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Vicious circle : Safety - anger - boundaries

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by zclesa, Oct 30, 2021.

  1. zclesa

    zclesa Well known member

    I have expanded the amount of activities I can do despite symptoms, but my illness has not improved. Actually, things have gone downhill despite me making some positive life changes to cut out stressors.

    I have become increasingly aware of the fact that I never feel safe or relaxed, not even doing benign things or being at home. I have hypervigilance so badly, even the sound of someone next door sets my startle reflex off. All I have done today is sit in bed reading and I have still managed to gnaw through my bottom lip because I can't stop my facial tension. I am not thinking about anything. The tension is just there constantly, even in my sleep (in fact, it's worse in my sleep).

    I don't actually think I know what safety feels like as a sensation. I know this all starts from my childhood and later, a traumatic incident which echoed that, which set off my TMS.

    I believe I am stuck in a vicious cycle at the moment. Before the incident that started my TMS, I was fawn-y and emotionally avoidant in certain situations, but not all. For the most part, I had enough spunk and self-confidence to express myself and do scary things to expand my comfort zone despite not feeling safe. This has now been beaten out of me.

    I understand my TMS as a combination of a trauma response and a "Body Says No" response. I believe my body won't get better unless I can feel anger and use it to set boundaries to protect myself. Because I can't do that, my illness is acting as a boundary and protection for me.

    But with this constantly feeling "unsafe" and tense, I cannot feel appropriate anger, express boundaries etc. Because you need a certain level of feeling safe and trusting in the world to do that, don't you?

    This is where I feel I'm in a vicious cycle.

    How do you feel safe? I am clueless. Whenever people say to imagine a "safe place", I can't do it, not even an imaginary one. How do you know where to set a boundary if you don't feel angry? I genuinely don't know. I "let myself" get into situations and only realise later that they might be inappropriate or against my best interests. And I can not seem to dial down my physical tension in any long-lastign way. I just don't know where to begin with this. It feels like I have tried so much already.

    Any reflections? Thanks.
  2. Baseball65

    Baseball65 Beloved Grand Eagle

    And as long as you believe THAT , you'll probably remain stuck.

    Remember the story Sarno tells about "Helen" in Mindbody prescription... how she had to 'feel' the emotion???

    He used it as an EXTRAORDINARY example, but also qualified it with "Most people can't have this sort of response, so they have to do the work instead of just having an experience"

    If it's repressed and unconscious, how are you going to feel it?

    ...and that 'safe zone' stuff. That must be some new pop culture TMS thing. There are no safe zones. I got shot at IN MY HOUSE two years ago. I live in a HIGH end, high rent neighborhood. I was ANGRY. THAT, I dealt with, but as far as TMS recovery, the world won't change for me ,and I am not likely to change anytime soon. Sarno said if recovery were based on personal change his recovery rate would be zero.
    It's about a raising awareness of the rage that you can't be safe...there is no Disneyland with security cops there to make sure the bad people don't ruin your day... THAT is where the recovery is hidden... being mad about that might be therapeutic...but it's the process, not one single discovery.
    When you get OK with the truth that there is no 'safe zone' or better, all zones are equally safe and unsafe, then you'll stop worrying about that crap.

    This is not a new way to respond..it's about finding out how we are really responding.
    backhand likes this.
  3. zclesa

    zclesa Well known member

    Thanks @Baseball65. "I need to feel safe" is something that comes up over and over again in my journaling. I mean emotionally safe. Nowadays, I exist with this inner dread like I'm about to be told off and punished even though I've done nothing wrong. That feeling is constantly there. Yes, my childhood was like that.

    I was able to overcome that in the past. I did some therapeutic work and got confident. I was rebellious and had passions and a purpose, so I said "Fuck that". But that's all gone.

    The traumatic incident that started my TMS was also a case of that actually happening. I got a boundary horribly violated by my mother and then I, and others, were punished as a result of that and went back to toeing the line, walking on eggshells, and generally trying to make sure another eruption didn't happen with her. I didn't realise what a huge deal that was until I had therapy again. But knowing where this comes from intellectually has not helped me overcome that feeling.

    I'm not looking to feel a sudden outpouring of repressed rage, just to get back some of the healthy defiance and spunk I lost, that sense of ME. I feel like that was a different person to who I am now.

    I didn't mean to say I have a limiting belief around my illness, but I asked myself "What is the reason you're still ill?" And it occurs to me that this illness is a protective mechanism. It started the day after I ignored the dread in my stomach that said "Don't go and see your mother again". I saw her. And I got sick. Although I have limited contact with her now, I think my illness is still there because she certainly was not the only person I allowed to cross my boundaries.

    I asked myself what would happen if I got better tomorrow and I became aware that I'd go back to overworking, doing too much for others, agreeing to things I don't necessarily want etc. not with my mother, but with too many people. I was probably on the edge of burnout at work for a long time even without the traumatic thing that happened.

