Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Rising Strong--Diving deeper into emotional healing.

So I am a voracious reader. I think I owe this very much to my mom. Summers in S. Louisiana are sticky hot. And when I was a kid, we didn't have internet games, apps, facetime, skype, PlayStations or the like. We had the thing between our ears--you know, a brain. Cultivating imagination and creativity is something that was part of my survival. Youngest of four kids, I found that my best escape was to a book. So every summer, after final grades were posted (and I usually was grounded), Mom and I would head to the public library.

Early on, Mom recognized that I was a book-consumer. I could read 3-4 books in the usual ten day lending period. So she started pointing me to books that were more challenging, and frankly probably more than an 11-12 year old needed to know, but off I went into the world of adult-level reading.

So I read books like some people eat pretzels, or Doritos.

I remember laughing out loud to myself one afternoon on the drive back to my home town. I had just been to see my therapist, who is outside the bounds of my hometown (I highly suggest that--makes it nice to have true objectivity, even geographical).  She had shared some new insight with me that was still rumbling about in my head and tapping on the door of my soul.  After several sessions, Janet (not her real name) had keenly observed me and my behaviors; that annoying thing that therapists do that make them so good at what they do. I say annoying because this day I was annoyed, at first. It went something like this:

Janet: So, Heather, I think I have observed you long enough to identify a pattern.  You are a quick learner. I also see how quickly you adapt to subjects we bring up in our work together. You quickly calculate and determine patterns of behavior and see the results.  You process verbally and quickly. It is very helpful in this work, as you know, and makes our time very productive, but I'm noticing something else.

Heather: (internally feeling a bit prideful about her obvious compliment but wary of the "something else" she describes; I know better now than to presume anything)  Okayyyy?

Janet: Because of certain behaviors we've discussed, I think you have a very complex coping mechanism that has helped you for probably most of your life. You have a very high cognitive functioning ability, and and a very low emotional functioning ability.

Heather: (silent by the internal check at the word "low" and I'm trying not to justify to myself what low means--deep breathe and speak) What does that mean?

Janet: (smiling now with her hands annoyingly folded in her lap, casual and relaxed) You have learned to cope with life by understanding it and adapting to it cognitively. With your brain. The brain is a complex, remarkable thing; and you have a finely tuned machine up here (she points to her head). But...(she pauses and I feel the tightening in my stomach start) emotionally, you have very little emotional intelligence in how to deal with life. In other words, emotions are not the way in which you understand the world, life and relationships. Behaviorially speaking, you manage issues in your life (relationships, friends, conflict, etc) from almost 90% cognitive functioning.

Heather: But I do feel emotions.

Janet: Oh yes, you feel emotions powerfully, and they impact your behavior. In a rather impulsive, explosive way. Because you haven't been taught how to be emotionally healthy--to manage emotions in a way that's functional.

Heather: (I realize in that moment what she means and I'm nauseous) So, I'm like not emotionally mature?

Janet: (smiles and nods) I think so...

At that point in the conversation, I sit silent and emotions are swirling and Janet allows me to swirl and stew. I like that about her. She lets me stew without fixing me. I don't like when people try to fix me. But I have learned sadly I LOVE to fix other people. Curious, right? Janet would say so.

Anyway, enter this book. Rising Strong.

I've read it. And I'm re-reading parts of it.

But on that day riding home, I made a decision. One that I think is really important. I made a decision to consider what she said and really get curious about that behavior. Something Brene shares is an important starting point to "Rising Strong", but it is only a starting point. The Rumbling she describes comes later.

So Janet and I had hatched a plan. Let's start with Heather being emotionally aware and see what happens. My freedom from emotional immaturity required me being emotional with balance. Weird, right? Yeah, I agree. But I did it. And I'm still doing it.

Brene writes the following and I've replaced her name with mine:

 "I can promise that you will meet the romping, tantrum-throwing, five year old {Heather} in almost all of my first stories, like you did in {fill in with one of my stories} story. Our rational, grown-up selves are good liars. The five year old tyrants with us are the ones who tell it like it is."

I needed my five year old to tell me exactly what was going on. And I needed to listen to what had made her become who she was. And that was the beginning of the end.

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