Monday, July 8, 2013


I was sitting with a friend and he brought up a political issue. He told me how he liked this issue and gave a simple example of how he would enjoy it. I expressed my position, saying how I didn't like  this law and how it would make my life difficult without seeing much benefit to the whole, and I suggested a compromise.

"Well can't you just take it and get through the month of difficulty to benefit the rest of us," he said.

My head started to swell, and I felt the muscles around my eyes contract and tighten up. I said to myself, 'He isn't addressing my issues, he is just trying to silence me, asking me to be nice and quiet for awhile.'

The Nodes
When I was in therapy, I would sometimes bring into the session my experiences. Often this would be around how somebody said something, pretty innocent, but that it affected me. This could happen at work, and I would fade a away for a little while, withdraw from others, and be distracted from tasks. My head pounded. I felt angry. I wanted to go back and stop that particular conversation from ever having happened, and for having unleashed this massive pressure on me.

My therapist called this 'The Nodes.' These were pockets of memories in our psyche that were raw and unprocessed, the actual memories. Unknowingly in our daily life, a comment, a gesture, or even a particular reaction could tap into these memories. They could be good or bad.

In my case, I felt like these memories, these nodes, were bad. Tapping into them meant unleashing a sleeping monster from its cave. Then I would have to spend the rest of the day, into the night putting this monster into its cave.

We explored these memories in therapy, but since the psyche is so fast, we couldn't go in and address every single memory, reprocessing them and, taking out their sting, instead we developed tools for how I could confront this situation on my own.

Being Silenced
In my meeting with my friend, I felt like he wan't interested in going very far in discussing this political issue and hearing my side. He closed his virtual door on this matter. Without looking into what motivated him to be on his guard, the feeling of being silenced had deeper repercussions. This feeling tapped into a node, a strong memory, or just the feelings around that memory, and I felt myself start to withdraw.

I couldn't really see the actual events present in the node memory, rather I just felt the sensations associated with that period. Allowing myself to explore this further, I realized that this brought me back when I was younger and growing up in my parent's house. There was a minefield of topics that had to be avoided for fear of setting off my mother on a tirade. The most evident of these topics was the hoarded state of the house. I did not perceive our house as  a hoard. It was very cluttered. We didn't bring in friends, guests, or strangers. However I was lead to believe that this was not a permanent state, but a work in progress. Somehow when my parents got enough time together, they fully intended to sort through stuff and get everything in order. Of course that never happened..

I was young, and I did have time on my hands - summer vacation, weekends, coming home early from school. So I could do something. Sometimes I would ask, "Can I organize the stuff in the basement?" or "Can I bring the stuff lining the hall and the stairs downstairs?" or worst of all "Do we need all this stuff, there is a lot of old magazines and newspapers?"

These questions would set my mother off in a tirade. There was no discussing. She would throw every epithet at me, laying the blame fully upon me for that state of the house. Things were like this because I did not let them do things, or that I got in the way or disturbed them. I was chased an yelled at. I could either go outside until things calmed down, or board myself up in my room.

Other consequences of this explosion would be things like "Nobody will have dinner tonight! I hope you're happy with yourself! You've upset me, so I don't feel like cooking!"
(This of course was the regular situation, since she had resigned from cooking years earlier).

The scars from these events became the packets of memories buried in my psyche, trapped in these nodes. The lessons from these experiences were that I should be careful how I express myself, and how I ask questions, not knowing what dark creature this can bring out in others.

To this day, I tend to be perceived as shy and on the quiet side. I am careful with my interactions, trying not to step on toes, I present my opinions not as challenges or attacks but as a perspective or point of view.

Tools for Node Encounters
I don't enjoy these ambushes and surprise attacks. Where I simply got together for a bit to eat and I come out feeling wounded, licking my wounds. However I don't withdraw.

On the one hand, I can try to understand my friend, his history and personal issues that drive him and his reaction to put up a wall is about him, not me.

Yet more importantly, it is the tools that I have in my arsenal for handling the impact of nodes that gets me through this and makes me stronger.

One of the most valuable techniques I encountered in therapy was EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). I don't know how it works, but it helps to extract me from the affects of these memories, reprocess them, and filter out the sting of these memories.

I practiced this in therapy, and subsequently learned to implement this on my own, using the same technique I did with the therapist. It put the brakes on my mind ruminating about the past, and allowed me to come out of the withdrawn state, putting the memories and the trigger into proper perspective.

Life Challenges
I know that these encounters will continue throughout my life. I do not avoid them or worry, nor do I lament my predicament. I know that even though I spent a lot of time in therapy and worked through my issues, my upbringing and experiences will continue to creep into my current life. The issue is not about 'why did this happen to me' but rather about 'how can I put this into perspective, and not let this impact progress in my life'

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