Belenen (belenen) wrote,

trauma response to not 'getting it' quickly enough / worth in performance / assume I'm doing my best

The other day I had an argument with a friend in which they got upset with me for not understanding what they were trying to say after they tried to explain a few times, and unfriended me. I realize now this is a place of old trauma, because I started weeping, and when Topaz asked, I realized it was because I felt punished for not thinking right/fast enough, when I was trying my best. This felt like a flashback, but I have no memory of being punished for thinking too slowly or not understanding. Maybe it was watching others be punished for that which taught me this fear. Whatever the cause, when people get impatient and angry towards those who are trying to understand, it makes me feel like a helpless child, and when it is me they are upset with I get just incapable of functioning, desperate for forgiveness, and cry with fear and hopelessness. If I am engaging at all, I'm always trying to understand: I am never being lazy or deliberately obtuse, and never ever ignoring what someone is saying. Luckily I'm good at it and most of the time people don't punish me for not getting it, but when I fail, its terrifying. It feels the same as when I am trying my best to be kind and I make a mistake and the person gets angry with me. I literally had no way to avoid my mistake, and I feel trapped and hopelessly not good enough. This is where my patience comes from, I think: doing my best to never make someone who is trying their best feel as though they will be punished for it.

It feels very tied to my sense of worth. As a child I was only valued for my "smarts" and I knew that this was conditional. My greatest fear was brain injury because I felt completely sure that I would no longer be valued by anyone. Later I think this morphed into a kind of emotional/intuitional "smarts" where I felt people valued me because I was good at making them feel safe and supported and understood, and if I fucked up at that, I would no longer be valued. This was affirmed by being abandoned at my first failure (that I was made aware of) several times. I think it was also compounded by living for 8 months with someone who expected me to read their mind and do what they wanted without them telling me, and when I failed I was treated with hostility and ostracized from all human contact (they had this power because my only friend was hours away). And then I was in a relationship for many years with someone who would radiate their stress and anger at me unless I figured out the source and helped them feel better about it somehow.

When I cannot understand, cannot show support in a way the person wants, or cannot give safe space, I feel that I am on the verge of true worthlessness, and my entire life depends on them forgiving me for fucking up and trusting my history of success enough to let me try again. It's not a logical thought progression but it feels unbearably real. When it happens with someone I like, it hurts for a little while: when it happens with someone I love, I can think of nothing else until I am forgiven or am certain that I have no chance of forgiveness.

With people I choose to have in my life, I always assume that they are doing their best, unless/until they tell me they do not want to try. I can't bear the idea of not affirming someone's best efforts. I can't bear the idea of someone offering up their best, and someone else not giving honor to that. I can't stand 'art critique' for this reason. The only person who can know if the artist didn't do their best is the artist themselves! And the only way for art to be bad is for the artist to not give full effort. It cannot be judged from the outside.

If I call you a friend, please always assume I am doing my best to offer understanding, support, and safety. If you doubt, ask if it is my best. If I could do better, tell me how. If you cannot start with the base assumption that I am doing my best with what I have, do not be friends with me. I need that assumption in all my friendships.
Tags: biofamily, friendship, pain, relationships

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