Tag Archives: Divorce

Grief Recovery Handbook, 2 of 2

GRH Millions LackTools for GriefIn Part 1, I summarized the Grief Recovery Handbook (GRH) instructions for making a lifetime Loss History Graph; then figuring out which personal relationships dealt us the most of these losses; and then how to  write a separate “Grief Recovery Completion Letter” to each of those persons. (“Millions lack tools for Grief,” by the GRH website GriefRecoveryMethod.com)

Complicated? Overwhelming?  Sure.  But wait – there’s more!

We also need a Grief Partner to join us in doing all this homework. They must meet with us weekly so we can read our homework to each other; and then later read our Grief Letters to each other.  This goes on for as many weeks, or months, until we felt we’ve been “seen and heard” enough by another real live human being, to somehow deal with the pain.

“This is why I tell people that God put tear ducts in our eyes,” I read two years later in a book by Dr. John Townsend.  “Grief is a relational experience, and your pain has to be seen eye to eye with another person. Someone should be looking at us when we are crying, and we should be looking at him or her. Then we know that we are not alone, and that our tears are seen and heard.”

My pal Steve and I both saw instantly that a partner was key; so we hated to start all that homework without getting leads on partners. What if we got too far ahead, with no one working with us?  Now the real “fun” began.

We soon learned that finding a Grief Partner was only slightly less tough than finding a marriage partner — or a unicorn.  “Unicorn hunt” became our grim buzzword. We couldn’t work with each other; mourning some details with the opposite sex was too embarrassing. We needed a gal for me and a guy for him.

I went to the local hospice and community groups looking for others in mourning who also needed relief, while Steve asked around at the office and in choir. But it soon became clear that people didn’t like to admit to feelings like this, or if they did, were disposed (as society demands) to minimize losses and “put on a Happy Face.”  Last hidey hole: they were “just too busy.”

After two months’ search, at the end of June 2009 I spoke to my local hospice director Greg about my difficulties finding a partner.  I was too embarrassed to discuss my Mom’s death due to my horrid conflict with her.  The GRH calls this the “loss of a less-than-loved-one.”

“With all these people crying about how they miss their beloved parent, I’m afraid to upset them by discussing my nasty feelings about mine,” I said. “I don’t fit in anywhere, not even here.” “You are not a freak,” he replied. “Just because you have complex grief does not mean you’re an imposition on other grievers.”

Finally I asked Greg, as a professional, to sit and hear me read my Loss History Graph.

The Loss History Graph

GRH Unresolved Grief LuggageOn July 3, I took a room at the beach for the summer of 2009 and had at my first assignment, my Loss History Graph. This opener is not about any one person in our lives, but rather a list of all the major losses we’ve ever felt. I didn’t know it, but I fled to the ocean for a reason; this was going to be ‘way too much to take without some sort of natural beauty for comfort. (Another graphic from GriefRecoveryMethod.com)

The exercise blew me away; what I saw was that I’d had an entire life of loss.  My emotional pain and losses went back as far as conscious thought — and just kept coming. The graph was assigned to fit on one page, but I needed two and that would hold only my worst losses in my tiniest scrawls.

My first memory was swallowing a penny circa age 4; I’ve related that and other frightening experiences with Mom at age 4,5 and 6 in Chapter 3. At 5 my best friend Helen from next door fell off our swing, broke her arm, and was never allowed in our yard again; I was crushed. At 9, I cracked a lamp and was told I’d destroyed a priceless heirloom. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, cowering under the schools desks I felt somehow way more terrified than other kids and completely alone in the agony.

Then came the JFK assassination which terrified me to the point that for no reason anyone could grasp, I began crying uncontrollably and went on sobbing in my room for weeks.  Finally Dad came in and said, “That’s enough now, cut it out.”  Mom and he were displeased when I cried and that was the signal to be quiet.

Other than that Dad didn’t appear on the graph. I wrote in the margin “Never home; never told the truth that Mom was crazy, not me; never stood up for me.”

My high school boyfriend Alan left me at 17 saying I was too crazy (now we know he was right). At 18 my first college boyfriend Jim got so depressed when his brother committed a murder, that Jim broke up with me. Being dumped by Jim was my first major prolonged romantic crash; I was completely crushed. I cried and hid in my dorm for a year. No one, led by me, could figure out why my crash was so big; the rejection felt like the earth had fallen out from under my feet. I didn’t actually recover from it for many years; I just kept moving.

At 19 I met my college beau Larry; then I fled to Japan at 21, ended up in medical school in Manila, returned home at 25 and was excommunicated from my family when I quit medicine.  The loss of no longer being able to see my sister alone was a mind-boggling amount of agony.

Then I married Larry and had 27 years of loss, starting with an awful abortion in 1982 when he refused to have children. There was no room on the first graph for all the marriage losses; he’d get his own personal Larry Loss Graph and Larry Grief Letter later. Next we lost our international business due to Sept. 11, 2001.

When I finally left our home back east in 2006 and headed to California, I had to add the loss of my house and home, all my friends, my 25-year singing career, my beloved pianist (truly one of a kind), and all my finances in bankruptcy. Next came the losses I took in two nasty rebound affairs.

My jaw dropped as loss after loss spilled out and the large sheets of paper became entirely covered in ever more tiny black scrawls of more and more bad memories until there was almost no white space. Gosh, I thought I’d had such a happy life with all that glorious music and global business travel!

“My heart’s like a car which was totaled approximately at birth, and never got any gas or oil, but I just kept driving,” I wrote. “I’ve driven in the Grand Prix to the moon and back a few times — and now I open the hood, and my engine crumbles onto the asphalt in a pile of rust.”  In the Loss Graph margin I scrawled: “Unwanted pregnancy would accept all of this to gain any self-validation as in ‘Yes You’re OK to have been Born.’  Need to prove you had a right to exist, contrary to the message you got.”

