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Friday, October 29, 2021

Expecting the worst

Like many of us, I had a tough childhood. My parents were divorced when I was four and they both married subsequent spouses that were abusive and in my mother's case, violently so. 

My mother was nuts, for all her brilliance, and had substance issues and a selfish dose of narcissistic personality disorder to boot.

My father was very wealthy but it made no difference because he failed to pay child support. 

My mother was perpetually broke, sometimes things got very tight and we were constantly running from creditors and back towards her failed relationships with a string of equally broken men. We children were like collateral roadkill.

It all became too much in 1970 and I moved back to California from New York, but could only make it living in the house with my father and the evil stepmother for one year and headed back east. 

I was working from the age of twelve and was essentially independent from the age of thirteen on, much like my wife, and moved out of the house at seventeen.

I mention this woeful preamble once again because I believe that early trauma has seriously shaped my behavior as an adult and I think that such wounds never really heal. You never want to be subject to that much chaos and mishegas so you do your best to build fortifications. 

I have written before about the author Dr. Paul Brenner, who wrote the book Seeing Your Life Through New Eyes: Insights to Freedom from Your Past. Brenner says that we build up chainmail to protect us from these types of childhood emotional injuries and many of us carry it on our backs our whole life. I know I do. And it gets heavy. Unfortunately, that which protects us in our childhood can become an impediment when we reach adulthood and it is no longer really necessary to lug around. 

One of my personal bugaboos is the fear that the wolves are always nipping at my ankles, propelling me forward, no matter how comfortable I may actually be in reality (whatever that is.) Fear has always been a motivator for me and it is probably not very healthy for me. The sky is too often falling. But it is what moves me onward. And it gets hard sometimes to take a break.

Disaster is always a quick step away in my psyche, and I understand why because I saw our life and safety crumble so many times when I was a kid. You can draw a line in the sand and move forward and I certainly did, but the institutional memories tend to get burnt into your DNA. So I pretend and the irrational fear I conceptualize keeps me out of the poorhouse, or so I convince myself anyway. You never really feel totally secure.

And so I was very interested the other day when I saw this video on YouTube, Catastrophizing, How to Stop Making Yourself Depressed and Anxious. This woman puts a name to my affliction.

I can relate to what this woman is saying and think that these skills she mentions in cognitive rewiring can prove helpful to me and perhaps for you, if you are unlucky enough to share my propensity for this innate response of fear and pessimism.

Here's to healthier and happier. As she says, get a good night's rest, accept uncertainty, embrace acceptable risk and build up your emotional muscles.

1 comment:

Jon Harwood said...

This is a really good article. The therapist is great too.