Getting past avoidance

Chris-duck

MyPTSD Pro
Hey,

So I have a trauma T, and I lowkey think he's used to cases #worse than my own. And he knows I think that, and also thinks I'm being a dumbarse (My words, not his). But basically the thing we struggle with is avoidance of feelz (zoning out, minimising, whatever feels most available at the time). And I can do T exposure stuff and feel crap and yay actual exposure, but doing imaginal exposure with him, it's like an audience where I've already braced myself before cos I know it's coming, and no way am I showing any vulnerability with an audience. I don't think that reflects how "safe" I feel with him, although "safe" is a weird concept to me in general.

So for homework, there's daily mindfulness shit (I hate it, he knows I hate it, but I am willing to try because I know I hate it cos it makes me #feel), and when shit comes into my brain I let it and then write out whatever that memory or whatever was. Also, banned from overtime at work, cos I've totes been overdoing it, but hey. To my point:

Since T I'm basically constantly bracing myself for whatever, cos I know if I get triggered or something pops into my mind I need to let it and then write it out, so like my subconscious brain is like "There is no homework until something pops in" Which is technically true, but also, as much as this post makes it sound like I don't, I do wanna like not be like this. I dunno how to get past my subconscious "Okay, so if things pop in, let them so OMG DONT LET ANYTHING POP IN!" So I'm open to suggestions, a "omg right me too", or like anything. Cos I feel like I'm being an absolute douche by not embracing every #opportunityforgrowth.

Ta guys
 

Survivor3

MyPTSD Pro
Do you constantly minimise and avoid your true feelings of your trauma because deep down they really cause you so much fear? And your scared to access those feelings incase it completely derails you? (Especially whilst holding down a full time job). When I've read your posts recently, there's a constant theme of avoidance of what happened to you.
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
Does it have to be avoid or not avoid? Like all or nothing? Is there something that is a little in-between?

I avoided for 30 years. So I'd say I'm pretty good at avoiding. And when I started therapy I nearly never went because: feelings no thanks. I thought I would combust and unravel if I stopped avoiding.
And whilst it's been crappy feeling things. I haven't combusted.

What my T was saying was this "window of tolerance", or starting "a little tap turning and I can turn it on and off and let a little drip out at a time" .

So is there a way to start that?
For me, I think I could start accessing the feelings by trying to have compassion for what I went through. I could only give myself compassion if I thought about what happened as if it happened to another little girl. And when I thought about it like that it helped challenge myself and then feelings and then blah blah blah.

So maybe that bracing yourself to avoid the feelings, somehow it letting that part know a little bit of feeling can come out and you'll be ok. You'll still be standing.
 

Chris-duck

MyPTSD Pro
Does it have to be avoid or not avoid? Like all or nothing? Is there something that is a little in-between?
Um. No? Haha. Like I dunno if I'm being dense but I have "feel a thing or don't". Like there is no middle ground to me (or to my T, and I don't disagree), I don't even understand how there would be. Cos either I feel how I did in trauma during exposure or I'm avoiding feeling it.

For me, I think I could start accessing the feelings by trying to have compassion for what I went through
Lol. Compassion is more of an end point for me. Like there is no chance I'm gonna be able to use compassion as a starting point. And I feel like I'm being awkward. But like, lack of avoidance is meant to lead to compassion. Like if I don't avoid then I have a realistic view of things n then later can decide whether it's my fault or I'm deserving compassion or whatever.
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
Um. No? Haha. Like I dunno if I'm being dense but I have "feel a thing or don't". Like there is no middle ground to me (or to my T, and I don't disagree), I don't even understand how there would be. Cos either I feel how I did in trauma during exposure or I'm avoiding feeling it
Ok, so take another feeling. Happiness for example. Or excitement. Or anticipation. Sometimes we feel really really really happy. Other times we feel a bit happy. There are levels of feeling. We might feel really happy, and then we move on to another feeling. So the length of the feeling as well as the intensity changes.
If that can happen with happy feelingsz then why can't it happen with traumatic feelings? Get close to them but not overwhelmed by them?

