“It wasn’t just that I didn’t know what I was feeling; I was also afraid to acknowledge my feelings in case they were wrong. Survival for me had become about making sure that I didn’t do or say the wrong thing”. Darlene Ouimet
This morning my husband needed me to pick him up at one of our hay fields where he was dropping off his semi in preparation to haul some hay. The ground is covered in several inches of snow here and the last couple of days have been mild and the snow is very heavy, wet and slippery now. He pulled into the field in the Semi and I was driving the pick-up truck close behind. I was trying to ‘guess’ where he was going to park the Semi with the good intention of picking him up to avoid making him trek on foot through the snow. I advanced into the field and he held his hand up to alert me to ‘stop’ where I was. I felt uncomfortable.
He seemed to be driving the semi in random patterns and I jumped to the conclusion that I must have gotten in his way when I drove into the field. I assumed that he was trying to back the Semi up to the haystack, but he couldn’t because I was parked in between the Semi and the stack. I tried to get out of the way but I realized it was really slippery and I was starting to get stuck in the snow. On top of that, I didn’t know exactly where to ‘go’ now and I didn’t want to make things worse, so I just stayed where I was.
I became aware of my old default mode coming up. My old default mode operated under the belief that I could never do the right thing and that I always did something stupid when I was trying to help. I felt my face get a little hot. I imagined that my husband was frustrated that I was in his way and that I should have known better than to follow him into the field before he backed the Semi up to the hay stack.
The old self talk started and it was even mixed with the new self-talk and went something like this: “Shit. Why do I always do the wrong thing? Well why does he always expect me to read his mind? I was only trying to help. And now I have parked in his way and I think my truck is stuck! I hate his hand signals. I hate trying to guess where I am supposed to be. I am the only one in this whole farming community who never caught on to what everyone is trying to do in the field or how to stay out of the way. I bet Jim’s mother would have known where to park. No wonder I hate farming. No wonder I hate bringing supper to the field… It’s not my fault that I can’t read minds…”
And then my NEW way of sorting things out kicked in. I reminded myself of where this whole insecurity thing originated. Living in a dysfunctional family system I was taught or rather ‘expected’ to mind read for the sake of survival. I was constantly trying to figure out what other people wanted me to do by constantly guessing what would keep me the safest out of fear of the consequences of making the wrong choice. Anticipating what someone else wanted was something that had been taught to me through the actions and attitudes of others. Saying or doing the wrong thing could get me punished, rejected or beaten. And the rules of engagement were NEVER clear.
The anxiety that came up in the field was what I call “a leftover from the past”. I was worried about doing the wrong thing because of the consequences in the past when I did the wrong thing. Furthermore, when I did the wrong thing in the past people used it to prove that I was stupid. They rolled their eyes and made frustrated sighing noises. They acted like I had ruined their day just by being in it. And I thought they were right! I felt like a burden and I berated myself for never doing anything right. Living in that system it is only a matter of time before a person is afraid to make ANY move for fear of making the wrong move. I was frozen in the fear of reprimand, humiliation and rejection.
Realizing that I had slid back into my old default mode, I started to relax and did some positive self-talk. Jim finally parked the Semi by the entrance of the field. I put the pic-up truck in gear only to find out that I was indeed stuck in the snow. I felt stupid again for a brief second but then assured myself that it could happen to anyone and it was ‘no big deal’. My husband Jim never actually gets mad at me for anything like this so my fear is ‘in truth’ unreasonable and totally rooted in the past and in my childhood survival mode.
Jim had to slug through the snow on foot to reach where I was parked and as he took over the driving position from me in order to get the truck unstuck, he explained that he kept getting stuck in the Semi and that was why he was driving in random patterns all over the field. J
I had never considered that option…..
The Truth was that HE was having problems in the snow and his driving all over the field had nothing to do with where I parked or with anything to do with me at all.
Sometimes even today my old default mode comes back. And my old default mode was always to shine the flashlight on ME and to never consider that the problem had nothing to do with me. The whole exchange, the whole event and all the assumptions and fears happened in my mind. Realizing where this faulty thinking originates always helps me to set it straight and set my thinking back to the truth. Instead of just feeling ‘stupid’ it helps me a great deal to process where those thoughts come from originally.
Please share your thoughts. Does this ever happen to you? Do you ever find yourself totally willing to jump to self-blame or self-reprimand? Have you ever had an entire event happen mostly in your mind and jumped to all the wrong conclusions because of the way you were regarded in the past? Have you thought about where this default mode originated and if that survival mode still serves your best interests today?
Just a little snapshot of a day in the life of… me ~
Related posts ~ The quote used in this post comes from the article “Why I didn’t know how I felt about anything”