Belenen (belenen) wrote,

defense mechanisms of old: not showing gratitude, blocking emotion, not inviting myself, disclosing

icon: "progressing (a deeply, vividly green forest of thick vines and trees, with a tunnel running through where unused train tracks lay)"

Have any defense mechanisms you have created that seemed good at the time you created them turned inside out with time? (from here)

Most of my defense mechanisms date from childhood and were created subconsciously -- I suppose they must have been needed at the time but they aren't good for me anymore. Some of them are unethical (such as the thing I used to do where I would crush people with my vocabulary if they were trying to put me down) but most just really aren't needed among actually decent people.

For instance, I have a very hard time saying thank you because if I ever thanked my parents or expressed excitement at something, they would then take it away and use it to make me do things. An example: my parent says "let's go to pizza for dinner" and I say "yay! I love pizza!" and my parent would then say "well okay then, do this, this, and this and we will go, otherwise not" (and if they ended up not feeling like it, it wouldn't matter that I had already done the things they demanded). But if I did not respond happily, then it had a good chance of just happening without me having to earn it.

So I learned that if I actually wanted the thing, I couldn't express any happiness or gratitude until after it could no longer be taken back. And usually by that time I wasn't feeling grateful anymore because I'd been holding my breath waiting to see if it would actually come true, so it felt like I earned it with the work of anxiety. I still have to push myself quite hard to be able to say thank you at the promise of something rather than after it has happened, but I have gotten better about reducing my anxiety and being able to actually say thank you after.

Another which is a bit more subtle is the difficulty I have in feeling like I belong and am wanted. Not only did my biofamily make me feel unwanted and like I didn't belong, my parent M told me over and over that no one else would ever love me as much. Since I never felt loved, that was the equivalent of telling me that I would never be loved. For a long time I coped with that by blocking out all feelings. I think I have overcome this one for the most part, but strong feelings of any kind usually bring up the fear that I'm not really loved, even if I can logically contradict it now. I just let them come and push through them, relying on logic.

In a way I don't fully understand, M's hangups about intruding in spaces they were not wanted rubbed off on me. So I coped by trying to never be in spaces where I wasn't 100% sure I was wanted -- which is not a helpful coping mechanism because you can never really be that sure and there are a lot of places where you won't get a specific invite. A lot of times you have to be an ambassador on your own behalf if you want to connect with people.

That coping mechanism just made me more and more lonely. It still requires a massive effort to get myself to go to social gathers where there are any attendees that dislike me, or any where there isn't a person there who actively wants me there. It's still hard even if there are no dislikers and people who actively want me! I think Kylei was my biggest help breaking this one, but I have gotten out of the habit. I'm pushing myself to connect directly with people and to go to uncertain social gathers.

There's also the habit I have of disclosing everything that might be objectionable about me up front, "Hi nice to meet you by the way you probably won't like me because [reasons 1-25]." I probably scare off people who might be down with everything if I introduced it gradually, but at least this way I don't end up devoting years of my life to someone who thinks that the things that make me who I am are not valuable or even okay. Like I did with my ex-spouse (not by choice but because I hadn't learned myself before we got married). I think that this is sort of a 50/50 coping mechanism, which does the same amount of good and harm. I've started trying to be a LITTLE more gradual about it. do you notice they have and how do you work to put them right again/stop using them?

I notice only when someone else points it out, usually, or when I uncharacteristically don't use them for some reason and then realize how much better things are without it. I work on putting them right by trying to do the opposite often enough that the habit disintegrates: say thank you at the first sign of a thing I would be grateful for, allow all feelings, join gathers where I think I might be unwanted and talk to people without them giving welcome first, hold back after disclosing several things that people might need to process, etc.
Tags: biofamily, fear / insecurity, gratitude, growth, questions, writing prompts

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