Lol. Compassion is more of an end point for me. Like there is no chance I'm gonna be able to use compassion as a starting point. And I feel like I'm being awkward. But like, lack of avoidance is meant to lead to compassion. Like if I don't avoid then I have a realistic view of things n then later can decide whether it's my fault or I'm deserving compassion or whatever.
It worked for me. Because I could have compassion for this fictional child who went through what I did. I could see for that fictional child: not their fault. And if I could do that for this fictional child, why on earth could I not do that for me? I am that fictional child. Helped me challenge those distorted beliefs.
But that's me. And you are you.
What do you think would work for you?
Maybe addressing why you brace yourself so much for getting to feelings?
What do you think will happen if you feel?
 

Chris-duck

MyPTSD Pro
Sometimes we feel really really really happy. Other times we feel a bit happy. There are levels of feeling
I genuinely don't have this. Like I feel or I don't. Mostly don't. Usually it's a cognitive "that is a happy thing" more than feeling happy. I genuinely feel nothing 99% of the time with an occasional stab of feelz to make me lowkey aware "I am happy about that" or "that sucks". It's not that I don't understand what is a happy or sad thing, and I feel empathy for other peoples stuff, just yeah, with my own stuff it's literally just one second of feelz then nothing.
If that can happen with happy feelingsz then why can't it happen with traumatic feelings? Get close to them but not overwhelmed by them?
Yeah like I said above I dont have that. Like I don't feel anything, or if I do I'm unaware. So I need like a (possibly metaphorical, but I'm open, heh) punch to the face. Cos this isn't only trauma feelz related, it's everything related. Just cos I shut down all feelz before I even feel anything. No difference between "good" or "bad" feelz. All equal in the Chrissy-hellscape
Because I could have compassion for this fictional child who went through what I did. I could see for that fictional child: not their fault. And if I could do that for this fictional child, why on earth could I not do that for me? I am that fictional child. Helped me challenge those distorted beliefs
I've tried this so many times. It frustrates me, like my brain is like "theoretically fair logic, but technicalities.." I would feel compassion (and do for IRL kids) for someone in my position at the time, I don't feel compassion for me. Like I've argued it a million times and it just doesn't get into my brain. I've argued it so much that sometimes I just wanna lie about how I totes know it wasn't my fault or was bad or whatever. But like it's not what I actually feel. Even though I understand that I'd feel that for another person, my brain doesn't get past that block.
What do you think would work for you?
Maybe addressing why you brace yourself so much for getting to feelings?
What do you think will happen if you feel?
What do I think will work for me? Honestly, I'm trying so hard to not say "nothing", like I feel hopeless but I'm also willing to try shit so not totally hopeless I guess, just I try shit and it works then I backlash and it no longer works. So I'm frustrated. And people say "take it slow" but like I don't see a middle ground at all.
I brace myself because habit mostly, like "bad thing is gonna happen, even if you're walking right into it, you wanna brace yaself", and meh, childhood shit where good and bad feelz are both bad and even if you feel them you gotta hide them cos themz the rules. I've been prepped on how to act and how to feel my whole life and now I'm a bit like "um, you want me to feel *and* show it? wtf is the catch?"
I think if I feel I'll f*ck everything up in my life, end up in another shitty situation with zero coping mechanisms to deal with it, hah. You didn't say I had to be rational, heh/
 

joeylittle

Administrator
I brace myself because habit mostly, like "bad thing is gonna happen, even if you're walking right into it, you wanna brace yaself"
I think this is a really useful thing to remember. Psychological habits = core beliefs. Those neural pathways we become locked into. And they are the hardest things to take apart. You'll only be able to get after them by chipping away from different angles.

my subconscious brain is like "There is no homework until something pops in" Which is technically true, but also, as much as this post makes it sound like I don't, I do wanna like not be like this.
Something you might try: Instead of waiting for the memory to pop into your head - try setting a timer for 10 minutes and deliberately writing out a memory. Something that you've been told is bad, but you don't identify as bad.

