The other day I encountered someone whose behavior reminded me of my mother. They engaged in love bombing and projection, using compassionate words in a way that came across as coercive. When I recognized the similarity to my mother, I felt my body tense up and a slight fear uncoil in my stomach. I remembered how much my mother terrorized me day after day as a child and how little power I had to stop her.
I feel proud of myself because I chose to disengage. I told this person I did not want to speak with them. I continued to set boundaries by ignoring their subsequent messages and actions for the sake of my mental health. My close friends and community members held space for my emotional reactions, supported me in my decision to establish boundaries, and role modeled healthy relationship behaviors by setting boundaries of their own with this person. Though I could not and still cannot control this person’s behaviors – nor do I want to at all – I practiced agency by choosing how I responded.
Over the past few weeks, I have struggled with a different situation that reminds me of my childhood and brings up feelings of powerlessness. As a child, I felt out of control a lot: my mother would yell at me all the time regardless of what I did or did not do, my father avoided our household and left me to deal with her, and my brother dealt with it all by delving deep into the world of video games. Though I do not think much about my past now, I remember the constant pain and how I starved myself to cope.
Looking back on that time in my life, I try to remind myself of the ways I managed to survive and reclaim myself, despite my awful bio family. From a young age I dedicated my life to helping others who have experienced mental health issues and abusive relationships. When I went to college, I attended therapy on a consistent basis even when working through my PTSD felt almost worse than experiencing the trauma itself. Today, minus COVID’s existence, I would say that I am thriving: I have vibrant and caring close friends as well as more casual friends, I love myself regardless of my career or awards, and I bop along to BlackPink often and feel lots of joy while doing so.
I write this all out to remind myself that I have survived and thrived in the face of uncontrollable trauma and pain before. As a child, I literally had zero control of what bio family I was born into, and damn did my life suck for several years. That experience should not have happened no matter how strong it made me. Still, somehow, I pulled myself out of that awful situation and propelled myself into the direction of my dreams, hoping that life would get better even if I didn’t quite know how.
With this uncontrollable situation I am struggling with right now, I don’t have any ability to change what’s happening, at least not the root issue. Still, I can control how I react to the situation, just like I chose to disengage from the person who reminded me of my mother. And even if ideally the situation would just not happen, controlling my reaction gives me some form of agency. With that agency comes a sense of hope, that I can choose to reduce my pain and increase my joy, even if only by a little.
How have you coped with adversity in your life, or situations in which you have lacked control? General reactions to this post? Thanks for reading and until next post!
5 responses to “Reaction”
Oh I hate it when there’s a trigger, esp a whole person behaving in A Way.
And I’m here to remind you that yes, “the ways I managed to survive and reclaim myself, despite my awful bio family.” are epic and amazing and you should be very proud of yourself.
Also that explains that dream, right? Definitely your inner child!
Many hugs, of the metaphorical kind. I probably would actually give you a hug if I met you, and it’s not many people I would say that to!
Awwww I would also give you a hug even though I don’t really hug people aside from my close friends for the most part, though I suppose we are close e-friends so it fits! Thank you for your empathy re: the trigger, I feel like you’d understand given aspects of your own life that you’ve shared. Yay for being epic and for our perseverance in the face of struggle. (:
I have great admiration for you and how you overcome your past to get to where you are today. It was not an easy journey. And now you’re helping others. I know you would also be first to credit your grandmother. When she watches you, I’m sure she’s doing all those intricate dance moves from Blackpink.
I also want to echo the first comment. If I see you I would give you a hug too. Although I’ll have to remember to introduce myself. lol…
If you celebrate the Lunar New Year, I want to wish you all the best this year.
Awwww thanks so much Matt, for bearing witness to my journey and encouraging me along the way! Yes hopefully one day we will be able to meet each other in person and hug! I hope your Lunar New Year went well. (:
Hope I don’t come across like a stalker but I binge read your posts and they are absolutely relatable to me, so glad to find someone who is so strong enough to be real with his emotions and bro honestly world needs more people like you. I am going to wait for your posts from now on and you are incredible.