I did warn you that using the GRH was a cataclysmic life-changing process for me.  Such things are a lot of work. Click here for the rest of the story: http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/featured-topics/grief-recovery/

——————

Kathy’s news blogs expand on her book “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder—How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.” Watch for the continuing series each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about Attachment Disorder in adults, adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

Footnotes

FN1  James, John W.; Friedman, Russell, “Moving On: Dump your relationship baggage and make room for the love of your life,” M. Evans (Rowman & Littlefield), Lanham, MD, 2006. This is also a terrific book, if you’ve grieved your already huge losses (I hadn’t) and are ready to move on (I wasn’t).

FN2  James, John W.; Friedman, Russell, “The Grief Recovery Handbook,” Harper Collins, New York, 2009 (orginal 1998)

FN3  James, John W.; Friedman, Russell, “Pay Me Now or Pay Me Later,”  www.grief-recovery.com/Articles/Pay_Me_Now.htm, The Grief Recovery Institute, 2002

FN4  Townsend, John, PhD; Cloud, Henry PhD, “How People Grow,” Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 2001

2,038 total views, 3 views today

Share Button

Grief Recovery Handbook, 1 of 2

Grief Recovery Handbook,+20th+Anniversary+Expanded+EditionThe “Grief Recovery Handbook” by John James and Russell Friedman is an invaluable tool for healing emotional pain and loss.  It saved me after the death of my parents and my divorce, which all happened at once.

It shows us how to write “Grief Letters” to our  “dearly beloved,” and read it to a listener. This simple eye contact with another human, who need only be silent and accept our grief, pain, and yes tears, creates astonishing healing.  “This is why…God put tear ducts in our eyes,” says Dr. John Townsend.  “Someone should be looking at us when we are crying…Then we know that we are not alone, our tears are seen and heard.”

If you’ve lost a dearly beloved, you could just buy 2 copies, find a “grief partner” who’s also had a loss, and follow the book.  The grief letters may be straightforward for you, and then you’ll be “complete” and heal.  You may not need this blog.

But I had childhood trauma, and neither my parents, nor my ex, were “clearly beloved.”  There was a lot of muddy pain and hurt; I was stuck with “the death of a less-than-loved one.”  I had to walk a convoluted path to discover how to grieve pain from before consciousness.  It got dangerous.

It was March 2009 and my choir car pool buddy Steve was in a sea of emotional pain since his wife’s death; I’d advised him in 2008 to get the “Grief Recovery Handbook” by John James and Russell Friedman.  I thought it was about death, which clearly was his issue, not mine.  I thought my issue was to replace my ex with a new romance, so I got their other book, “Moving On.”  [FN1]

But Steve, ever the engineer, was determined to deal with pain scientifically. He took one look at the book and bought a second copy for me. “This is a program to retrain the emotions,” he announced.  “You need it too.” [FN2]

Thus began our three-year saga with the Grief Recovery Handbook or GRH as Steve fondly dubbed it. We wanted off the pain train, and bad.

“A broken heart is like a flat tire. Waiting for time to heal your heart without taking action, is like waiting for air to jump back into a flat tire,” the GRH begins. “That’s what the grief process does. It’s an action we can take… Action first, feelings follow,” it repeats. “Don’t wait to act until you feel better; you’ll never feel better unless you act.”

Most of what you know about emotional pain is wrong, the book next announces — we’ve all been taught Six Myths in particular which are a fraud. These myths make grieving impossible, forcing us to keep carrying the pain around, often for life:

1. Don’t feel bad.  (Don’t feel. Feelings are bad. Stuff it.)
2. Replace the loss. (Get a new spouse, just like a new cat.)
3. Grieve alone (Go to your room. Sadness is impolite. You’re bad.)
4. Just give it time. (Just sit; air will spring into the tire.)
5. Be strong for others. (Your feelings aren’t important, nor are you.)
6. Keep busy. (Distractions help us to stuff it.)

Pay Me Now or Pay Me Later

In a brilliant article “Pay Me Now or Pay Me Later,” James and Friedman compare the heart to an auto engine. It’s an imperfect world, despite the fantasies of perfectionists, so loss and hurt often start at an early age.  “You might recognize the title from an advertising slogan for an automotive product several years ago,” they write. The idea was that if you spend a little money on maintenance now, you might save a tremendous amount replacing an entire engine later. [FN3]

“In the auto commercial it was failure to change the oil filter which led to a build up of crud, which clogged and eventually destroyed the motor. Thus, buy an inexpensive filter now or buy a whole new engine later.”

As we go through life, they say, stuffing when we’re hurt instead of grieving, this “crud” builds up around our hearts and thickens year on year. “Grief is negative, and cumulatively negative,” they say, in a key insight.

Then a serious tragedy hits, like a death or divorce, and we don’t realize it, but it triggers all those past hurts we never grieved. Our hearts are breaking inside – but our heart is so hard outside, due to the thick crud, that we can’t see out, so we go into a tailspin.

Now we’re in big trouble and with decades of crud around our hearts.

What to do? Grieve today’s loss thoroughly; that may also help grieve the past, they advise. “Right after a loss, we have a direct pathway to our experiences in the relationship,” they say. “Death and divorce both tend to trigger memories about the emotional aspects of relationships that may never have been communicated about or completed…

“But as time elapses those memories are more difficult to access,” so we’ve got to start now. Otherwise “the build up of emotional ‘crud’ around the heart almost automatically tends to cause us to limit or restrict the kind of interactions that require an open, loving heart.”  We become unable to really relate to “safe” people, so we only find more bad relationships.

Grief Letters, Grief Partners

Flatten Me Brousblog1bWhat about action? You asked for it.
[Something’s wrong with my software; click on image at right of my 2009 cartoon “Flatten Me” to see it.]

The GRH details actions which are concrete, detailed, extensive, and time-consuming — i.e., credible, and scary as hell. We’d need to make a Loss History Graph detailing the major losses of our entire lives; determine which two or three personal relationships entailed the most losses; and then write a separate “Grief Recovery Completion Letter” to each of those persons. ( p145)

We start with the individual about whom we feel the most pain, and make a Relationship Graph of the major losses related specifically to them.

Next we abstract the incidents on the individual’s Relationship Graph into Recovery Components for that person. Then we turn the Components into a Grief Recovery Completion Letter (Grief Letter hereafter) to that person — and read it aloud.

