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Positive vs. Negative Feedback Loops

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by fifthsuite, Jan 10, 2022.

  1. fifthsuite

    fifthsuite Peer Supporter

    "Don't act, just think." - Slavoj Zizek

    I realized something very potent today. Bear with me. My point is that replacing negative with positive feedback loops is a powerful tool to erode TMS symptoms and release rage, but I feel that telling my "rage" story - which is not entirely about TMS - is necessary to illustrate it.

    As someone who recently overcame six years of TMS, I still have a lot of work to do in the psychological realm. I have a classic TMS personality. I'm a perfectionist, and rigidly adhere to my preferred ways of thinking and doing. The world is full of people who have little regard for doing things "right" or for other people's feelings (I don't mean to judge - truly - I just don't know how else to put it). Despite my allergy to those kinds of people, I'm also a people-pleaser and incredibly sensitive, with trouble feeling or expressing challenging emotions. The perfect storm for generating and repressing the critical mass of unconscious rage underlying psychosomatic disorders.

    Moving beyond TMS, I have begun to deeply understand my rage. Up until today, I thought I'd always be sensitive, feel others' emotions as my own, and be unable to process them effectively. People invariably describe me as calm. I am, but the moment someone or something triggers me, my only recourse is avoidance. I have a habit of walking out of situations or blocking people with no warning; it's not a "storming out" so much as what I do to "get myself out of danger." Over the past few years, I've become increasingly sensitive, repressing an enormous volume of rage in response to challenging relationships with coworkers and housemates.

    To get away from my previous housemate, I moved to an apartment. My neighbor likes to run his subwoofer 3-5 hours a day with action movies and bass-heavy music, often before 9am and after 11pm (quiet hours). I can hear him with heavy duty earplugs in. I spoke to him; his response was to shut the door in my face, though he did stop using his sub for almost two months. Recently, he's started using it every day again. This loop is essentially what happened in all my prior workplace and household conflicts.

    My first instinct was my old stand-by: feel increasingly upset, soothe myself, repress, encounter the trigger, repeat. I was avoiding both my feelings, and the extremely uncomfortable prospect of having to talk to him again. I felt frustrated, not only with him, but with myself. I was meditating, journaling, rationalizing (it's not that loud, I make noise too), using humor, even allowing myself to fully feel the pain and anger without judgment. I had deep conversations with the part of me that was angry and afraid. I'd genuinely accepted that the real problem wasn't him - it was my reaction to him. And my feelings just kept getting worse - like always.

    That's when I made the conscious decision to do nothing. That's right. I wasn't going to put in earplugs or knock on his door. I was going to go about my life and let myself hear and feel it all. Only after I'd attained mastery over my rage - without the crutch of external action - would I permit myself to do anything. After all, we typically have little direct control over the situations and people we feel triggered by. In every prior conflict, I'd had extensive, highly productive and positive dialogue with the other party. Invariably, they'd revert to habit. Better we develop the ability to cultivate peace within.

    It was awful. I felt a persistent burning in my stomach, I sweated through my sheets. If I hadn't recovered from TMS, I'd probably have had other symptoms. I was deeply ambivalent: wasn't this just another way to avoid talking to him? I could feel my internal echo chamber replaying and amplifying his noise and, mostly, my emotional reaction over and over. Before, when I'd sat with my pain, I'd interpreted my continuing emotional and physical reactions as a sign I was becoming more sensitive and angry. Not surprisingly, that negative feedback loop made it worse.

    But this time something funny happened. The pain started subsiding - not because I was sitting with it non-judgmentally per se, but because in doing I started noticing small positive changes. The stomach burned a bit less sharply; I didn't notice the last boom quite as much. Then the burning turned into a lifting sensation. It was if that little ball of fire inside me was evaporating. The more I paid attention, the more I realized that I was naturally reacting less and less. A positive feedback loop! The key to improvement is to notice, celebrate, and amplify small wins. Otherwise, it is easy to become frustrated.

    I also realized how important our why is. I'd done nothing in response to personality conflicts before, but because my why was to avoid some feeling or person I feared, things didn't improve. When my why became practicing conscious non-action to attain enlightened self-mastery, I began to achieve it. We may not be able to change our basic temperament, but understanding how to regulate it can make all the difference. Growth is less about changing who we are than how we are, learning to be ourselves more deeply, honestly, and lovingly in a complex world.

