A thoughtful, discussion type post today. Everything is inter-related so no subtitles.
Sometimes I get caught up in the stories my mind creates. The emotional stress from fear or anxiety combine to drown out what my instincts or inner self is trying to say, especially when they are on opposite sides. If I only listened to the feelings generated by the nightmares and flashbacks, would I have the courage to keep getting involved in life? Or to develop healthy relationships? Or accept that some “negative symptoms” or “coping strategies” are healthy, natural inclinations instead?
Do you, guests, also question whether or not your habits are healthy or unhealthy? Positive or negative? Useful or interfering? If so, you are not alone. Many survivors and others who are not survivors tend to question/challenge everything at one point or another. It’s part of growing and adapting to both change – life, recovery, personality, work, inner/outer self – in order to become closer to our authentic selves. I say closer because becoming one’s authentic self is a lifelong journey.
At this point in my journey, I am remembering more and more of the past in order to take the next step to trusting guidance from my inner voice instead of letting reality or perspective get distorted when my instincts trigger “danger” signals. My inner voice is different from my instincts in the same way that emotions are different from intuition.
- Instincts are based on sensory information – sound, sight, smell, taste, touch, proprioception
- Inner voice is based on an interpretation of what my senses are telling me based on knowledge, experience, and perception of the present situation
e.g. my instincts tell me that a certain set of sounds could mean danger.
My inner voice(s) look in the direction of the sound, take in the surroundings as a group of boisterous people enjoying outdoor music and drinks, and decide it’s wise to be cautious when going past them.
My trigger reacts like this: flashback to the past and tell me to defend myself and/or avoid the sounds because I’m in danger from the sound maker(s).
Right now, the trigger is louder than the inner voice and hijacks control over all reactions.
The goal is to build more trust in the inner voice and allow that to guide reactions and actions to my/our instincts.
Another way to look at this is through coping strategies & habits. Some of my questionable coping strategies & habits include:
- preference for solitude & quiet
- need for privacy & limited social relationships
- Urge to “reset” my sleep cycles every few months by staying up 24+ hours or not sleeping much for days/weeks at a time until I crash for as many hours as needed to recuperate
- Compulsion to use a “resting meditation” technique that allows all alters to be active at the same time and communicate to work through large amounts of memories/feelings/flashbacks/stress in an 8+ hour period of time throughout the year.
The solitude is questionable because almost every self-help guide, program, and counselor I’ve talked to or worked with has warned about the dangers of isolation and loneliness. They’ve also talked about the importance of making connections with people, having a support system, emotion regulation/tolerance, and importance of interpersonal communication in recovery. But no one has discussed how some people, whether more towards introversion or extraversion, are more naturally inclined towards solitude than others.
These people may or may not be highly sensitive, but they have found other ways of creating meaningful connections and relationships with people, animals, plants, etc. that don’t necessarily require a lot of social interaction. Not exactly hermits, but not interested in an expansive social life either. That’s me, and something I am learning to accept instead of question or worry about.
As for privacy & trust, well I didn’t have a lot of that growing up. And while I am good at making it appear to others that I am an open book by sharing some information about myself, in reality those people only see/know/understand what I allow them to see. Less than 5 people in the world know all parts of me, and I’m perfectly happy with that. Many 20 or less people know most parts of me. Everyone else gets to meet the “survivor”, “insecure”, “grumpy”, “social”, “professional”, or “ambivert” me; maybe a combination of them too.
More stuff than I can put words to happens inside on a daily basis. That takes up more than 50% of my energy (mental, physical, spiritual) right now. The other 50% is used to go to work, do chores, cope with external symptoms, and enjoy life. Sometimes, I get overstimulated into an adrenaline state that makes sleep difficult to impossible – it’s a combination of flashbacks & nightmares with body memories and fear responses working their way through all parts of me.
Other times, my energy gets used up too fast, and I can’t replenish in time; not just food energy, but mental and spiritual too. “Being normal” or focusing on life outside of my inner worlds becomes too much. I need to take a break and let my inner world settle down after all of the changes. That means more or less sleep and lying down meditation to allow everyone a chance be involved in the coping strategy.
The sleep & meditation used to cause untold amounts of shame and self-hate because that’s what mom did to escape the world. She slept for hours or days at a time with the excuse of being sick. Then there was the family shame of “being lazy” by sleeping too much. Or the label “just like your mom” because I didn’t do enough (from outsiders point of view) to help my parents and brother.
Now, getting enough sleep & practicing meditation is part of my self-care routine. I feel less shame and guilt about taking care of myself because self-care means I can do more with life and stay healthy. I feel more empowered to resist the negative voices and keep going in spite of the flashbacks, fear, anxiety, body memories, pain, or nightmares that trigger panic attacks. Sure, I may need an extra hour or two in the morning or have to take a break and work later, but at least I don’t have to take the whole day off and sleep through the anxiety anymore.
Because now I and all of my parts can hear, trust, and listen to the inner voice interpreting our instincts with a balance of emotion and logic that is based in the present reality instead of the past one.
Is it easy? Medium? Difficult?
Yes and no. Like any challenge, some parts are easier than others. It depends on the individual and her or his perspective on life, willingness to change, reactions to stress, resilience, courage, and persistence.
Wait, what if I don’t have an inner voice?
Everyone has an inner voice and instincts. Not everyone chooses to believe in or listen to the inner voice or instincts. And some people who do might decide that the inner voice and instincts are wrong because the short term outcome is unexpected or unwanted so choose not to listen. As with hindsight being 20/20, so is listening to one’s inner voice. Learning how to interpret what the inner voice is communicating takes time, practice, and mistakes.
Is this like a conscience or a moral compass?
Maybe. For some people, their inner voices and instincts align with their values and moral compass or ethics. For others, the conscience could be separate. For me, they are separate. My instincts and inner voice are non-judgemental and neutral. They share information and guidance that I can accept or refuse or interpret in different ways.
Either way, whether you (guests) choose to explore your inner voice or instincts, I hope you all find a path to self-acceptance through recovery. Self-acceptance makes living and enjoying life that much more interesting.
Thanks for reading.