Then we repeat all those steps separately for each other individual in relation to whom we’d felt significant loss or pain! Doing all this was going to take a big bite out of our lives, and we whined about it up front: Good Grief, Charlie Brown.

Complicated? Overwhelming?  Sure.  But wait – there’s more!

Stay tuned for Part 2…

Can’t wait?  Here’s the whole thing: http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/featured-topics/grief-recovery/

——————

Kathy’s news blogs expand on her book “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder—How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.” Watch for the continuing series each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about Attachment Disorder in adults, adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

Footnotes

FN1  James, John W.; Friedman, Russell, “Moving On: Dump your relationship baggage and make room for the love of your life,” M. Evans (Rowman & Littlefield), Lanham, MD, 2006. This is also a terrific book, if you’ve grieved your already huge losses (I hadn’t) and are ready to move on (I wasn’t).

FN2  James, John W.; Friedman, Russell, “The Grief Recovery Handbook,” Harper Collins, New York, 2009 (orginal 1998)

FN3  James, John W.; Friedman, Russell, “Pay Me Now or Pay Me Later,”  www.grief-recovery.com/Articles/Pay_Me_Now.htm, The Grief Recovery Institute, 2002

4,721 total views, 2 views today

Share Button

Isolation Row

#14 in my ongoing book blogs from “Don’t Try This at Home”

Last week my second therapist Dr. Rita was telling me to “heal yourself” to where I was reduced to singing Verdi arias about being doomed to live alone in a cave forever.  So I just felt worse.

isolation cell blueYet Rita continued drumming in the isolation message. “You don’t need Dan,” she scoffed about the rebound guy.  “You don’t need anyone else.  What you need is, to stop trying to heal the child who’s sick, with some guy’s d–k.  Just heal yourself.”

No, I may have New York potty mouth, but that did not come from me.  Yes, you did see that in this polite book on brain science, because that, verbatim, was the instruction from a therapist, at my great personal financial and emotional expense.

That is a quote directly from this refined, soft-spoken, highly educated lady, right in the middle of her technical shrink-speak in my 2008 notebook – and I doubt she coined the rhyme.  It must be standard trade jargon in some PhD circles.

Note the irrational but seamless segue asserting that only total isolation can work.  Going to other people, anyone at all, is linked to the disgust and mortification of “going to some guy’s d—k.”

I’d never heard of different ways to “go to other people” back then, but what about Dr. Rita?  Had she never heard of a middle ground somewhere between an isolation cell, and a “d—k?”  Say, go to a pastor, a divorce seminar, a women’s group, or a girlfriend?

Or maybe, gasp, go to your therapist for emotional support?  I sure never wouldda thunk of that at the time!  By then, that would have sounded to me like a nice outing to visit Torquemada. “Why do they call him Torquemada?” asks Mel Brooks.  “Because you can’t torq him outta anything!” [FN1]

While it did turn out to be true that neither sex nor romance can heal childhood emotional pain, can it be done by lying alone on a sheet covered in applesauce?  (Oct. 11 blog)

 Death Sentence

Mel Brooks Torquemada crop best”But this is a Death Sentence,” my emotional limbic brain, otherwise known as my heart, responded forcefully from deep within. “This feels like a Death Sentence,” I kept telling Rita, “This isn’t working!

“I do need someone else to love me!” I would go to her in tears saying.  “If you tell me do it myself, that means I’ll be alone forever!  Something feels terribly wrong!  It makes me queasy to say I have to do it myself, like I’m not good enough that someone else would love me enough to help me.  It’s a sinking feeling.  You’re telling me that no one else is going to love me enough to help me, which means I must be intrinsically unlovable.”

By making clear to me that they wouldn’t work with me unless I found a phantom inner child I just could not find, both my first and second therapist were in fact telegraphing just that. “You’re the problem, everyone else can do it, you’re uncooperative, we can’t work with you, you’re a failure.”

Not too far from “unlovable,” is it?

I joke now about Mel Brooks pronouncing death sentences (above).

But back then, as I searched for an inner child, all I could feel was a bottomless well of emotional pain and terror like something out of the real Inquisition.  I’d find something really horrifying deep inside which I was afraid to look at, and have repeat nightmares about dead fish with horribly dead eyes (or worse unmentionable themes).  No inner child, just horror.

Is that horror, me? Am I a freak with some kind of inner dead fish or inner monster, instead of a “normal inner child”? The whole time, I can find no mention in my notes of the word “trauma.”  But what, I ask you, was all of this, if not trauma?

The only thing I could do, once in this  down-spiral result of the isolation, was to sit in my room hugging a pillow, and repeat to myself how badly I wanted to be held by someone, anyone — anyone at all.  Then I’d think of how Dan the rebound guy held and caressed me head to toe for hours and days on end, for the first time ever in my life.  (For some reason my ex preferred tennis rackets, and my parents were too busy.)

In particular, I would recall the overwhelming sense of relaxation I experienced with Dan, in a way that bowled me over.  Granted, a funny way to talk about relaxation.  But it was that big a contrast to my “normal” of the time, which after all was a very high- performance, finish-off-the project and bring home the bacon “normal” more suitable to someone as relaxed as, say, Donald Trump (possibly the least relaxed being on Earth.)  “You just take all the tension out of my body” I used to tell Dan.

It got to where I’d walk into his room after work, take off my watch and literally throw it against the far wall – hard, because it was a really big room – at which point we would both dissolve into gales of laughter.  Temporarily.

Romance vs Therapy?

But now all that was gone, and I was the living opposite of relaxed.  Now the original Dan emotional pain which drowned out my Dad’s funeral, blew out my transcontinental air budget, hijacked my world and sent me running into therapy would start all over again, in an endless loop of grief.

True ManhoodCertainly my thinking brain was growing dimly aware that for all his tractor-drivin’, gun-slingin’ he-man manners, Dan was not much of a real man when it came to women.  Somewhere in the same 2008 notes I also wrote quite reasonably that his no- attachment credo couldn’t be right because “if all men treated women that way there would be no one to care for the children and no more human race.”   Wouldn’t a real man stand up to protect a woman (from guys like him) ?

Yet go tell that to my emotional limbic brain while it was locked up alone.  Ha.