    I wish I'd realized the power of positive feedback loops while I had TMS. If I could go back in time, I'd work on noticing even miniscule improvements in my condition. Most of us have at least some variance in our daily symptoms, so that shouldn't be hard. I believe I would've recovered much faster and relapsed less using positive feedback loops. TMS is not about overcoming symptoms so much as it is a journey of uncovering unconscious rage and finding a healthy, sustainable way to express it out. In that way, it is a gift. Our society - especially in this day - is consumed with anger and conflict. The awareness and skills we develop can give us the tools to live mindfully and peacefully, no matter what anyone else chooses.

    In closing, I express my deep gratitude to all those who read or post on this forum. You were the reason I was able to recognize my delusion. Every time I post here, I feel incredibly energized to give back to this great community. Thank you.
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2022
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  2. Balsa11

    Balsa11 Well known member

    Doesn't hurt to remind him again. Nothing's wrong with being assertive. It's nice that you got through your flare up but how do you sleep through loud music without earplugs?
  3. learningmore

    learningmore Peer Supporter

    So you turned more comfortable with his music? In other words, he still plays loud music, and you just accept it?

    Isn't that just being more codependent accepting more abuse? Are you making feel good feelings by making yourself think you're allowing him to enrich his life with loud movies?
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2022
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  4. NCGal

    NCGal New Member

    I totally get why this is a huge victory. Congratulations.
    As someone who has lived in apartments and felt tortured by noise, I know how upsetting it can be. But after a while it’s no longer the noise. It’s how you anticipate that it will come again and know you will be angry. It can become an obsession, especially because you feel like a victim.
    If you can live within these circumstances without a negative reaction you have come a long way.
  5. NCGal

    NCGal New Member

    PS “conscious non-action” - I love it. I’m borrowing that.
  6. fifthsuite

    fifthsuite Peer Supporter

    I love the range of interpretations here. While I do claim this as a major step of growth for myself psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually, I also do - to @Balsa11 and @learningmore 's points - recognize the potential for this to also be a passive, codependent pattern. Fine line to walk. (I let myself use earplugs only at night). I had challenged myself to manage my inner space for a few more days and then go speak with him, but last night he beat me to it! While I was playing cello, he banged on my door - I thought he was going to break it down - and loudly screamed for me to "turn down my music". Perhaps unwisely for my own safety, I opened the door and had a brief conversation. He declined to acknowledge his noise and just repeated his demand.

    I spoke to the leasing office, which is serving him with a noise complaint from several neighbors. They advised that I call the front desk or police next time. In retrospect, the smart thing to do would've been to escalate my concern earlier - I do, like a lot of people-pleasers, tend to put up with a lot and make excuses for others. I'll certainly escalate quickly in the future. In this case though, I am glad I used the opportunity to manage my emotions. I had a wonderful meditation this morning and could feel deeply that despite all that happened, I felt genuine peace and even a sense of compassion for him. I wish he could know the peace and consciousness I do. Not everyone was fortunate enough to have a reasonable disposition, or to have grown up with positive role models like me. While that doesn't excuse anti-social behavior, it helps me understand it.

    I have a deep conviction that the way you do - or process - any one thing is how you do everything. The more deeply I allowed myself to feel - and then gradually release - my rage, the less other stimuli were able to bother me. I noticed that I was able to effectively manage my public speaking nerves during a conference call, normally more of a challenge, and I was also able to sleep through the night with my heat on (usually I find it too loud).
  7. Cactusflower

    Cactusflower Beloved Grand Eagle

    @fifthsuite I believe you absolutely nailed it here "The more deeply I allowed myself to feel then gradually release my rage the less other stimuli were able to bother me". That says it all.
    zclesa and Balsa11 like this.
  8. learningmore

    learningmore Peer Supporter

    So did he ever turn his music down? Or are you still paying money each month to listen to someone else's music? Loud neighbors are so frustrating, and they are part of why I have C-PTSD. Did talking to him work? Nope. Could I work, or relax, or read? Nope. Because it was loud bass all the time. All. The. Fucking. Time.

    And after complaining numerous times, both to him (useless) and to management (useless), but mostly avoiding him because I'm an afraid little weakling, I moved out. Still, it didn't matter, because the C-PTSD had started already. I now have a massive anxiety spike when I hear bass. It's not how I react to it that is the problem, it's other people being annoying as shit constantly that is the problem.

    Let me spell it out for you... playing loud music is abusive. When you ask him to turn it down, if he doesn't, or resumes it in the future, he is being abusive and not concerned with your needs.

    There are two types of people who play loud music:

    1) people who don't realize it's loud. Maybe they think apartment walls are absorbent. If you ask these people to turn it down, they do, and don't turn it louder again.