See if you can notice your mind pushing you away from feeling. And if you can't notice it in your head, you might be able to see it in what you write. All these:

avoidance of feelz

I hate it cos it makes me #feel

embracing every #opportunityforgrowth.
- are avoidance. I'm sure I'm not telling you anything you don't already know, I just want to reflect back for you how strong your mind is at this. It's even working to avoid you writing about the actual problem. And it's not hard to understand - I can absolutely say that this is something I do. I don't deflect with language the way you are, but I do become extremely disconnected from how I feel - and it's deliberate, because I don't want to sit inn that place of sadness and hopelessness, because I know it too well. Right now I'm just accepting it as a coping mechanism - but only because I am able to drop it and get connected in therapy.

Anyway - I think the suggestion from your T of writing is good. I'd just make it simpler by sitting down to do it for a time-limited period - NOT with the goal of feeling anything, just with the goal of expressing honestly on paper, and when you catch yourself avoiding or minimizing, just stop, and breathe, and go back to writing without those things. And when the timer stops, you can stop. (this is also going to help your PTSD-brain not brace for impact - your mind will understand there's a stopping point, and hopefully not clench up so much.)

FWIW - I also don't understand how to do safety, or self-compassion. I think @Friday said in a different thread, how instead of focusing on finding safety, one can focus on finding competency. Capability. I'd probably call it, functionality, i.e. an ability to not dissolve into a frozen pile of despair. To me, these ideas (safety, self-compassion, etc) are pretty far away from where I'm at. When I try and do them, I get really tied into knots. But - I am able to notice when I'm reinforcing some kind of self-punishment mental pathway, and then stay present (instead of unplug), and then re-write the thought.

It's a f*cking slog. And I don't know if it's working, I don't even know how to know. But right now, that's about as advanced as I can get with changing the ways I avoid.

Hope something in here is helpful. And I hope you don't feel judged by my referencing the avoidance in your language - I truly admire how you've already, many times, been willing to stand up to yourself (and for yourself) about deflection. That you are struggling with it now doesn't seem like any kind of backsliding - on the. contrary, it speaks to how much you're struggling right now. Keep going. Keep talking with your T about different things to try. Hell, try the writing exercise while you're IN therapy - let your T coach you through it mentally, see what happens.

Really pulling for you. This shit is hard.
 

Freida

Sponsor
I'm really glad you started this thread because, well, I suck at it too. It's just too hard to even imagine letting those feelings in, or admitting that I am the person in the memories.
What my T was saying was this "window of tolerance", or starting "a little tap turning and I can turn it on and off and let a little drip out at a time" .
Ya --- my problem with this is that if I crack the door open I get flooded - which leads to a total shutdown. sigh.
I would feel compassion (and do for IRL kids) for someone in my position at the time, I don't feel compassion for me. Like I've argued it a million times and it just doesn't get into my brain. I've argued it so much that sometimes I just wanna lie about how I totes know it wasn't my fault or was bad or whatever. But like it's not what I actually feel. Even though I understand that I'd feel that for another person, my brain doesn't get past that block.
yep.

One thing t and I have talked about is my belief that if I actually show someone how I am feeling they will freak out and bail on me or I'll end up taking care of them because they can't handle what I have to say.
And since I don't want to deal with someone else's drama I don't go down that road

