Going to get my ear acupunctured today

Not sure what made me agree to have someone poke needles into me, but I’m going to check it out to have it help with some pain issues. I already learned it’s going to be a bit painful. But I’m going to check it out anyway, because I like the acupuncture lady and because I’m wary of taking drugs. Even so, I’m considering myself quite brave and hope the courage lasts through the procedure. Wish me luck.

Protected: The Sexual Healing Journey, Discovering Triggers (Part 1)

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Attachment Styles Quiz

Since I wrote about attachment behavior earlier today, and then happened across attachment again while reading others’ blogs, I ended up searching the internet for information and happened across an attachment styles quiz. Being an online questionnaire it’s not a medically-regocnized test, obviously, but I thought it was fun and took it anyway and I found it relatively good, even, to get a rough general idea. The Website belongs to A Diane Poole Heller, who’s apparently an author and attachment and trauma specialist. The questions are designed to apply to couples, but I figure it works just as well with significant others who are not partners.

The catch is that in order to see your results you need to subscribe to her website, but hey, I get a lot of junk mail anyway, so one more hardly matters. :-/

Here’s what my results said. (If you want to take the quiz, too, click on the picture, I linked it to the quiz.)

LolasAttachmentStyle

No big surprises there, and my feeling says that my results are even pretty accurate. I’m happy that I scored at least 13,3% Secure Attachment. I’m quite sure that wasn’t always so, just as I’m sure my Disorganized piece was way larger once. Which means that I’m actually getting somewhere. So even when I got quite a colorful attachment pie, it could be worse.  Like, all green, or something. That’s probably how it looked when I was little. But colorful is definitely better. 🙂

Signs of good therapists + warning signs of bad ones

After the statement about “good” therapy with which I did not agree, I want to write down my thoughts regarding what I actually consider signs of good therapy, or rather of good therapists. I’ll add things that I learned to recognize as warning signs, too.

GoodRorschachSigns of good therapists:

  • a good therapist explains how she works and why she works that way
  • a good therapist is interested in helping me figure out what my therapy goals are and in helping me achieve them
  • a good therapist is a genuine, authentic and decent human being
  • a good therapist’s office feels safe and comfortable
  • a good therapist contributes to a feeling of hopefulness
  • a good therapist accepts my feelings and helps me explore them
  • a good therapist is respectful and professional
  • a good therapist is interested in establishing a positive, safe and empathic relationship with me before going anywhere in therapy
  • a good therapist is able to maintain this positive, safe and empathic relationship with me, even when she says things that might challenge or upset me
  • a good therapist can help me feel safe during the sessions and makes sure I am in a good place before I leave her office
  • a good therapist is knowledgeable on the issues she wants to treat and will say so, if something exceeds her abilities
  • a good therapist is *there* with me, I can feel her be genuinely present
  • a good therapist stays calm and on top of things even when I become chaotic
  • a good therapist is a mature person whose behavior speaks of her having morals and ethics
  • a good therapist knows how to laugh, too
  • a good therapist is honest with me
  • a good therapist can read my nonverbal cues and reacts to them
  • a good therapist is willing to give me feedback and answer my questions, as long as they are relevant to therapy
  • a good therapist steps back from power games
  • a good therapist respects it if I disagree with her or refuse to do something
  • a good therapist will admit to a mistake if she made it and apologize

 

BadRorschachWarning signs that I have encountered in past bad therapists:

  • therapist is repeatedly late for appointments (or does not show up at all)
  • therapist does not explain what she wants to do or why
  • therapist crosses physical boundaries (like by hugging or touching, euuuuuwwww) without asking for permission
  • therapist talks a lot about herself and the hassles of her own life
  • therapist talks not at all
  • therapist follows her own agenda and does not consider my goals / wishes / requests etc.
  • therapist is judgmental of my behavior
  • therapost does not take me and / or my objections seriously
  • therapist tries to manipulate my feelings (like by inducing guilt or making me feel bad about my behavior)
  • therapist blames my family (or, I suppose, other people in my life)
  • therapist thinks my opinion is uneducated and not worth listening to
  • therapist understands everything I say as evidence of my lacking mental health
  • therapist openly admits to bordering-on-illegal stuff like fraud (for example by charging the insurance for different services than she actually provided me with)
  • therapist wants to become personally involved in my private life and/or answers to invitations along those lines
  • therapist agrees to having sex with me or even invites me
  • therapist tries to feel better about herself and tries to meet her own emotional needs by helping me
  • therapist tries to talk me into / out of things
  • therapist makes unprovable claims regarding what causes my issues
  • therapist empathizes so much that I feel like I need to protect HER, because she can’t cope with the bad stuff
  • therapist identifies with me and / or my situation too much
  • therapist pushes me into the direction she wants to see me go
  • therapist leaves me feeling unsafe and unstable
  • therapist insists to muck around in issues that I don’t feel ready to face
  • therapist conveys that she does not like me, that I am annoying or a pain in her neck

Wow, I noticed that I could go on and on and on, especially with the warning signs list. I really have met my share of crappy therapists! I’m glad that my therapist F, however, has given me some faith in therapists back. The signs of good therapy all apply to her. 🙂 Even so, it’s rather outrageous that so many crappy ones are out there and allowed to mess with people. It always makes me very sad when people speak about crap their therapist did.  😦

10 Things I Really Don’t Like

After yesterday’s 10 Things I Really like, I figure it makes sense to do ten things I don’t like also. I won’t name the no-brainer obvious ones, like ‘war’ or ‘poverty’ or ‘people doing mean things’, even when I really dislike those things a LOT, because if I named all those a list of ten wouldn’t really suffice. I’ll name annoyances that are more everyday and seemingly small, but nonetheless much disliked by me instead.

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  • Having this really awesome thing to tell, and nobody to listen.

I hate it when that happens. I have a good idea, or something cool happened and I want to tell mom, but she’s on the phone or busy with something else. It’s especially nasty when it’s something that kind of lives with the energy of the moment, so that when later mom asks “what was it that you wanted to tell me”, I feel all like “meh, forget it, it’s over”.

  • Waking up from sleep, ready to start the day, and realizing it’s the middle of the night.

This one sucks real bad. Everyone is still asleep, I feel uneasy alone in the dark, I know I really should go back to sleep, but I’m wide awake, like it was morning already. There’s nowhere to go, because I freak wandering through the house by myself at night, I can’t just go back to sleep either, and it’s still forever until morning. I usually take my notebook and go sit by mom’s side, surfing the internet while she sleeps, but it still sucks.

  • Going to get that last piece of candy that I saved, then realizing I already ate it.

The disappointing moment when I look at my candy hideaway, pleasantly anticipating a yummy treat, then finding the hideaway empty. What a bummer. Double bummer when a vague memory of having unwrapped and eaten the candy returns and I can’t even blame anyone else.

  • Being the only one to laugh about my joke.

Okay, so maybe I’m easily amused, but I find my knock-knock jokes funny. Not so funny when nobody else does. I mean, come on, they’re funny. Kinda. Okay, so maybe not to everyone, but can you at least smirk? Please?

  • Everyone having something to do while I am bored.

Happens very often, but that doesn’t make it any nicer. Everyone is busy with something, they are content with what they do – but I am endlessly bored. It’s not my fault if I then go and annoy them, or is it?! After all, it really sucks to be bored so bad I might die from it, and nobody even sharing the pain.

  • Anyone who grows a beard and sports a Justin Bieber hairstyle.

You know, the awful sideways swept bangs-in-the-eyes thing. Especially when they then also do the hair flip every five seconds. Okay, I know it’s their hair, not mine, but it looks ridiculous. Young teenage boys can still pull it off and manage to look halfway cute, but if you have to shave in the morning, just . . . don’t do it. It doesn’t have an insta-cool effect. At all. I promise. ‘kay?!