    2) people who don't care. These people won't turn it down, or if they do, they will increase the volume again in the future. These people stink. They are not concerned with others' wellbeing, they don't follow rules, and they don't even realize there are sound rules in the lease.

    These people should be evicted. Complain to management. Document it. Complain to police. Sue the apartment for failing to maintain its own restrictions which are signed by all tenants. In America (or wherever you live) we have rules. If you can't play by the rules, get the fuck out. Did you sign a lease? Yes? Does the lease say you won't disturb your neighbors? Yes? Are you disturbing neighbors? Yes. Guess who's getting sued. In the past I was too forgiving with this. Now I would not hesitate. I'd sue them and the apartment. I don't give a fuck. I would document the entire thing online (unless my counsel advised me not to). There's no defense against truth. Let shitty people be exposed for being shitty people. Let shitty apartments be exposed for being shitty apartments. I left a shitty review for the place I mentioned above for this very reason. I wasn't being spiteful, I wasn't being angry, I was being honest. I cannot relax when I hear loud bass ALL THE TIME (or ever, honestly), so stop being annoying.

    It sounds to me like you are making excuses. Even if you're forgiving or accepting, you are still listening to someone else's music which is disturbing you.

    More to the point, it sounds like he was being petty when he knocked on your door after you complained about him.

    Furthermore, take caution, because people who aren't concerned with minding rules probably aren't concerned about damaging your car or worse when you complain. Again, don't live in fear. Document everything.
  9. learningmore

    learningmore Peer Supporter

    Let me put it differently.

    If we are roommates, and every time I see you I kick you in the nuts, are you going to look inward and find out why my shitty behavior is bothering you? Are you going to tolerate me kicking you in the nuts every time I see you? If you ask me to please stop kicking you in the nuts, and I keep kicking you in the nuts, are you going to be complacent with that?

    The problem is not you. The problem is not you for being frustrated by loud music.

    The problem is your neighbor. Your response is normal.

    Shit. It's like someone told you you are being "too sensitive" and you believe them. Why are you emotionally abusing yourself?

    I used to think the problem was me. The problem is not me.


    Look, I'm not trying to poopoo on your progress. It's great that you're experiencing benefits. But ultimately, it sounds like you're rationalizing abuse, which is something codependents do, and it's not healthy. At all. There is no way that hearing your neighbors' bass all day is the same as not hearing it. Convince yourself however you want, you sound like a battered lady explaining away why her husband hits her. It doesn't make it right. It doesn't make you mature. It's not healthy in the long run.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2022
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  10. Balsa11

    Balsa11 Well known member

    This makes sense in this case. Especially since they made a big deal about the cello. I have a hard time speaking up as well. It's a tough habit to break.
  11. Balsa11

    Balsa11 Well known member

    This is good for minor, everyday distractions
  12. Balsa11

    Balsa11 Well known member

    Neighbor seemed like a second case. Maybe moving could be another option?
  13. Balsa11

    Balsa11 Well known member

    Last paragraph is a good takeaway but don't hesitate if you need to stand up for yourself. Easier said than done, though. You have an awesome writing style!
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2022
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  14. Andy Bayliss

    Andy Bayliss TMS Coach & Beloved Grand Eagle

    Beautiful post about a deep, life-changing learning. Thank you. While we often need to take "right action," to solve a situation----and yes, the Goodist/superego tends to prevent this kind of action, you took the opportunity to take a mindful deep-dive into your own reactivity. To me this takes a great deal of will and gumption. Congrats!!
    Ellen, plum, Balsa11 and 2 others like this.
  15. learningmore

    learningmore Peer Supporter

    Is this forum actually applauding a guy for allowing his neighbor to continue abusing him and being ok with it?

    Isn't abuse what made TMS in the first place? From what I've learned it seems like being ok with abuse is moreso repressing rage.
    Balsa11 and fifthsuite like this.
  16. fifthsuite

    fifthsuite Peer Supporter

    I've read everyone's posts. These are very interesting. I like to ask my family for advice - well, sometimes I get it even if I don't ask! - and what I've learned is what each says reflects his or her particular perspective on life. There is really no absolute truth, and the important thing is to form one's own interpretation, to find the perspective that's right for you.