How was I to stay away from men, when romance was the only thing left on the planet which appeared to offer some semblance of holding?  I felt sure this kind of holding must be “bonding” (aka attachment). [FN2]   I had been totally unaware of the existence of this wonderful thing until the “Inner Child Workbook” revealed it to me, and also revealed that I lacked it so utterly.  Now, all I could think of was:  couldn’t I please get some bonding before I die?

Around this time without even thinking I wrote something in a notebook, then blanked out on it completely and put it away.  A few months  later going over my notes, I noticed it with a shock and here is what I wrote:  “Dan loved me more than anyone in my entire life has ever loved me.”

Huh? An astonishing thing to say, given Dan’s predatory behavior and utter lack of regard in throwing me out of his farm house days after my dad’s death.

Still, I stared at that sentence for a long time: “Dan loved me more than anyone in my entire life has ever loved me.”  And then I had to admit to myself despite all reason, that it was true — not that I’d dare tell another soul, least of all my, er, therapist.

I just flat out did not feel as though I had gotten anything near the kind of love that Dan had given me, however meager, in the almost two years we were together, from my mom, dad, ex, or anyone in my life before.

A sad statement on the state of my soul but still the truth is the truth.

And hey, compared to both my therapists, Dan did love me a heck of a lot more. What after all, did they give me? No wonder I kept trying to crawl back into Dan’s arms in subsequent romances – at least from Dan I got something!

Where were the diagnostic tools – or any diagnostic method? Where was the Adult Attachment Interview, I ask again? Hadn’t Dr. Rita read any Adult Attachment Disorder books or anything on adult Attachment Theory or adult Attachment Disorder?

Once again I thought, Fall, 2008 surely was the end of my world.  Surely it could get no worse than this.

————————————–
This is from Kathy’s forthcoming book DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder—How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.  Watch for the continuing series of excerpts from the rest of her book each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about adult attachment theory, attachment disorder in adults, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

Footnotes

FN1  Mel Brooks, “History of the World Part I” (film), 1981; Brooks plays Grand Inquisitor Tomas Torquemada (among others).

FN2  Technically there is a fine distinction between”bonding” and “attachment” in recent psychiatric literature, but for years therapists used the terms interchangeably.

Tagged With: Adult Attachment Disorder, Adult Attachment Disorder Books, Adult Attachment Theory, Attachment Disorder in Adults, Adult Attachment Interview, Divorce, Rebound, Emotional pain, Grief, Inner Child, Therapy, Trauma, Limbic Brain

5,590 total views, 6 views today

Share Button

Down the Rabbit Hole

#13 in my ongoing book blogs from “Don’t Try This at Home”

When Dr. Rita heard about my exploits last week with “The Inner Child Workbook” and the applesauce caper, she said, “Well, I thought you could do some reading, but we don’t recommend doing those exercises unsupervised.” Now you tell me; the damage was done. [FN1]

I was terrified by my lack of bonding (attachment) which the Workbook had revealed.  But from my notes, I was too terrified to realize that I should try to describe it to Dr. Rita.  Anyway, she had her own agenda, which caused more damage.

Inner Child Garden w. fairyIn guided imagery, a professional creates a script for a sort of dream sequence and has the patient imagine it, to uncover feelings locked in the subconscious.  It’s a fine tool in the right situation, but this weren’t it.

“Close your eyes,” she said, “and imagine you’re going down, down, down below the ground. You emerge onto a path to a secret garden. You see a little girl about 5 coming toward you. Imagine you take the child’s hand; notice how tiny it is.”  She had me sit with the girl by a stream awhile “to get used to each other,” then lean against a tree to “see whether she’d sit on my lap.”  But I still could find no child inside me; trying just created more anxiety.

Next Dr. Rita said “Let’s ask the child some questions. Respond without thinking, from the gut. What’s your first memory of Father?”  “A pair of slacks going behind a closed door,” I mumbled.  Spontaneous, yes, and I’d never said that before, but that was me talking.  No child involved.

“What’s your first memory of Mother?”  “I got a B in kindergarten and I was afraid to go home.  So I hid in the class bathroom trying to erase it.  I wrote an A over it, but I got caught and it was really awful.” Again it came spontaneously, but this was me talking, and it was an incident I’d remembered all my life.  I can still see the inside of the class bathroom door and feel the fear.  But I’d just tried to forget it since Mom was a fact of life, like the weather.

“You had to put on a front because they didn’t accept the real you,” Dr. Rita announced.  Me, I never would have thought of any of this.  She, however, had a whole analysis: “Both your father and mother abandoned and rejected you.” Gosh I never would have thought of that, that sounds really embarrassing!

“You have ‘repetition compulsion’- you’re compelled to find men who abandon, so you can recreate the problem ‘on stage.’  So you can go back and fix it,” Rita went on. “But you didn’t break it – you don’t have to fix it.” I wrote that motto on a large 5 x7 file card and it’s still on my desk today.  It sure sounded like plausible and useful data.

But where was the Adult Attachment Interview, needed to diagnose anyone starting therapy?  It’s been around since 1996. Why didn’t she tell me about Attachment Disorder in adults like me, as well as in children? That might have given words to my terror at my lack of bonding. [FN2]

Instead it was all head talk, and the solution was even more head talk.  Dr. Rita, my second therapist, concluded with the same advice verbatim that my first therapist gave at the end of my Oct. 11 blog: “Just let it go,” she said.

“Just stop trying to fix it with men, and let the past go. It’s an act of will.” Just think your way out of it.  But “trying to fix the heart using the head, is like trying to paint with a hammer—it only makes a mess,” as I later learned – much later. [FN3]

Isolation Again

Then Rita lowered the isolation boom—again. “You are the one who has to do it,” she intoned. “You have to feel the little girl in your heart and comfort her, love her, and heal her.  She wants you to be the one to make her feel safe and be the Mom she never had.

“You have to do it alone, that’s the whole point. If you go to other people, she’ll be frightened, because she’ll think you don’t love her, if you’re running to others. You’ll scare the little girl away if you go to anyone else. A child will always run from anyone other than Mom.  Especially from men.  If you go to men she’ll be terrified.”