  • Listening to P!nk on the radio and the song fading out before it’s over.

Seriously! If you don’t have enough time to play the whole song, why not pick a shorter one? Why fade it out before it’s over? I mean when you go to a restaurant the server doesn’t pull the old plate away before you’re finished eating either, or does he?! It’s so annoying when I sit in the car and one of my favorite songs plays and then it just ends before it’s over. NOT GOOD!

  • People who don’t get it, but think they do.

Oh, that’s so terrible when it happens. I’ve had it happen a lot with past therapists. You know, those situations where you explain something, and the other person goes “ah, yes, I totally understand” and you realize no, they don’t. They have it wrong. And you point it out, as politely as you can (naturally 😉 ) and the other person still thinks she totally got it, no matter what you do. Can you spell frustration?!?!?!

  • Having bought something and then finding it for sale at a bargain price a day later.

Needs no explaining. At all.

  • When you try to get something to work over and over again and then someone else comes and manages at the first try.

Isn’t that so annoying?! You try to work something out, grow convinced it must be real tricky, and then someone else (for example your stupid brother) comes along, says with an air of superiority “hey, let me try” and you reluctantly let him have a shot, looking forward to seeing him fail just as miserably – and then he manages at the first try. I really hate it when that happens.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

How about you? What do you really not like?

Psychological Regression – the perils and the power

Regression

For quite some time now I have wanted to write a follow up post on my first post about regression. I’ve brooded over it for weeks now, never finding quite the right words to say, only ever adding ideas and thought fragments, never getting to coherence. But I think I have finally managed. Please note, though, that everything I write is solely my own personal opinion that comes from my own experience with the subject and fom reflection alone and with my mom.

Psychological regression is the term that is used for when people engage in behavior that is associated with a younger age or earlier developmental stage than they really are. This kind of behavior is often considered to be immature, infantile, childish, self-indulgent, egoistic or inappropriate. It can range anywhere from harmless, like sucking your thumb or chewing on the ends of pencils, to potentially dangerous, like doing hard drugs.

I believe that in itself psychological regression is neither good nor bad. It just IS. I believe that whether it becomes bad and a peril, or good and a source of healing energy, depends first and foremost on what we make of it. So let’s have a closer, nonjudgmental look at what it is. Since I am no stranger at all to regression, I’ll provide examples from my own life where I can.

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Key features of psychological regression:

Psychological regression can range anywhere from very subtle to very noticeable.

Subtle regressive behavior is usually socially accepted within either the society as a whole or a social group. Excessive smoking, drinking, partying or a devil-may-care attitude, all those can be socially accepted and still be regressive behavior, if the person who’s doing them should be able to operate at a more mature level.

On the other end of the spectrum regressive behavior can also be very noticeable. Most of my own regressive behaviors range there. My default way to dress, look and behave is that of a younger teenager, for example. Biologically I am in my mid-20s, but people think I’m way younger than that. And it gets even more noticeable when I resort to things like my pacifier or throw a tantrum that makes the terrible twos look like a picnic. Very noticeable, trust me.

Psychological regression is self-centered.

While regressive behavior can be very interactional, aiming to get other people to react in a certain way, it does not, in itself, consider other people and their needs. It is self-centered and thus fairly reckless. When I behave younger than I am, I do it because something inside of myself calls for it, even when it is inconvenient or annoying or frustrating for others. It does not really care about others very much, it’s only about me. Which leads to the next point.

Psychological regression satisfies needs.

Regressive behavior aims at getting people something that they feel is necessary in order to end a state of deficiency. It can be hard to figure out WHICH need a certain regressive behavior satisfies, but I believe every regressive behavior satisfies one. It might be the need to feel important, seen, provided for, indulged, valued or loved. Or the need to relax, feel safe, to be distracted, to forget, to avoid something or to create security. Or some other need.

