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The Inner Cry

November 20, 2011

I typically feel as if there is a block inside of me, an emotional wall that I know I cannot climb. My physical stairclimbing is a metaphor for the mental climb I must make to overcome myself. I know that, like at the stairs, if I just go forward steadily and rhythmically, I will prevail. But the mental climb seems so much more daunting to me. I start heading upward, but I get to a resting area, and I use the exact opposite logic as I would during a physical ascension. On the stairs, my rule is: never stop, not even at the resting area,where others may be taking a break, because I know I will become accustomed to the rest, and it will be more difficult for me to continue; but if I stay the course… I’ll make it.

The philosophy works so well for my legs, not so much for my brain and definitely not for my “heart”. In fact, the issue with which I presently grapple is the fact that there is no such thing as a pain-free relationship. I want to accept that people WILL hurt one another, and the hurt will not always be inadvertent. I’ve learned to hike the bottom of my emotional stairs, but I’m exhausted by the middle. And unlike the physical stairs, both my mind and body will not allow me to continue. I’m confined to this portion of the climb, trapped in a series of starts and stops.

In many other aspects of my life, I take a “just do it” approach. Communication, however, I just don’t do. And the irony of that, of course, is that my jobs have been in communications or fields in which I must be an effective and perpetual communicator. Arguably, however, the stakes aren’t as high with strangers. In public relations, I don’t feel the same rejection from a reporter as I would with a family member. In teaching, I communicate with students mostly, and I find it easier to tackle even the difficult interactions because there is a premise that I have the upper-hand as the professor.

But among colleagues in jobs I’ve held, my personable character is hollow because I am too nervous to speak to anyone beyond quick greetings and chance meetings. There are some people in the workplace with whom I let down my guard because they have engaged and shared with me. Even then, I share with each individual what I want him/her to know about me. It is not that I hide some terribly shocking information from them, but I do conceal my emotions, even when I think it may benefit the “team” for me to share. I see relationships as a dance, and my goal is not to have fun and let loose while cutting a rug; it is primarily to keep my feet off of others’ toes.

You deserve to know as well that I hyper-analyze everything, and I imagine that others who dispense the silent treatment are at varying degrees of being cerebral as well. When I teach, I try to impart with students that we must always consider the perimeter and what is outside of it. Why? I think of everything inside and outside of the circle’s circumference.

For every conflict in my life, I ponder more bases, scenarios, and solutions than even I can count.  Example of how this applies to my life: When my husband (now ex) was out late, I would consider any and every reason why he was delayed and didn’t call. Was he in an accident? Screwing the receptionist? Picking up a present for me or the kids? Abducted by aliens? This comprises 5% of the questions I would ask, and the amount of energy exerted on the mulling and overthinking and rethinking and…

People who have suffered from the silent treatment that their partners have inflicted say that they feel tortured. I offer that the “torture” is mutual. Already, the mind of the person who cannot easily express emotion is in torment. Even seemingly minimal hurts are enough to provoke cocooning because the mere thought of further pain, in and of itself, hurts.

For someone to call the suffering person an “abuser” only adds insult to injury, such that the STer will merely dismiss the charge. I speak not for sociopaths who have a perversion for inflicting pain; I speak for those who use the silent treatment to protect themselves. No, we are not cowards; in our minds, we are somewhat heroic because we are saving both the affected and ourselves from further pain.

“Saving ME from pain by ignoring me?” you exclaim. Yes, that is how I think. I am helping the person/people with whom I don’t communicate because I am not arguing with them or verbally abusing them. Often, I follow the rule that if I don’t have anything nice to say, it is better to say nothing at all. I think before I speak, and my words are calculated. Every now and then, words get by me that I don’t actually mean, usually for lack of word, or in dialogue, when I don’t have the time to overthink my expressions. For this reason, I also avoid interpersonal relationships because it is too difficult for me to contrive each sentence. I usually walk away from conversations, thinking to myself, “I wish I had said…” this or that.

I am especially prone to foot-in-mouth disease as well as an impaired ability to control what I say when I am upset, hurt, anxious, nervous, or angry. I am nervous around most of my family members, for instance; my solution is to avoid seeing them altogether for fear that I’ll either say something or do something that meets their disapproval. The rejection would be too great for me to bear. And I understand that, while I have my issues with fear and avoidance, I so inflict on my family the same rejection I seek to avoid. If I feel hurt by someone close to me, forget it. Though I am cognizant of the effect my withdrawal and isolation has, I remain immobilized. The thought of, for example, going to sit at a friend’s house in the living room for an afternoon with her family terrifies me. There are too many opportunities for rejection, and the stakes are too high. I would rather not fully lose someone than to have the person remain on the outskirts of my life.

One Comment
  1. Angelus Errare permalink

    Wow. I could actually relate to this.

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