Forza-zinka-milanovStill, there was absolutely nothing that felt like a child inside me.  I tried and tried; I was paying good money for all this! I listened to Rita’s “Garden Path” imagery over and over on a tape I’d made of her, and did all the exercises; no result but despair.  It was more like “down the Rabbit Hole.”

I got out Verdi’s epic “La Forza del Destino” in which Leonora is consigned to live alone in a monastery cave unto death, to repent of her ill-fated love affair. I sang her farewell aria until I sobbed. I took it all very seriously, and Zinka Milanov (right) rocks as Leonora. But I felt worse and worse.

“I can’t do any of this if I can’t find a child!  Is there any way to put a structure on this process?!” I actually said the following week.

What I meant was “Have you no methodology?  I’m drowning over here!” The more I look at my notes, the less I can understand why no one could understand my protest.  It was a really loud call for help.

My emotions may have been shot, but my thinking brain could still perform.  My notebooks show it all.  I had just worked 30 years to restructure the global monetary system, build rail and water infrastructure projects, and launch billion dollar satellite systems.  So if Rita’s RX made sense, I could get it.  If I could find an inner child, I would. My predicament was bizarre, but no one listened.

Where were the diagnostic tools – or any diagnostic method? Where was the Adult Attachment Interview, I ask again? Hadn’t she read any adult attachment disorder books or anything on adult attachment theory or adult attachment disorder?  But no.

————————————–
This is from Chapter 2 of Kathy’s forthcoming book DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder—How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.  Watch for the continuing series of excerpts from the rest of her book each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about adult attachment theory, attachment disorder in adults, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

Footnotes

FN1  Taylor, Cathryn L. MFCC, “The Inner Child Workbook,” Penguin Putnam, New York, 1991

FN2  Main, Mary,  “The Adult Attachment Interview: Fear, attention, safety and discourse processes;” also titled “The Organized Categories of Infant, Child, and Adult Attachment: Flexible vs. Inflexible Attention Under Attachment-Related Stress,” Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 2000, 48:1055-1095. At: http://70-40-200-36.bluehost.com/documents/Main.pdf
–This is a very difficult topic to research, so I did it for you; check my blog on it, with more footnotes at the end: http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/adult-attachment-interview-aai-mary-main/

FN3  James, John W., Friedman, Russell, “The Grief Recovery Handbook,” Harper Collins, New York, 2009 (original 1998)

Tagged With: Adult Attachment Disorder, Adult Attachment Disorder Books, Adult Attachment Theory, Attachment Disorder in Adults, Adult Attachment Interview, Divorce, Rebound, Emotional pain, Grief, Inner Child, Therapy, Trauma, Limbic Brain

————-
Comments are encouraged with the usual exceptions; rants, political speeches, off-color language, etc. are unlikely to post.  Starting 8-22-16, software will limit comments to 1030 characters (2 long paragraphs) a while, until we get new software to take longer comments again.

4,383 total views, 10 views today

Share Button

I Oughtta Have My Head…

#11 in my ongoing book blogs from “Don’t Try This at Home”

After my divorce and the saga with Rebound Dan back East, did I mention dating in California? I did meet several fellows who looked promising at first.  Harvey the Vet, whom I met at a church dance no less, didn’t work out; turned out his dad beat him as a kid and he  couldn’t trust.  And yes there were enough PTSD stories to raise the hair on the back of a gecko’s neck.  But more in Chapter 4: Post-Divorce Dating.

Then there was Pete the high-priced management consultant.  We met in late 2007 when I had a brief binge on Match.com in an attempt to  replace Dan, another California dream that never seemed to materialize.

St Pauli NA cropPete read The New Yorker and Alan Greenspan’s biography, took me to Zagat-rated restaurants, and toured me in his Lexus from fine museums to the LA Book Fair.  He was a perfect gentleman, articulate, earnestly seeking a relationship, loved music and dancing, and generally on the up and up I was sure.

Pete was the first to say that I ought to have my head examined.

We talked by phone in early July 2008 while I was alone back East after my Dad died and Dan ditched me.  Pete concurred that it was definitely a problem to be unable to cry over my Dad, and so he opined that I ought to see a shrink.

Interesting source for the diagnosis.

Pete at first drank St. Pauli Girl NA.  That stands for “non-alcoholic” but Whu Nhu?  Not me, your clueless Singing Nun; it went right by me.  Then, after six months he’d have a glass of wine with dinner; a few weeks later it was a bottle of wine, then by the time I got back to California later in July 2008, it was a bottle of vodka for dessert, after which Pete physically passed out on his elegant glass coffee table. The last time he asked me out, I pulled up to the restaurant to find Pete outside with a Manhattan in a can. “Please put that away, it’s me or the booze,” I said. He popped the lid, I drove off, and never saw him again.

Five months later, shortly after New Years 2009, his boss informed  me that Pete, 55, had overdosed and died alone with his three cats in his upscale home steps from the sand on Huntington Beach.  At the funeral, just before I sang Schubert’s “Ave Maria,” Pete’s ex revealed that here was no average businessman who’d only had an accident. Pete, she said dolefully, had been in and out of expensive alcoholic rehab clinics like Betty Ford since the age of 15.  He died of sheer blood loss when his gut walls rotted through.

Could have fooled me.  “Gosh, the guy market’s in a lot worse shape than I thought,” I said. “Beware of men who cover up their past,” I emailed the girls.  Oh, men, men, men.

But what I couldn’t grasp was the truth.  Despite Pete’s elaborate fronts and apparent virtues, it was remarkable: I had once again found someone who couldn’t attach.  I had no way to know he was an alcoholic when we met, right?  But in fact, anyone who drank that hard for 40 years would have had his head so far up a bottle that there wasn’t much of his mind left for emotional contact of any sort. Not with man, woman, nor beast (pity the three cats).

What nutty part of my subconscious had sniffed out another of these “No Attachment” folks and bought it again?

If you’d ever have told me, as late as 2005, that I’d move to California, land of fruit and nuts, I’d have rolled my eyes. If you’d told me that I’d move to California and get a therapist for Heaven’s sake, I would have laughed my level New York head off. Who, me, the mortgage-paying, foreign exchange rate-slinging business gal?