Psychological regression is a coping response to psychological distress.

Distress is what happens when the level of stress exceeds the person’s ability to cope with it in a healthy and appropriate way. Psychological distress usually involves feelings and their going out of balance. When the person ran out of healthy, appropriate and mature ways to cope with it, she resorts to regressive behaviors that have, on earlier developmental levels, been known to provide relief. For example I have a pacifier and at home I am not shy to use it. Not because I think it’s “fun” or “cool” or because I want to call special attention to myself, but because it helps me cope. It soothes me. It helps me calm down. It helps me feel safe. If I were capable of more mature ways to achieve that, I’d use them, but as it is, I am happy I have any way at all.

Psychological regression can’t just be “snapped out of”.

As I illustrated above, regressive behavior is not about being lazy or unwilling to bother for maturity, but the best possible way to satisfy a psychological need and/or cope with psychological distress. Neither the need, nor the distress just go away if they are unattended. Therefore it’s not possible to just “snap out of” the regressive behavior that is used to cope with them. People don’t go for the least mature way to deal with things on purpose, after all, but because more mature alternatives are, for whatever reason, not available to them at the time. So “snapping out of it” is no real possibility. And not really desirable either, because while it’s possible to suppress the behavior for a certain time, it’s not going to improve the well-being of the person in the long run. For example I can take the pacifier out of my mouth when a neighbor drops by. But discontinuing my coping behavior means my stress level rises again and while I can endure that for a little while, it better not be a long while. So just “snapping out of it” is off the table, please.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Okay, so much for what I believe psychological regression to be. Like I said, I think that in itself this is neither bad nor good. It just IS. At the same time, however, I have grown convinced that regressive behavior can be a very powerful source of healing and psychological development, but that it can also become a really destructive force that can even put the self and others at substantial danger.

I think whether regression becomes a peril or a benefit largely depends on those two things:

Are the people who are primarily involved aware that it is happening?

Are there safe boundaries in place within which the regressive behavior takes place?

I think if the answer to either of these questions is “no”, then the regressive behavior becomes potentially unhealthy and a peril to the person who employs the regressive behavior, as well as to other people around the person. Why?

  • because without awareness it’s easy to get stuck
  • because without awareness it easily leads to feelings of unhappiness and negative attitudes towards oneself for repeatedly failing to “cope better” like other people can
  • because without awareness people generally just accept the behavior or make random and often futile attempts at improving it, so that the regressive behavior doesn’t go away and can ultimately get in the way of achieving ones goals
  • because without boundaries it can end up involving abuse and harm done to oneself or others (like by coping through drugs, casual sex, little commitment to adult commitments and because of the general inconsideration of others that regressive behavior comes with)
  • because without boundaries regressive behavior can easily lead to yet more regressive behavior, with the person eventually losing sight of more mature ways to react or losing the desire to get there, ending in a vicious spiral at the end of which the person gets less and less capable of living a mature and happy life

If the answer to those two questions about regression, however, is:

Yes, the people who are primarily involved are aware that it’s happening.

Yes, there are safe boundaries in place within which the regressive behavior takes place.

then it is possible to gain access to the power that lies within psychological regression and regressive behavior. For one thing because it is possible to recognize those positive things then. And for another thing because if there are awareness and safe boundaries, the behaviors can get addressed and worked on, too, with consideration for the potential and positive aspects of psychological regression. So what are those?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In my experience the positive aspects are:

Psychological regression is an important signal.

Regressive behavior makes an important statement about where the person is at in her psychological development. For example I dress and behave like a teenager, because that’s where I feel I am at in large aspects of my life. I have a hard time relating to many adult things, like getting a job and being a productive member of society. I feel like there are things I need to take care of first, before I can advance, because I’m still stuck between being a child and being an adult. Which means that at the moment I can go both ways. While I am writing this blog post, for example, it’s pretty much the adult in me who is writing. But in situations that involve my emotions, I’m usually very much drawn to the child-like side.

