.
  • 100% – The abuse by my partner that resulted in my self-esteem going down so much I didn’t think I deserved better
  • 90% – My partner making me believe that I would never find another man who would accept me for who I am
  • 50% – My partner’s guilt trips that he would fall apart or commit suicide if I left him (I didn’t believe him, but still worried it may be true.)
  • 100% – My social isolation
  • 75% – My partner’s abuse of me that caused me to develop PTSD (I had experienced abuse and trauma before my relationship with this partner. It is not all caused by this experience of abuse.)
  • 60% – My PTSD, which impaired my ability to concentrate and make rational decisions
  • 85% – My partner’s threats that he would physically harm me if I left
  • 100% – My naivete or lack of knowledge about domestic violence (e.g. “I didn’t even know I was a battered woman”)
  • 50% – My socialization history that taught me to believe that all relationships are like mine
  • 100% – My socialization history that taught me to believe that if I get out of this relationship, the next one will not be any better — maybe even worse
  • 90% – My lack of knowledge about domestic violence resources, such as support groups or shelters
  • 70% – My socialization history that taught me to believe that the violence was my fault (e.g. My partner always said, “Why do you keep making me do this?”)
  • 100% – My trauma history that resulted in my self-esteem going so low
  • 100% – My socialization history that taught me to be so ashamed about the violence that I was ashamed to tell anyone
  • 75% – The continued physical and emotional abuse that taught or caused me to believe that it would be impossible to get out of the abusive relationship
  • 80% – My memory of how charming and wonderful my partner was at the beginning of our relationship
  • 70% – Drugs or alcohol that clouded my judgement and my ability to make logical decisions
  • 80% – My partner’s pressure on me to use drugs or alcohol
  • 100% – My partner’s repeated apologies and assurances that he would change
  • 100% – My dissociation or emotion-focused coping that prevented me from even thinking about how to get our of my relationship
  • 100% – My socialization history that taught me to believe that I had to keep my promises
  • 100% – The social stigma of being a divorcee

Reappraising My Degree of Responsibility

d. I was largely responsible for staying

Who or What Contributed to the Negative Outcomes of Staying?

  • 90% – My partner, who inflicted the abuse
  • 60% – Alcohol and/or drugs that increased the likelihood or severity of my partner’s violence
  • 30% – Overuse of alcohol and/or drugs that resulted in lowering my self-esteem

Reappraising My Degree of Responsibility

c. I was moderately responsible for the negative consequences associated with staying

Analyzing a Second Guilt Issue section

The following are the common issues of guilt I related to:

  • guilt about starting arguments or talking back
  • guilt about not doing more to stop or prevent the abuse
  • guilt about using alcohol or drugs
  • guilt about having an abortion
  • guilt about a rape or incidents of childhood sexual abuse
  • guilt about the sudden and unexpected death of a loved one (for example, guilt about not spending more time with someone prior to their death)

Initial AAGS for a Second Guilt Issue

Foreseeability and Preventability Analysis

1. What is it that you should have known better?

  • That my ex-husband would be abusive from the first time he had done something to indicate he would be
  • That my relationship with my ex-husband strongly mirrored the one with someone growing up where I had to do everything I could to keep him happy so he would not hurt me

2. What are some of the negative outcomes that could have been prevented?

  • Continued abuse from my ex-husband. If I had said something to someone I could have left much sooner.

3. What is it that you should have done differently?

  • I should have talked about what was going on with my family or a friend

4. When did you first realize or learn that this was what you were supposed to do?

  • When I was so afraid of going home, I didn’t know what to do or who to turn to so I called a Domestic Violence hotline

Reappraising My Degree of Responsibility

b. I believe slightly that I should have known better

If you still answered anything but a. There is no possible way that I could have known better, there is a good chance you are still remembering some unforeseeable outcomes as foreseeable. What were some of the negative outcomes you could have prevented?

I feel like I could have prevented all of it.

Justification Analysis

1. What were your reasons for doing what you did?

I was afraid for my own safety, for my own life, but I still stayed because of the reasons answered in Part 3.

2. What alternative courses of action (if any) — did you contemplate or consider (but rule out) at that time?

a. say something to someone earlier

b. recognized early on that something was very wrong

3. Why did you reject or rule out each alternative course of action? In other words, what did you think would happen if you had taken each alternative path (knowing only what you knew back then)?

a. my ex-husband did not want me to say anything negative about him because my family already did not like him and he was my husband so I should fully support him

b. Because I felt everyone should be forgiven no matter what

4. Review your reasons for what you did and for each alternative course of action that you contemplated but rejected.

I didn’t have good reasons for not doing either.