One thing that might help... T has me reading (again) Coping with Trauma Related Dissociation by Suzette Boon and it's all about how to get connected with parts and learn to feel what they are carrying. It's my fourth time thru it over the last couple years - I can only handle a bit at a time - but it is full of a lot of good info on why we avoid and how to get past it. Eventually. 😁
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
What do I think will work for me? Honestly, I'm trying so hard to not say "nothing", like I feel hopeless but I'm also willing to try shit so not totally hopeless I guess, just I try shit and it works then I backlash and it no longer works. So I'm frustrated. And people say "take it slow" but like I don't see a middle ground at all.
I brace myself because habit mostly, like "bad thing is gonna happen, even if you're walking right into it, you wanna brace yaself", and meh, childhood shit where good and bad feelz are both bad and even if you feel them you gotta hide them cos themz the rules. I've been prepped on how to act and how to feel my whole life and now I'm a bit like "um, you want me to feel *and* show it? wtf is the catch?"
I think if I feel I'll f*ck everything up in my life, end up in another shitty situation with zero coping mechanisms to deal with it, hah. You didn't say I had to be rational, heh
It's all rational? In that: trauma happened and you found a way to get through it. That coping strategy has just had it's day now, and time to find new ways?
Ignore this totally if it doesn't help (obviously), but would taking time to think about how feelings feel in your body help? Like increased heart rate, or fidgeting or something? Might help to experience feelings by being more attuned to what that makes your body do or feel?



Ya --- my problem with this is that if I crack the door open I get flooded - which leads to a total shutdown. sigh
Yeah, get that totally. My fear too. Does happen. I'm in a constant struggle to work out what that elusive window of tolerance is! Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't. But I think it is getting easier? Mostly. So practice helps? Though practice is painful.


yep.

One thing t and I have talked about is my belief that if I actually show someone how I am feeling they will freak out and bail on me or I'll end up taking care of them because they can't handle what I have to say.
And since I don't want to deal with someone else's drama I don't go down that road

One thing that might help... T has me reading (again) Coping with Trauma Related Dissociation by Suzette Boon and it's all about how to get connected with parts and learn to feel what they are carrying. It's my fourth time thru it over the last couple years - I can only handle a bit at a time - but it is full of a lot of good info on why we avoid and how to get past it. Eventually. 😁
Totally have that too. Feeling that my feelings will be too much for someone, so I'll have to manage them and me. Or they will ignore it, so again I'll be on my own and manage them and that relationship. But that is what T is there for, to experience all this and change those beliefs.

Sounds a good book - will read that myself!
 

Sideways

Moderator
I'm a real novice with emotions.

When I started? It was an 'awareness practice' thing, much like @joeylittle suggested. I carried a little cue card in my wallet with all different emotions written on it, and at regular intervals, pulled it out and tried to identify a word that best reflected where I was at.

I was recommended reading that talked about identifying how each emotion feels in my body (like anxiety is my stomach getting in knots, anger is my jaw clenching), but that was waaaaay too advanced for me when I was starting out.

Most of the time, I was anxious and... tiny bits of other emotions. I've spent my life not feeling as a survival mechanism, so it's not a quick thing to change.

Mindfulness has been a big part of it. Practicing for 5 minutes a day when I was feeling safe, and using a whole range of different types of mindfulness techniques. Because when I pulled out that card? I was "doing" mindfulness, but...that's just a fancy, in vogue way of saying "noticing non-judgementally".

I still practice this daily. I use the Moody App now because I'm totally getting tech-savvy with my recovery 🤙. Same deal - pulling out my app at certain times during the day (mostly benign moments when my emotions aren't big), and just figuring out "what am I feeling?" Like a curious scientist.

Keep it simple. Practice. It's a skill. You can learn it, but it takes practice. Just like getting a IV line in. The only difference is that it'll take longer, because not feeling has been a survival mechanism. It's no longer a helpful survival mechanism. You'll get it - just keep practicing. Be patient with yourself.

And yeah, I'd second the comment about your writing style. I'm often reminded of the Yahdayahda episode of Seinfeld when I read through your diary. You blahblah or # through many of the most important points that you're making, and even though we all often get what you're talking about, isn't spending time in those thoughts and descriptions (that attract feelings) kind of important/helpful. What happens if you practice taking the time to write out the words?

Journalling is something I've used for decades and it's the process of writing out things that helps me process and deal with them and pull the emotions out from their avoidance-hiding-places. It's time consuming, and repeating stuff I've already lived through (so, seemingly kinda pointless). But it's the writing it out that helps me process stuff the most.

