Some of our best defenses have some offensive effects
When you are a writer treading water in the oceans of thought, sometimes you have to ground yourself on the smallest pieces of land to gain a compass reading. My last piece was just that, a spit of dry land that had to be explored to get to larger mainland’s. In exploring the depths of defensive mechanisms that we use, endure, and don’t even realize we have, the focus on a manner in which I operate came into a greater clarity. Awareness of habits, thought patterns, social behaviors, is part of the manner in which recovery has allowed change in my life. If the work and practicing stopped, then the regression would almost certainly come as fast as thoughts of drinking, anger, and hopelessness. Better thinking brought about a better life.
Introspect is a lot like using the horizon as the place where X marks the spot. You can never really get there because it will always be somewhere far off from wherever you are. So when the sliver of land presents itself to me, It’s as good of place as any to see if there’s any direction I should head off in. This was a good spot, I had plenty to see, and luckily I was able to get my bearing. The previous post dealt with time and its changing dynamics, and in researching the defensive mechanisms we are equipped with I found a boatload of knowledge, introspect, and subjects, that steeped my interest and allowed another facet of myself to be brought to light. In making myself aware of things I have a greater ability to change or alter those aspects I find ill fitting, antiquated, or just plain stupid. When you see the world as I do, comprehending the bigger picture means understanding the smallest parts of it. Personality, behaviors, thought patterns, they all are a part of my journey. I believed I suffered from a laundry list of mental illnesses when I was in active addiction. I found out in recovery that although I have my issues, so does everyone else. Much of that behavior I thought was because of that illness has been changed, removed, and under deconstruction, it is the part of Bill’s words that stuck early and hard, don’t stop practicing, there are endless rainbows to discover. What emerged was an existential engineer that is much too curious about this machine we call life.
The last year has been historic to be sure, the patterns of society, and the patterns in society have changed. As I was noting how our mannerisms have changed; How time has started meaning something else because of psychological defense mechanisms we have preinstalled. I was struck with another set of insights on personality, responses, and an overall gleaming into the even larger aspect of communications, my self ascribed area of most interest. One gleaming at a time though, and the first part about this was personality. As I was researching these defensive mechanisms, a theme came up in the search engine results. It dealt with what is called trauma responses, and the correlation to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – PTSD. Without going into that subject in depth, it occurred to me that many events from my past are the type to affect trauma. It is probably a given that I have some sort of PTSD, but I am not diagnosing, just willing to be open to that idea while I ponder its meanings and effects. Trauma itself is enough to trigger a broad range of defensive mechanisms, so I will stay in that lane. Personality and trauma are not always something people would associate in social settings, even I am amazed at how much I have forgotten my wife’s own traumas as we speak on certain subjects. Those words mean something else to her, plus whatever meaning I intended too.
Like many people I have been traumatized over the years by, well… people. Absurdly self conscious of my actions and words, I deem myself the odd one out and defensively I isolate. Understanding this has been difficult, but very worth the hard looks it takes to get the information into my head. Genetically tied to my emotions more than most, all of this consumes what personality I have, my behaviors in my extroversion and peopling becoming nothing more than trauma responses, desire compensations, with a dabbling of myself. An early exit from a meeting because I was too self conscious about what I said, or how I said it. Misplaced humor and attempts at manipulation because I don’t like the topic or direction. Self righteous, selfish behaviors, divisive and meant to keep people at bay. I had ruled out their acceptance of me, based on my own lack of acceptance of myself… and I accepted it… Insights such as these aren’t easy to see, or to understand, and even harder to overcome. The scarier part of this is seeing acceptance in that list of defenses we use, seeing all the best thinking, right there along all of the seemingly worst. Was acceptance just another word for tolerate in some cases? Just another way of making myself into the bad guy? Things I need to be aware of as I try to manage a course through this sea of change.
Of course with all of that going on, the personality, that part of me that was genuine and very idealistic was hurt, was beaten down, and couldn’t accept any feeling of normalcy. More defensive trauma responses began to fill up even that area, and in looking back with this insight, I can clearly see the markers beginning a very long time ago. Personality itself is a construct, and I have talked before about piles of life, either theirs or mine, my mess is messy, and I just found one of the culprits with the muddy boots. I can see this in others and their reactions to me, either immediately or over time. The feeling I get when I meet people and believe they don’t like me is probably very real, because they haven’t really experienced my true personality; rather the trauma responses and signals I give out from the get go. So understanding which is which, Personality, trauma, or societal response, and which one was triggered is allowing me to break down and remove some of them from my “better thinking” practices. Just by being able to highlight them in practice, in thought, has changed the way I interact with the world, and others in it. I don’t have to label myself anything, I gratefully accept others acceptance better now, and that circular firing squad of self demolishing thoughts has succeeded in halving their numbers. I also don’t have to accept the impulses from that flip side of traumas, those addictive responses that arrive from the pleasure/desire/compensation unconscious thoughts, the I need this because of that, the I don’t do that because of this, that, them, and myself. Once again placing stencils over each other and seeing which parts of them line up with the other. Exi-stencil-ism.
This is just my small end of the story, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some commonality to take away here. The reason why the attempts at placing a stencil of sorts over these areas was such a driver was from the larger picture that had developed in this time of isolation and historic changes. I was seeing a pattern in the communications on social media, face to face, in televised media, and print. Since they were concerning every aspect of society, the replies, the behaviors, and the vitriol at times, started to have bold borders and an organization to them that exhibited patternicity. With this introspect of Personality/Trauma-Pleasure/and Societal responses recently brought in focus, comments from others, and even my own shined on a different facet to look at them through. The reason this was important to me, was as have made breakthroughs into my own self workings, it allows me to accept others more easily, more as they are. When I can better understand that someone is using a trauma response, or a desire manipulation in their communications, either vocal, or otherwise, I can accept that easier as what it is. When I see a societal response, the kind that is repeated because that’s what society, or environment has dictated was the right answer/ behavior, It allows me to more easily experience the true person. It isn’t applied to everything, every comment, every instance, but as long as the tool remains in the toolbox, it sharpens itself with usage. It also tells me many of my responses are simply unnecessary.
Life though, is not a machined process, its gears are often made up of nothing but thoughts and ideas. Those thoughts and ideas are powered by other thoughts and ideas, and the results are what we have left over. Within my own human universe the observances have been life altering, knowledge exploding, and an affirmation of life itself that I knew little to nothing of before recovery. The idea that I exhibit more of a collection of trauma responses, addictive reactions, and sociological mores, rather than a true personality or a true character, is proper in its theory. The task going forward is like anything, what am I going to do with that knowledge? Recovery can leave you whole, or looking at the bits and pieces laying around. Finding where those smaller pieces belong is not always an easy or pleasant task. As the program teaches, use what you know now, and apply that to your past, your present, and future. I know more now than ever before about my own recovery, my own workings, and there are some common themes that present themselves. The smallest pieces that have been laying around are beginning to go back in place, allowing the larger parts to work better. Better thinking, better life, recovery’s promises in action. There will be more deciphering and thoughts on this, as it has segued into my communication interests. Within those communications are the tiniest parts of us, the specks of light in a very close locale. An astrophysicist of the human universe, a oceanographer of our depths, blessed with too much curiosity about this construct called life, an overly expressive exi-stencil engineer.