But by July 2008, I was ready to believe Pete about one thing:  I definitely needed to have my head examined.

I thawt I Thaw a Thewapist  

I did, I did. I thaw TWO thewapists.  Therapist?  Therapist? Oh the thshame of it all; society so stigmatizes us for even thinking about it.

Group Therapy-Family AgainOut of the dating shark pool I stumbled, into the therapy jungle. That’s right, I took the plunge, despite the massive social condemnation, the incredible expense, and the huge time commitment.  I threw myself into treatment heart and soul for seven months, out of genuine alarm at my own mental state.

How did I find a therapist in the dark depths of 2008?  What an act of science.  Back before my Dad died, I was googling “singles events” in the local Orange County CA on-line newspaper.  Amongst the dances, jazz concerts and “Chocolate Lovers of America” events, (seriously, I kept the printout filed) up came a meeting tagged “Support for singles dealing with divorce.”

Armed with nothing but divorce grief and emotional pain, my friend Lola and I sallied forth to that weekly group earlier in 2008 – without a goal or a clue.  But on July 19, 2008, back I went with a vengeance, this time looking for serious answers about my sorry psyche.  Here’s what my notes report:

Dr. Matt went around the room of 8-10 women, asking each what brought us in. “I’ve moved seven times in two years,” Lola said to my shock, though once again I thought I knew the person well. “I left my husband, moved in with my daughter, then with my boyfriend, then I left him. I just keep moving. I’m miserable everywhere I go. No wonder I can’t find someone to love me – I don’t even love me.”

“I lost a 27-year marriage, my Dad died, then I was dumped by the rebound guy and he’s all I can think about,” I said.  “I feel like I’m crazy because I can’t cry about my Dad.  I don’t want to go to work or go out or do much of anything but cry.”

The other women had husbands deeply sunk into substance abuse who were wrecking their finances, or who repeatedly cheated on them in long-term unhappy marriages, or husbands who abandoned them and their small children.

What’s a “Codependent”?

What could Dr. Matt do but explain the concept of a codependent?  “What’s the definition of a codependent?” he asked.  “When a codependent dies, someone else’s life flashes before their eyes.”  Everything he said was spot on; my notes prove it:

“When a child experiences emotionally unavailable parents and is abandoned, ignored, heavily criticized, or feels substantial tension at home, the child is convinced very young not just that they have done something bad, but that they themselves ARE bad,” he reported. “Children cannot externalize cause and effect; in a child’s mind, everything revolves around ‘me.’  When a child sees parents fighting or other stressful behavior, the child thinks it is the cause. When a parent is an alcoholic or a workaholic or otherwise absent, the child thinks it is to blame or they wouldn’t have gone away.

“When even worse parents overtly blame the child, unjustly since it’s a child, the child cannot separate fiction from reality, and again thinks:  ‘I am bad.’  When parents are emotionally unavailable in this way, it creates a false belief structure lodged deep in a child’s subconscious that ‘I am bad.’ ”

“I am bad”? To my shock, suddenly I was resonating on all cylinders. Yikes, there was a part of me that had felt that way ever since I could remember.

My parents were thoroughly clean and upright, never drank or smoked or did anything but work – but they did fight and get angry.  And I sure had never felt they were “emotionally available” to me — what kind of nonsense is that anyway?

What do parents have to do with emotions?  I’d never even heard of the idea that parents were supposed to be emotionally anything with their kids.  Kids who had emotions weren’t behaving properly!  Isn’t it a parent’s job to get rid of emotions in kids, to get kids to grow up?

Trix rabbit caughtEmotions, like Trix, are for kids, right? Boy was I confused.

And then, just sitting there,  suddenly I was cowering in the back seat of the family car in grade school while my parents laced into each other up front. “Please don’t fight, please don’t be angry!” I scrawled madly in my notebook. “What did I do wrong? Why won’t you love me?”

Just like that, right out of nowhere, I was back in grade school.  Oh my.  And, asking my parents “Why won’t you love me?”  Huh?  I just found all this today in my dusty 2008 notebook. Wild.

Dr. Matt went on with his briefing. “Whenever family stress occurs, the child learns wrongly ‘I caused it, I broke it, I’ve got to fix it.’  That’s untrue, plus a child can’t possibly fix it,” he said. “But the child develops ‘repetition compulsion’ – later in life they are always trying to re-live the same childhood trauma, in order to master the situation, to go back and fix it.  It can’t work, it never does, but facts never get in the way of the deep subconscious when it’s bent on a compulsion.”

“Why are you sending me the message that I broke it and you are demanding that I fix it?” I scribbled madly, still bizarrely addressing my parents many decades ago.

Later in life, Dr. M. said, this child gravitates toward spouses and others who behave as the parents did, to people who are distant, angry, or who actually do need fixing – all people who are emotionally unavailable. “ ‘Oh, just like Mom or Dad. That’s a dance I know, I know how to relate to that,’ thinks the subconscious,” he said.

“The textbook case is the codependent wife always trying to rescue her alcoholic husband by paying his bills or covering up his bad behavior.  She’s blindly acting out a childhood repetition compulsion that she’s got to ‘fix it’ – just like as a child she had to cheer up Mom or appease angry Dad.  The original term was ‘co-alcoholic,’ because the fixing spouse is as dependent on the drug as the addict.  They need it around to maintain their subconscious childhood dynamic.”

Dr. M. even managed, hearing me for five minutes in a meeting of eight women, to diagnose my marriage and warn me against a particular brand of non-attaching men. “Enmeshment occurs in people who were too depended upon by one parent, usually the mother, as kids,” he explained, “in the absence of the other parent, usually an absent father. That’s unnatural, so for example, a son who became Mom’s substitute for his absent Dad, will have a deep felt need to escape from ‘too much Mom,’ whether Mom was angel or devil. As an adult, this man has an allergy against relationships; he always has one foot out the door.”

