Real, Real, Real, Real

The fact that you can stand up and speak rationally about your emotions, that your left brain can report on what your right brain is feeling, does not mean that those emotions inside you are not real, powerful and crippling.   The body keeps the score.

I know that most counselors believe their job is helping people find a conceptual framework to understand and manage emotion.   Teaching how to be open, aware and considerate even when you have deep feelings is the goal.

“You are smart enough to understand what is going on, so you are smart enough to take care of it,” people want to tell me.

The expectation is that just because I can, because I have done the heavy lifting, I am the one who should eat my feelings, the one who should make things easy for others who haven’t had to work through their feelings.   That expectation is crushing.

I know, I know.   You are trying to hurt me because my responses bring up your stuff.   It will be easier if you scar me into withdrawal and silence  than if you have to face yourself and do the work.  My emotions are intense and corrupt, so not only can they be discounted and erased, they should be.  I should get over them, be a man, practicing self-denial and compartmentalization.

As Dr. van der Kolk says, though, The Body Keeps the Score.


Relationship Belief

I don’t believe in special relationships.   I don’t believe that there is someone out there who is my perfect match, the one person in the world who can save me, rescuing me from all my pain.   The world is not voodoo, a place where we search for magic bullets and short cuts, the world is a place where we have to do our own work.

Not believing in special relationships is a good thing and I know that.

The problem is that I am losing faith in regular old relationships.    I know that no one will save me, but I am not at all sure anyone will even understand me.

I know that I can serve other people in relationships, entering their world, even working on shared projects.  That is clear to me after many, many decades of service.

When I look around at where I want to go to meet people, though, where I believe I should put in effort to make connections, to find allies, to feel safe, seen valued and reciprocated, well, the pickings look very bleak.   I don’t have much belief at all that the kind of relationships I need are out there.

I’m big, trans, queer and very much post therapy.   In my experience, this makes me incomprehensible at all but the simplest levels.

It’s easy to say that all that means is I have to put in the time and persistence to let relationships develop, to let people get to know me, but I know that people grow and heal in their own time and their own way, so doing the work to mirror me effectively probably isn’t high on their priorities.

A director of a big LGBT centre ran into trans friend this weekend and was ready to discuss a trans kids who showed up looking for hormones or a celebrity publicly transitioning.   That was her complete range of trans literacy and availability.  This does reflect my experience over the last twenty years.

I reached out to a local pastor who spoke on trans rights to a statewide rally.   I asked about her perspective on being an ally to transpeople.  I got a weak response, telling me that her stance is more conceptual than engaged, that our abjection is the social justice cause of the week.    She hasn’t done the work to enter trans lives, to walk with us through hell, but she does believe in goodness.   Sweet, but I shouldn’t expect reciprocity.

Most people assume that they should be able to understand whatever is in front of them.   They assign meaning based on their own worldview, erasing any confusing bits as just noise.   They don’t have time, intention or willingness to question their own knowledge, their own beliefs so they just fit others into that structure.

I find this response to me erasing and painful.

If I believe that “no one is going to get the joke,” as I have often said, why the hell should I ever bother telling it?   Why hang around at all?

Hell is other people.   Heaven is other people.   We are social animals, wired for connection and cooperation, needing others around us.  Relationships are how we get what we need in the world.

Stop believing in the power & possibility of relationships and you stop believing in humanity.   An hermetic life where we listen closely is a choice, but no human is ever an island.

I need relationships.    I know that.

If, after long experience, I don’t believe that relationships that offer me what I need are possible, life looks very bleak indeed.