How justified was what you did?

c. What I did was not justified in any way (very poor reasons)

Although I continue to think I am responsible for what happened to me, I understand that I could not have prevented or foreseen what did happen to me. I really wish I could help everyone who is going through abuse to get out sooner. It’s not worth it to stay. It really changes a person and it’s very hard to undo all of what you have learned when you are abused. I am still paying the price of it. And that goes onto something else I wanted to talk about again, nightmares. But, all I can do at this point is to show you some of the things I am doing to get better.

Earlier this week I had a nightmare that my ex-husband showed up at an arcade I was at with my brother. He got up next to me and waited for me to react to him being there. I felt so shaken up, I turned to walk out of there and he grabs me and shakes me and says, “You have no right to leave.” My brother went to stand up for me and my ex-husband hits him. I woke up and was so shaken up. My brother always stood up for me when I was a kid and was the rebellious one in the family. So it shook me up to see my ex-husband over power him. It shook me up to hear those words I heard so often. “You have no right.” I heard words like that growing up too because someone would have complete power over me. But, why wouldn’t I rebel and not put up with it like my brother? People have different temperaments and develop different ways of dealing with things. I shut down and develop an incorrect way of thinking. Now I am working on not doing that.

I notice though that these ways of thinking run very deep and are on complete auto-pilot. Someone asked me the other day why I never say hello to someone. I had quite a few reasons: 1) They never talked to me as if they were too above me to talk to me, 2) They never asked me why I left my last job, 3) And sometimes I just don’t see someone to say hello. I am passing judgements on people all the time for things that they cannot know without me saying something. I need to stop doing these types of things.

Anyway, I know I’ve turned this blog entry into a big tear myself down session, but I needed to work through it and recognize these things so I can get better. And hopefully sharing it with others who have survived domestic violence or are dealing with related guilt issues, it helps you too.

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Quests: Reacting Instead of Anticipating or Avoiding

Yesterday I was talking with a couple of good friends about how I’ve been pushing myself to just do things instead of worrying about them. They asked me, “How are you able to do that?” I reflected back to a strategy I learned in therapy. I know I already talked about this in an earlier post, but it’s one of those fundamental characteristics I can rely on to help me break my habits of anticipating and avoiding.

I realized I’m really good at this kind of thing at work. I’m not afraid to push back, to ask questions, or come up with a new strategy to deal with things. So, I wondered, why am I good at that at work, but not at home? When I’m at work, I’m very conscious of how much time, money, and energy is being used or wasted. So now I apply that same principle to my home life. I waste more time and energy worrying about something than it takes to just ask about something.

Whenever I notice I’m getting anxiety over something now, I push myself to take action on it rather than anticipate and worry about what could happen if I were to do or say something. For example, on Sunday I was running late and had to find a parking spot. I get a lot of anxiety over parking in small spaces on a hill. The first available spot I found was a tight spot on a hill. Instead of freaking out over it, I decided why don’t I just try it and see what happens? So I did it. This is just one small example of overcoming anticipation and avoidance. And like I wrote about with pushing your social anxiety by continuing to engage in social contact (e.g. going to events, asking someone to get coffee or go to lunch, talking to people in the hall, making plans with friends), once you start doing it, it becomes kind of addicting and second nature. But, if you have one bad outcome, like if I were to hit a car parking in a narrow spot on a hill, don’t let that discourage you from trying something again or asking for something again in the future.

Now I also want to talk about avoidance and the tools I’ve been using for it. I wrote about some of the things I’ve been avoiding in an earlier entry like going to the dentist and eating eggs. I also have been avoiding what used to be some of my most favorite hobbies. Last week I set some small goals or Quests that I’m really looking forward to doing that in the long run will get me closer to doing those things I’ve been avoiding. These things don’t have to be big goals. I also have a problem doing things for myself. I get all worried about how I shouldn’t spend money on myself. So I applied the same principles I apply with work there. I thought about how I should “invest” my time, money and energy into my passions so that I will be happier and defeat anxiety, avoidance and guilt.

If you’re reading this and are trying to tackle anxiety, avoidance and guilt, what kind of tools do you use to overcome them? What have you found works? What doesn’t work?

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