“Larry (my ex) always had one foot out the door!” I scribbled madly, trying to keep up.  “Larry’s Dad was always traveling on business in Europe and his mom made her first born son into a little emperor.  Plus yikes: Dan (the rebound) always had one foot out the door…”

Painting with a Hammer

With such brilliant insights we should quickly be cured, no? Dr. Matt’s words were true indeed. He did fail to mention that they are also the basics in most standard psychiatric textbooks, as I learned ‘way much later.  Too later…

Instead, the RX which came next hit me like a hammer: “You don’t need to go back and fix it. Just let it go,” said Dr. Matt.  Simple as that.  Just think your way out of it.  Just let your head tell your heart where to get off.

I didn’t know then, that this was all head talk, and that head talk has never transformed a heart in human history.  I didn’t know then, that brain science says the thinking frontal brain has virtually no power to influence the emotional limbic brain. [FN1]

“Trying to fix the heart with the head is like trying to paint with a hammer; it only makes a mess,” say John James and Russell Friedman,  the top experts on divorce grief and every other sort of grief. [FN2]  But I hadn’t heard of them yet.

“You know how to take care of others, that’s your expertise,” continued Dr. M.  “But you have another part of YOU that really needs caring for, your hurting child part – so eliminate the middleman.  Stop trying to take care of others, and take care of yourself instead.”  It did sound clever.

Then he lowered the boom. “Go to a safe place and introduce these two parts of you to each other,” he said. “It’s likely they’ve never met. Start with the wounded child part inside you, make sure you’re in a really safe place where the inner child feels safe. Then ask her, ‘Would it be ok to meet another part of yourself?’ Then introduce the care-giving adult part, to the hurting child part and leave them alone together so they can subconsciously process.”

“Leave them alone together?” After his barrage of terrific but crushing data, which had struck such a nerve gusher, this sudden conclusion left my head spinning. It sounded like a gobbledegook segue to nowhere; “go take a long walk off a short pier.” It was an answer to “Now What?” that made no sense whatsoever.

“Do it yourself,” he was telling me.  I had a sinking feeling.

I went home and diligently followed his advice — and I felt much, much worse.  In fact, after a week of trying this out, I got to where I was in such a flat-out panic that I was nauseous.

———————————
This is from Chapter 2 of Kathy’s forthcoming book DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment DisorderHow I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.  Watch for the continuing series of excerpts from her book every Friday, in which she explores her journey of recovery and shares the people and tools that have helped her along the way.

Footnotes

[FN1] Lewis, Thomas, Amini, Fari, Lannon, Richard; “A General Theory of Love”, Random House, 2000. Great link: www.paulagordon.com/shows/lannon/

[FN2] James, John W., Friedman, Russell, “The Grief Recovery Handbook,” Harper Collins, New York, 2009 (original 1998)

3,837 total views, 6 views today

Share Button

Tin Can Shot Full of Holes

#10 in my ongoing book blogs from “Don’t Try This at Home”

After my Dad’s funeral, back I flew from Florida again to my  consulting gig near Washington DC, and to Dan the rebound affair, who seemed supportive.  I was so relieved to be away from the funeral pain, and being with Dan at his farm felt good.

tin can shooting cartoonImagine my surprise when within five days of my father’s death, Dan sat down to the nice dinner I’d prepared for him one night and asked me to leave.

“It’s just not happening for me,” he announced. “I want mah house back.  I’m just not comfortable with you.”  He had no feelings for me, he said.  Whu Nhu? After almost two years and endless hours of intensity, I had been completely blindsided.

Later on that night (much later, after the inevitable rematch), I asked if he could let me know what I’d done wrong, so I could at least learn something from all this.  All he could do was repeat “I was comfortable with Maureen (his ex).  But you get so excited when you talk that you wave your hands and it distracts me to where I can’t hear what you’re saying.  I’m just not comfortable with you.”

“I’m just not comfortable with you.”  At the time it seemed merely unjust, but make a mental note of that turn of phrase.  It will prove to be another clue to the big picture puzzle.

I left Dan’s farm and rented a room in an elderly widow’s home near the airport to work out my consulting contract for another three weeks, before I could escape back to California.

My Dad was dead — and still I couldn’t cry for him. But now I was crying buckets on the hour for Dan, a stranger I’d known only briefly over just short of two years.

Over the July 4, 2008 weekend I dutifully googled “Grief” on the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) website (since taken over by SAMHSA).  I found this on page two, and in all these years, it’s by far the best way to confront grief I’ve ever seen, packed full of heavy truth in each short sentence:

“How will I know when I’m done grieving? Every person who experiences a death or other loss must complete a four step grieving process:
1. Accept the loss
2. Work through and feel the physical and emotional pain of grief
3. Adjust to living in a world without the person or item lost
4. Move on with life.

“The grieving process is over only when the person completes these four steps,” it concluded bluntly.  This short but dense RX has since been inexplicably removed from the NIMH website, but I’ve kept a folded shard of the printout all these years.  And it proved to be deadly accurate.

I posted “Accept the Loss” in Calibri 16 point font on my computer, my bathroom mirror, and taped it on my wallet (still there to this day), but I couldn’t begin to understand what it meant.  I was dead sure that the shattering loss I was feeling was heartbreak over Dan.
I felt guilty but little more for my Dad.

Right on cue as my personal life went down the tubes, it sure did look as if I were in good company and the whole American economy were simultaneously going down in a hand basket.

I was working 14 hour days on a punishing schedule for the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) info-tech proposal. I could remember when a Defense Department proposal was just that: a large technical document written for a major defense supplier, explaining why our satellite system or computer system was better than the competitors’.

Here, however, at times I was sure I was in the Twilight Zone, there was such disorganization bordering on panic.  This was a $2 billion project, to be built at hundreds of airports, ports and border crossings around the nation, and every large company in the U.S. was bidding. The company which retained me had thrown their entire budget for a year on this one proposal, bringing in consultants by the dozens — without setting up a reasoned structure.

TSA ChipmunkIt was mass chaos. We had computer gurus in turbans from Bombay, and Brits from London who would joke they were here to take back the colonies (to which I retorted “What’s left? There’s no industrial base…”). We had cost cutters from Lower Manhattan who didn’t care whether the equipment we were proposing to sell to Uncle Sam worked or not, if they could just structure the cheapest bid.