In my original development I have experienced several traumas at various stages of my development. Those are not resolved yet, so I keep getting drawn back. Looking at what I get drawn back to is very helpful, because it helps me, my mom, and my therapist with figuring out what my issues are, exactly. So that is definitely a very positive aspect, that the regressive behavior can give us a pointer on where to dig for stuff that needs some work.

Psychological regression is a form of self-soothing.

Like discussed above, it is a coping mechanism. If used with awareness and within safe boundaries that is something positive. Being able to revert to regressive behavior that satisfies my needs and calms me down is good because it gives me a certain sense of self-efficiency that I would otherwise lack.

Psychological regression is an opportunity to make up for something that has been lost.

This ties in with the needs thing mentioned above. I know that for myself, many times my regressive behavior gives me a good feeling, like maybe it’s not too late yet to make the experiences I missed out on. For me most of those experiences are interactional. My mom responding to a tantrum like I were little. Or sometimes I play possum when it’s time to get dressed, hoping that she will pick up on the cue and dress me, because I like feeling like she cares about how I look, because she’s gentle when she puts clothes on me and because it’s fun. We’re both aware that we’re “playing little” and that it’s about adding a fuzzy and warm experience and not just me trying to maneuver her into doing something because I’m a sick manipulator who enjoys a little power trip. No, I’m just in need of some experiences that I had to miss out on. And I believe that collecting those experiences and being aware of them will ultimately help me progress. Going forward by going backward. Go figure!

Psychological regression is an opportunity to recover some innocence.

At least for me it is. At times it feels like I employ a regressive behavior solely for reclaiming some of the innocence that was stolen from me. Cuddling with mom, for example. She’s my one really safe person and while I know that I am in my mid 20s and technically should not want to sit on my moms lap and / or require her to cuddle with me so much, I do. Because I enjoy it. Because I enjoy that it is innocent and safe and because I don’t feel like I am this old anyway. I enjoy that I feel safe with her, that she can hug me and kiss me and touch me and that it feels innocent and like the way it is supposed to be. Like it should have been all along. I could add more examples, but hey, this is really long already.

Psychological regression can serve as a moratorium.

Fancy word, eh, moratorium? 😉 Mom used it. It means delay or postponement or something. Kind of like buying time before proceeding. Sometimes that’s just what’s necessary. Everybody needs breaks. Even the best progress can’t just improve and improve and improve without a breather, without a little orientation backwards, too. Sometimes you just need to make sure everything is still safe, that you can get a break when you need one and that you have time and a space to do some catching up before you go somewhere. To prepare. To collect your resources. To summon your energy. To get ready for tackling something. Psychological regression can help with doing that.

Psychological regression can be a recreational space.

Hm, just what it says, really. Regressive behavior can be relaxing and comforting and de-stressing. Especially if it’s harmless regressive behavior that shouldn’t really be bothering anyone. So it’s okay to value it for what it is, a recreational space, rather than devaluing it as childish or immature. Really.

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There you go, that’s been a long post, but one I have brooding over for a long time. Congratulations if you’ve made it all the way through! Feel free to take one of the sparkly bags of invisible candy over there, I made them myself. Do also feel free to share your own thoughts on regressive behavior as well! 🙂

The Sexual Healing Journey, Chapter 2

SexualHJ_02

Okay. Here we are. The journey proper begins.

But before I start, let me just say that there’s this big part of me which is all like this:

SeekingSafetyWanting to hide, feeling unsafe, wanting to protect myself, dreading everything that might be about to come. Unhappy that it has to be so difficult. Wanting to just cover my eyes and pretend to not be concerned by any stupid journey. But despite those feelings, this part of me is still being good, keeping silent, at least. No panic, just a littke unwillingness. And it’s just one part. The other part still wants to go ahead. So here I am, setting out for the journey.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Part one of the journey is called “becoming aware” and consists of four chapters. This is the first of those four and it’s called “realizing there is a sexual issue”.