Toss what's unhelpful:)
 

Chris-duck

MyPTSD Pro
Thanks for replies guys :)

Something you might try: Instead of waiting for the memory to pop into your head - try setting a timer for 10 minutes and deliberately writing out a memory. Something that you've been told is bad, but you don't identify as bad.
Yeah, we tried that, and I can kinda half do it when I'm myself, doing it in session with him I can't. Cos he's like "that's bad", and my brain seems to feel like it needs to counteract that. Like his reaction makes me minimise shit more, and it's not like he's going to be like "you're right, nowt to see there", so we get stuck. So it's partly avoidance of memory shit and partly whatever I just described that I can't think of the right word for.
Right now I'm just accepting it as a coping mechanism - but only because I am able to drop it and get connected in therapy
Yeah, I think the main issue is I can't right now. Can sometimes, have done sometimes, but right now, it's not happening.
Hope something in here is helpful. And I hope you don't feel judged by my referencing the avoidance in your language - I truly admire how you've already, many times, been willing to stand up to yourself (and for yourself) about deflection. That you are struggling with it now doesn't seem like any kind of backsliding - on the. contrary, it speaks to how much you're struggling right now. Keep going. Keep talking with your T about different things to try. Hell, try the writing exercise while you're IN therapy - let your T coach you through it mentally, see what happens.
No worries, I don't feel judged, like you said nowt that I don't already know. And thanks :)
Ya --- my problem with this is that if I crack the door open I get flooded - which leads to a total shutdown. sigh
Yeah, I think in my brain it's like there's a wall, and you can take one brick out or smash the whole thing down, but it doesn't change the amount of water behind that wall that's gonna try to escape through whatever size of hole.
One thing t and I have talked about is my belief that if I actually show someone how I am feeling they will freak out and bail on me or I'll end up taking care of them because they can't handle what I have to say.
And since I don't want to deal with someone else's drama I don't go down that road
I basically shove it all into the "I don't want an audience" box, it means about a million different things depending on context, but it's basically that extra people just complicate things. Like whether it's how they'll deal with me saying whatever, or how I'll deal with them saying whatever. I tend to do shit alone, I have friends etc and am relatively social but like I wouldn't take a friend to a hospital appt cos then I just feel the need to reassure them.
One thing that might help... T has me reading (again) Coping with Trauma Related Dissociation by Suzette Boon and it's all about how to get connected with parts and learn to feel what they are carrying. It's my fourth time thru it over the last couple years - I can only handle a bit at a time - but it is full of a lot of good info on why we avoid and how to get past it. Eventually. 😁
Thanks, I'll have a look
That coping strategy has just had it's day now, and time to find new ways?
Yeah, I know. But also, stress that it's not. Like I was pretty sure of that when I left Scotland and obv nah didn't work out. And I understand I'm in a much better position now, but it's also a thing in the back of my mind all the time.
Ignore this totally if it doesn't help (obviously), but would taking time to think about how feelings feel in your body help? Like increased heart rate, or fidgeting or something? Might help to experience feelings by being more attuned to what that makes your body do or feel?
Yeah, that's why he suggested mindfulness, cos outside of real pain, or thirst or whatever I basically pay my body zero attention. Like enough to keep me alive, but that's about it.

And yeah, I'd second the comment about your writing style. I'm often reminded of the Yahdayahda episode of Seinfeld when I read through your diary. You blahblah or # through many of the most important points that you're making, and even though we all often get what you're talking about, isn't spending time in those thoughts and descriptions (that attract feelings) kind of important/helpful. What happens if you practice taking the time to write out the words?
Heh, I just watched that on youtube, and yah, fair. And I dunno, I'll try to be more conscious of it. I don't think I've put much thought to it tbh. I usually just struggle to phrase things in a way I'm comfortable with. So I just don't bother. But yeah. I accept the point and I'll try to be more aware of it and eh, not.

Thanks guys.
 
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