The Mind and the Brain:
Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force
by Jeffrey m. Schwartz, M.D. and
|Musings, Ramblings and Minor Insights|
March 30, 2009
In All Honesty....maybe even too much honesty???
I didn't realize how dependent on (addicted to???) the internet I am, until my DSL service went out yesterday. On a Sunday! Actually it wasn't totally out. It kept intermittantly cutting in and out all afternoon, while I was trying to work online learning to use a new (and very confusing, I might add!) blogging software. By the time I finally figured out what was going on, that it really wasn't just me being stupid.... I was way past frustrated. I was pretty much enraged as I sat there staring at that evil red eye on my modem blinking complacently. So I did what any emotionally constipated individual would do: I flipped out! I ranted, I raved, I swore (ah, the freedom of living alone!!). I even thumped a few things. Just try it, the next time you get really frustrated... try abusing a metal folding chair. You'll release a lot of pent-up energy, and the chair won't mind. It came out in a lot better shape than I did! Yep, I had what my sister-in-law would refer to as 'a little Maddox fit' (the Maddoxes being her family, not mine!).
Of course, people from my family would never do such things! Uh...... NOT!!!! Actually, that's pretty much the only way we do it. We learned that we should always hold in our frustrations, our anger, even our good feelings. We learned that
FEELINGS = BAD PERSON!Now that's a concept that pretty much guarantees you to develop a strong sense of self-loathing. Because everyone has feelings, yes, even the 'bad' ones. And when these so-called 'bad' feelings take over, and we don't know how to banish them, but we know that we must.... Trying desperately to deny how one feels, hating oneself for feeling it, feeling no hope of resolving the problem that caused the feelings in the first place. That's what I refer to as 'helplessness'. And believe me, I've experienced a lot of that in 58 years!
As I re-involve myself with this church group I am in, and try to learn some new ways of looking at life, I guess I have some pretty high, perhaps unreasonable, expectations of what it can do for me. I'm rather dubious about just how well my old brain can absorb new patterns of thinking, but it seems that neurologists on the cutting edge are now saying, we can create new neural pathways in our brain, even as we age. You really can teach an old dog new tricks? Admittedly, I'm finding it extremely difficut. And often, when I hear these new ideas, I still respond in the same old way. Often I still feel like it is yet another 'authority' figure telling me how to think, what to think, what I'm allowed to feel.... pretty much saying as I heard so often when I was a kid: "Shut up, or I'll give you something to bawl about!!"
Lest it sound like I hate certain members of my family, and blame them for all my troubles and woes.... it's really not that simple. Yes, I still struggle with feeling judged and condemned, and yes I DO trace that back to a pattern of thinking that I learned as a child. But I also understand that people merely pass on to their children what they themselves were taught. They treat their children in the ways they were treated. If that includes a domineering father and a fearful mother.... well, we do learn by imitation. I see so much of my mother in myself... the fear, the anxiety, the withdrawal from people. And yet, I didn't see her really get angry and admit to her feelings of disappointment and frustration (certainly not to us kids) until the very end. Very late in her life, when she was too sick to do anything except wait to die and wish for it to be over. I suppose at that point a person could think, 'What do I have to lose by speaking out?' At least that was my take on it. As I helplessly watched this sad, angry woman that I cared so much about struggle through her last days.... we were not able, even then, to share with each other in a way that might have helped us both through such a difficult experience. This was the beginning of my own decision to change my life.
It took me a number of years to move from being angry at my father, and indeed I did blame him--for a very long time--for the flaws in my own thinking that seem to have caused so much distress in my life. Now, I've associated myself with a group of people, and a belief system that seems to be constantly telling me: 'You are responsible for your own life. You can make your own decisions. And in this regard, you are ultimately to blame if your life sucks. Yikes! That's a little harsh, isn't it? Maybe they don't mean it quite that way. Maybe they simply mean that I, as grown woman, am allowed, entitled, and in fact it is my responsibility to make choices for myself.
It's a funny thing for a person my age, someone who has been independent and self-supporting my entire adult life, to finally wake up and realize: I'm still afraid of my father!. I still have that feeling of dread that I had as a little kid. I can't say to him how I really feel, for fear of what he would say. I can't feel any kind of connection to him at all (except a vague sense of obligation). And I'm not at all sure whether this makes me a 'bad' person, or just human!
I also question why I would choose to air such personal secrets out on the internet--for God and everyone to see? Am I still being whiny and 'bratty' (as one male individual accused me some years ago)? Is it some sort of revenge? Is it just an opportunity to vent to new people who are not sick of the story like some of my siblings are? I suppose it could be a little bit of all these, but I think that most of all, I am seeking validation. I am hoping that someone else may hear my story and say, "Yes, I know exactly what you mean." Someone to say:
I understand, and it's okay that you feel that way.And I am also hoping that--if there is someone out there who, like me, has struggled for years to understand the depth of their 'bad' feelings--in some small way perhaps I can help them too. One thing I have begun to learn as I've been involved in this small book study group at my church each week... we all have emotional problems that we are dealing with. Every human being struggles with issues of one kind or another. It's very easy to make the mistake--if you're on the outside looking in, as I was--of thinking that everyone else has all their sh*t together, and I'm the only one who's 'screwed up'. But I am beginning to see now that 'screwed up' is an unnecessary condemnation--of myself, or anyone else. We're all human. We all have difficulties as we make our way through life. And I'm learning it's a whole lot easier to handle those difficulties, if your don't feel like you're trying to do it all alone. I'm so grateful to be finally learning these things. I only wish my mother could have had that same opportunity.