    I certainly cannot say that what I chose would be right for everyone, or even most. As I said in my first post, why I chose to practice mindful non-action - before I was going to raise my concerns with my neighbor a second time - made all the difference for me. If someone is merely being silent out of fear, that is unhealthy. Infringing on a neighbor's peaceful enjoyment is not right, and I'm not suggesting we just let others walk over us. I had a housemate who liked to smoke in the house, and after multiple, heated conversations and escalating to the landlord - none of which made a lasting difference on his behavior - I just left. I'm no stranger to community politics, and although I dislike it, I've been proactive in the past about speaking up. I just find that because we tend not to be able to change others' behavior, and because we don't always have the ability to just end the situation immediately - how many people can just quit a job or change housing today? - it helps to find a way to create inner peace.

    I think the difference is also cultural. There's a famous story about an emperor who went to the countryside to visit his people. He came across an old grandfather who lived with multiple generations of his family in the same house. It was chaos. There was no privacy, and apparently little peace with constant chores and arguments. The emperor asked the old man how it was possible to live like this. The old man said, ren (tolerance). The emperor was deeply moved, and richly rewarded the man for his wisdom. I heard that story many times growing up.

    I grew up in America and abroad, so I have some perspective on both. In my culture, maturity is considered the ability to internally regulate one's emotions and maintain one's composure, even without speaking. That's why I take a lot from Native American culture as well, which has such sayings as "Never pass up a chance to keep your mouth shut" or "Silence is the mother of truth, for the silent man is ever to be trusted, while the man ever ready with speech was never taken seriously." To a Westerner, these sound incredible. Western culture celebrates the brash - and I love that. But those who cultivate silence may be considered pushovers, disengaged, or having no personality. Sometimes that's true, sometimes it's not.

    I don't have any real answers. I'm just learning from my life, and all of you. After his outburst - and my noise complaint - my neighbor has been exceptionally quiet. Turns out, he's not all about that bass. As I mentioned, he actually has been extremely quiet in general, certainly more than me, except for those two weeks or so where he was probably "retaliating" (in his mind) against me for playing cello "after hours". As far as I can tell, his primary issue seems to be he goes to bed earlier than me (and my area's "quiet hours"). I am willing to shift my practice time to end a half hour or so early. I'm sure there are those who will say any compromise is weakness. But quiet hours here end at 7am. If we all just followed the law to the letter, I'd never get my all-important late morning rest. If he turns up his system again - or tries something like banging on a wall - I'm going to simply file a second complaint, and depending on the level and time, call the cops. But it won't be out of anger. I will be simply protecting my interest. And he will be the one moving, if anyone needs to.

    You know why I believe in giving people chances? Once, when I was younger and somehow, even less wise than I am now, I was the one screaming at my neighbor. He'd been smoking outside, in his own little patch of dirt - perfectly legal, not in violation of any terms - and the fumes wafted into my open window. He didn't smoke often. Instead of just shutting my window, or appreciating the fact that he was smoking outside and not inside where the fumes could've come in through wall cracks, I yelled out of my window, accusing him of polluting the community where children lived. I was determined not to give in, not to budge an inch. He answered back, in a much deeper voice. A few minutes later, as I came out, he approached me. He'd done nothing wrong, and I had no right to berate him. But he wasn't angry. I don't remember what he said, except to help me understand that we didn't need to argue. This old football coach had probably dealt with a hundred knuckleheads like me before. As I left, he told me that when I played cello, he turned off his TV so he could hear me better.

    People are complicated. Sometimes I hear myself better when I don't talk. I don't know anything, but I know myself.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2022
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  17. Balsa11

    Balsa11 Well known member

    It's hard not to feel TMS when one half of culture tells you to just get over it and smile while the other half wallows and triggers more pain through outrage. So there's different opinions about this: Either be "noble" and take it, or express your feelings in true anger. You have to be polite but firm.

    Everyone's happy about the TMS recovery part not the incident specific part.

    This stuff is so much tougher to respond to in the actual situation
  18. Balsa11

    Balsa11 Well known member

    Can totally relate to being triggered by smokers. When I was a kid, every time I'd see a smoker, I used to imagine myself trying to talk them out of smoking, and I hate confronting people. But after reading some books on neuroscience, a chapter including brain activity on addiction showed me that the chemical changes to the brain are challenging to disrupt and I realized that simply going cold turkey is more difficult and complex for smokers than I had assumed. Despite being well intentioned, my initial idea was wrong.
  19. Balsa11

    Balsa11 Well known member

    Things should be ok as long as everyone gets along. Polite but firm.
  20. Andy Bayliss

    Andy Bayliss TMS Coach & Beloved Grand Eagle

    Beautiful response you made to the responses. Thank you for your civility.
    Balsa11 and plum like this.

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