Hostile world

My session yesterday was interesting. So a quick update re my work situation. Mental update, as nothing has changed or happened there.

Ron has pointed out quite a few times over the last two years that I live in a ‘hostile world’. I expect people not to like me and I see rejection everywhere. So he thinks this work stuff is the latest installment.

It’s too painful for me to remember much of the session at the moment. I remembered, in a way, or re-experienced, how I’d felt growing up when my father didn’t talk to me for several years. I don’t think I fully felt it at the time, it was locked away in a part. But the feeling is of complete devastation and humiliation. Just feeling annihilated. At the time, no one else in my family acknowledged what was going on – they played along.

To feel so unprotected and uncared about is really hard. As children, we need to feel belonging and caring. We also need the world to make sense – that what people say, corresponds to what we see happening.

I’m mostly staying in bed just absorbing this.

I don’t totally agree with Ron that I’m only being triggered. That makes it sound like the work situation isn’t happening. I think it is happening. However, because I’m getting overwhelmingly triggered, I’m doing things to make it worse, and it feels more stark than what it probably is.

Trying to come to terms with how horribly I was treated as a child is hard. I knew intellectually, but I didn’t know emotionally.

And now, having evaded a sibling birthday dinner, I have said yes to a birthday tea this afternoon. So I have to face the people who did this to me. They’re not doing it now. I haven’t wanted to cut ties entirely. It’s not good timing for me to see them now, but the guilt of always saying no seems worse.

  1. It’s interesting to me to read this. Here, everyone takes everything personally. If a kid knocks over someone else’s pencil case by mistake, it’s an incident. In the West, we are raised to detach ourselves from things, to assume there are no negative intentions behind slights because malice is expressed more openly–not covertly. We don’t usually need to wonder if small actions are expressing someone’s true nastiness. I wonder if you were raised in an environment where aggressiveness was regularly expressed covertly. Small slights expressed people’s true feelings–not words. In words, all was fine. Meanwhile, your dad gave you the silent treatment for years. Things were not fine. So you became very attentive to actions as expressing people’s real feelings and very alert to actions that expressed hostility, because in your family actions often did express hostility.

    I know one problem I have here in forming relationships is that I am expecting a verbal message and non-verbal message, and I expect the non-verbal message to be more important and to possibly contradict the verbal message. this is because I am mixed up about culture, and I think I am dealing with Indians who do communicate that way. But more and more, I get the impression the non-verbal message I’m looking for doesn’t exist. Whatever I’m seeing is incidental. I wonder if something like that is happening for you. Sometimes, what you are looking for is there–you do run into other people who communicate the way your family did and who are very hostile–but sometimes you are looking for something that doesn’t exist.

    • Ellen said:

      Interesting about the cultural differences. And yes, our childhoods were similar in that it was actions that had hostility, more than words. That’s really really true for me. In words, everyone is polite and caring – pretty much perfect. It’s the actions that tell the tale. So it makes sense I’m looking for subtext. Though losing my job is definitely an action that hurts me. However the whys of it aren’t totally clear, and I may be looking for hostile intent when there isn’t one, or at least, that may not be the main reason. The way the boss conveyed this to me – we really like your work. Next sentence – we’re not renewing your contract. And nothing much else. So the verbal and non-verbal are not matching up – there’s a whole lot missing there, I’d say. I think in corporate culture, they will not face any negatives head on, or rarely. Most people want to skip that part. So, I just lose the contract, instead of possibly having had a discussion with the client about what he’d like done differently. This is nicer for him.

      I’ve tended to really like Indians I’ve worked with, because they seem to be able to be more direct about things than in my WASP culture. But India is pretty big, so this stuff must vary a lot.

      Fascinating learning a bit about Bhutan from your posts and comments! Thanks Ashana

      • I should say that my family growing up was very direct about expressing hostility. They are not the passive-aggressive type. So we don’t have that in common. I expect subtext here because in India, there is always subtext–not usually negative, just subtext–and I’m very used to that. (They are direct about some things and not others.)

  2. Last time I checked, losing your job is in the top 10 things for bad things to happen. I am sorry that you felt the return of the devastation that you felt from childhood. Problems can be tough enough without adding junk from childhood too. I hope you get a new job some where else soon.

    • Ellen said:

      Yes, it is stressful, and I need to give myself time to accept and bounce back. I do find any bad things that happen trigger off memories of childhood. Thanks for the support Ruth.

  3. I’m sorry that you’re going through such a difficult time with your job. As the commenter above has noted, that’s a huge life stressor, and it sounds like you’re handling it remarkably well, given everything.

    I think it’s so important when you say that children need to feel like they’re protected and they belong. Without that security as a kid, I think it takes a lot of work as an adult to develop a genuine sense of self. But it sound like you’re doing that work, and for that I think you deserve a lot of kudos. Keep hanging in there. 🙂

  4. Cat said:

    I understand it is very difficult to function with the very people who screwed us up!

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