The central statement of the chapter is that it says many survivors of sexual abuse don’t realize they have sexual issues and/or don’t want to face the fact that they do, because it’s embarrassing and personal and hard to face. Yeah. I agree. The chapter also said that often there’s a key moment or “flash of discovery” when people realize they do have a sexual issue.

Then the book prompted me to consider if any of those four apply to my own life:

  1. I’m acting in strange ways that don’t make sense.
  2. My sexual problem isn’t getting any better.
  3. My partner is hurting.
  4. New circumstances have made me more aware.

And that’s basically the chapter.
Phew! I’m relieved. Nothing too bad yet.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So here I am, giving those questions serious thought, even when I am pretty sure that I already realize that I do have sexual issues. But it can’t hurt to add some structure to the realization, so here I go. If you are sensitive to sexual content or feel offended by it, you might want to stop reading. Please make a safe decision for yourself.

1. I’m acting in strange ways that don’t make sense.

Bull’s eye. That’s pretty much the most obvious thing about my sexual issues. I am often acting in strange ways that don’t make sense. But that puts it mildly. I’m acting and reacting in strange ways that make me feel utterly disgusted and sickened with myself. I feel deeply embarrassed over many of those behaviors. At the same time I can’t switch them off. I’ll name a few, despite the embarrassment, so I don’t end up beating around the bush, as I guess that’s not the goal of “realizing”.

So what strange ways do I act in?

  • I have a sick tendency to look for sex with random men as a form of self-punishment. I make myself available for whatever they’d like to do, kinky stuff, stuff that hurts, whatever.
  • Imagery of sexual violence haunts me and torments and arouses me at the same time. I hate it. Sometimes it stops at the mental images, sometimes they come with urges to act upon them.
  • I misunderstand innocent affection within the family for sexual attention and react accordingly. Or I get ideas all by myself and behave inappropriately towards dad and sometimes mom, too.

There are more things, but those are embarrassing me enough already and you probably get the idea. All those things don’t make sense, because I’m in no way living in an environment that appreciates or promotes those behaviors anymore, I really don’t want to behave that way and the behavior generally has unpleasant results. Even so, I behave that way.

2. My sexual problem isn’t getting any better.

I have been having those issues ever since I was removed from my family. That’s 11 long years ago this January. During the time I lived in and out of hospitals and group homes the problems haven’t changed one iota, but then, I never really cared about it. Ever since I came live with my new family, I have tried to keep the behavior under control, but it’s often not successful. Still. So it’s not really getting any better. Check.

3. My partner is hurting.

I don’t have a partner. I’m not anywhere near having one. I don’t even want one. I’m glad. So that, at least, isn’t a problem. But if I had one, that partner would probably be hurting.

4. New circumstances have made me more aware.

Well, the circumstances aren’t brand-new anymore, but even so: check. Coming to live with my family has definitely made me more aware that I have, indeed, issues. See, when I was living in hospitals and group homes, I was living with all those other people, other girls mainly, who were also a few cards short of their full decks, many of whom were not behaving that much differently from myself. So even when I was having problems because of my issues, I wasn’t the only one and I could still feel like this was somewhat normal. Well… now, living with my family, I’m definitely the odd one out.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Okay, so altogether this was a fairly gentle start to the journey. The realizing part is okay with me. It’s embarrassing to write about, but even so, still okay. So it was an easier start than I thought. I’m doing okay. I’m relieved.

Tomorrow’s chapter is called “acknowledging the abuse”. We’ll see how that one goes. Tomorrow.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Missed the past episodes of the journey? Here they are:

A Project for 2013
The Sexual Healing Journey Begins, Chapter 1

 

Book source:
MALTZ, Wendy (2012): The Sexual Healing Journey. A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse; Third Edition; Harper Collins. New York.

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