    So I think I "need" to be ill until I have learned to express my emotions, needs, and boundaries without it. But it feels very hard to even know where the boundaries are when there is no anger there to tell you I don't want/like this or that. I literally don't know a lot of the time if I want something or not. Sometimes it comes to me later on, but almost never in the moment. I have such a high tolerance for bad treatment that sometimes I don't even see it until it's totally put me on my arse, rock-bottom style. It was the same with work and burnout. I didn't ever think "Oh I'm doing too much for too many people". I can only see retrospectively that I was doing that. If I hadn't got ill, I don't think I would have realised.

    Hmmm. I guess I just don't know where to start with this. Do I try something therapeutic to reclaim my sense of anger or to feel safe to be me? Or do I just do practical work on understanding boundaries and trying to implement them even though they seem alien to me? This is where I'm stuck. I have lost and sacrificed parts of myself and I don't know where to start finding them again.
  4. yb44

    yb44 Beloved Grand Eagle

    I struggle with this too. If I am not sure of something, the best thing I can do for myself is hold off and not make any major decisions. I tend to go against my gut instinct, better judgement or whatever you want to call it. I am currently stuck in a situation of my own making which is causing symptoms. I am trying to rectify the situation without rushing in and making things worse. I’d like to say I have learned my lesson but at my age, I would have thought I’d have learned it long ago. I suppose we can view these triggers as a chance to practice new ways of responding.
  5. zclesa

    zclesa Well known member

    Thanks @yb44. Yes, I am beginning to understand the power of pausing. But equally, I must try not to let this lead to procrastination and avoidance, which, quite frankly, it often does for me. Because sometimes I never find out the answer to what I should do. And I am so emotionally avoidant anyway that an extended pause can give me an out.

    It seems so hard to know where to begin. I'd be MUCH better at setting boundaries if I actually felt a sense of discomfort, anger, stress, or overwhelm all along. But I don't - not until a long time into poor treatment or a bad situation or after it has passed. I was so "well-trained" to tolerate bad behaviour, stress, and boundary violation as the norm, that I don't actually see or feel it. Every time I've gone to a masseur, they have said my neck feels like a brick and am amazed I can't feel the tension there, but I genuinely can't. Others have looked at my life situations and said "That must have been so stressful!" And I'm like genuinely "No". I don't feel it. I had a high pain threshold for many years. I was moulded to be way too strong, competent, independent, and self-sufficient so that stress just never occurred to me.

    I find it so hard to spot when I am doing things to my own detriment. And when I do realise it, it's extremely awkward to have to go and renege on something I've already agreed to. It would be so much easier to be able to say "no" in the first place rather than trying to undo the mess. Hence, avoidance is way easier.

    I do know that my illness is here to teach me to find my needs, wants, boundaries etc and help me live more authentically. And I want to do that. But it feels tantamount to being told to speak Chinese every day when I don't have a basic grasp of the characters. :/
  6. Baseball65

    Baseball65 Beloved Grand Eagle

    That is a 'spot' where if I was in your shoes, the loud discussion I would have would be with myself. "I know you're here to try and protect me from that BUT I do NOT want your F-ing help, and I will go and do as I please"... it's not about standing up to her... it's about standing up to ourselves.
    and that's where I would say, I don't know how much changes in the exterior world help my TMS Unless they are preceded by an inner change that is based on a raised awareness. I have had some pretty spectacular symptoms over the last months all around mortality and Baseball and Ego and music and work.

    I haven't changed any of them, but when a team mate didn't give me a gig I wanted last night, my first thought was "well FU then!"

    A month ago (when my leg was killing me) I wouldn't have even had that thought because I was still stuck behind my fake humility and 'good guy/just happy to be here' VENEER . Last night I treated myself to a full tour of his personal defects, his shitty skills and My superiority to him. All in my head....all very real to my ego....and My leg hasn't bothered me for days after a month of spasms. But I could still go and play with him tomorrow and as long as I stay focused on those feelings, I would get no TMS. Have used this same technique on Family members, Jobs I have loathed and people who suck who must be dealt with....as long as I am aware at a base animalistic level of how much I detest them, I can be around them.

    The main thing to be dealt with isn't 'out there' it is 'in here'... and I don't need to soothe him... I need to find him ,address him and dismiss him from duty.
    backhand and zclesa like this.
  7. zclesa

    zclesa Well known member

    @Baseball65 This is what I mean. I need to find my inner anger again. Can I borrow yours? ;) Aha, seriously, I'm really lacking this these days.

    I do think I need external change because I definitely had burnout. I don't mean changing my circumstances. I mean changing my own behaviour so I don't push beyond healthy limits. I kept going too long juggling too many things for too many people. But I couldn't see it. Others could. Others actually told me it wasn't healthy to work like I did. One of my old bosses even forced me to take breaks because I didn't understand the concept. My own boss! All the while I was caretaking for everyone in my life and not taking care of my own needs. Not wants, needs.

    I have to change internally to bring about the behavioural changes that will help me. But this is where I am a bit lost. I feel like if I could access the anger and a feeling of safety, it would help me understand where my natural limits are. Because I literally don't have a sense of this until it's too late.

    Or maybe I'm looking at this from the wrong angle. Perhaps I need to start finding my whole self again, who I am and what I need, which seems to have been buried for a long time, even more so after the trauma that kicked off my illness. Maybe then the anger will naturally emerge.

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