We hardly had time to leave our desks to eat and by the last two weeks they were trucking in catered breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Anonymous signs began to appear on doors spoofing the insanity.  Yes, I saved one and scanned it today (above).  Click on it, it’s a riot.

Through the din, every morning at 8 am there was a voice on the speaker phones throughout the building, the voice of the lady Proposal Manager, literally shouting orders to the massed troops.  One day I had to tear myself from my workstation long enough to go down to the basement super-bunker to interview some of the top brass leading the project.  There in what looked like a 5-foot wide loud yellow shirt was a woman who resembled nothing so much as Jabba the Hut, scratching her arms, chain smoking, and shrieking into the speaker phones. “Well, she’s won $10 billion worth of proposals, so whatever Lola wants,” one fellow muttered.

I really wasn’t very sure I wanted to be in this line of work anymore.  But what choice did I have – starve to death alone?
It was as if that Twilight Zone had engulfed my public and my private life in one nasty slurp.

I was leading a double existence, interviewing top executives by day, then crying into the cell phone to my friends in California on my short breaks, standing outside in the muggy Virginia heat.  It had all been a series of psychological champagne drunks I was on, I told them ruefully, to cover up my divorce, the fact that I had lost my 27-year marriage, my overseas projects, my music, and my whole life.

I couldn’t  “Accept the loss” of my entire life, or my divorce;  I couldn’t accept anything.  I just ran.  First I ran to Dan, then to California dancing, singing Country, sailing, and dating, then back to Dan, I told them.  Now I’ve lost the Dan umbilical cord to the East Coast and I belong nowhere.

So what do you do when the champagne factory shuts down? After everyone left the office at 11 pm I stayed on, churning out Dan doggerel well into the early morning.

I didn’t feel any anger at all while I was crying so hard during that summer of 2008; I don’t recall feeling anything like anger for another four years.  I just felt unloved, deadly lonely and miserable.

SONY DSCBut I still had an empty string bean can with a half dozen jagged wounds, from the day Dan posted it as a target at the far end of a back woods field as part of his efforts to teach me to shoot pistols.  Something inside me resonated oddly, to think that I had actually pumped this piece of metal full of lead.

I may not have been aware of any anger, but my reaction to that piece of junk and the poems told another story which didn’t come out until much later.

Tin Can Shot Full of Holes
(Apologies to Bob Seeger)
July 12, 2008

It’s sitting on the wall ledge above my closet door,
It sits and stares right at me;  I know what it’s staring for:
To think a serious woman like me would be concerned,
For such a pile of tin and rust, and might even get burned.
The more I think about it, the less I can control
A visceral reaction to that tin can shot full of holes.

I met a man in Mexico, he had an eagle eye,
He warned me not to go too far, he warned me not to die;
He warned me there was nothing alive behind his smile;
He smiled so warm right through me it almost seemed worthwhile.
I thought his smile might save him, as bright as burning coal,
But nothing could bring comfort to a tin can shot full of holes.

We went up on the mountain with little more to say,
I did my level best to focus on things far away,
We used tin cans as targets for pistol practice shots,
But never could be certain to hit any given spot.
With Dorothy, I’ve traveled over Oz from pole to pole,
But all I’ve come away with is a tin can shot full of holes.

I hate it when these poems just overflow my mind;
I’d rather more be sleeping and my work is far behind.
I see him in the shadows, I see him in the sun,
I see him on the grasslands, I see him on the run,
He’ll have to run forever, for he’s running from his soul;
My heart goes out in pity to the tin man shot full of holes.

Hit Bottom Yet?

By the time I flew back to California on July 18, 2008, tail between legs, I was in bad shape.  But think you’re hurting now, girl?  Ha.  It was just the beginning.

Now the Great 2008 Financial Crisis meltdown was in full swing, banks were crashing left and right across America, and my aerospace engineering and IT consulting market on the West Coast suddenly folded up like a Japanese duck pop.

“Japanese duck pop” is a semi-controversial term I’ve been accused of making up, but which I’m sure I learned from a Korean War Vet in some global timezone at some point in the 1990s.  Imagine a flock of ducks flying along, and one of them while zipping straight ahead at a good clip, sticks his head directly up his rear… until pop!  He simply disappears, in Incheon Landing slang.

An opera-going friend invited me to an elite dinner party in Newport Beach, where of course I did not use this sort of language.  One thing I know how to do is put up a glamorous front at an upscale dinner party.  The woman seated to my right asked my line of work. “You’re a writer? Fabulous,” she said.  “I run an investment fund; my clients invest a minimum of $5 million with me.  I want to publish a book on my investing method and I’d like you to be my ghost author. Come to my office on Monday.”

Soon I was in her impressive Newport Beach office, complete with fountains in the palm-swept courtyard, taking down her book in dictation twice a week, as she rattled it off the top of her head.  Soon we were talking international finance, and she was talking about taking me on to train me to help handle some of her millionaire investment clients.  Magic!  A new California Dream.

Until one day I sat down in her office – and the investment bank on Wall Street where she kept all her clients’ funds had just gone down in flames, bringing the markets with it.  Her cell phones were ringing, the computers were going haywire, her irate clients were pulling up in limos, and her husband and son were running in and out of the room with slips of paper and messages.

bear_stearns on fire 0808It was like trying to write a book on nuclear war, in the middle of a nuclear war.  There went another California Dream.  The Great 2008 Financial Crisis made an end to that book project, along with major investment banks.

It was also the end of my California defense career, because the Federal proposal consulting market in California suddenly died, never to be born again as of today.  All the technical writing jobs for aerospace engineering near Los Angeles International Airport which I had been eying suddenly were shipped back to the Washington DC Beltway from whence I’d just barely escaped with my life.

I’d put some cash away from all those contracts, but that career was gone, unless I wanted to move back to Washington, world capital of defense consulting, home of the rain, sleet, and the long shadow of Dan Heller.  I did not; I physically could not. I was sick to my gut at the thought of travel to the East Coast.

So I was stuck in my one-room in California, which was actually little more than a shack in a young couples’ back yard, with the clothes on my back, $30K in my ex’s debt still on my credit cards,  my hard-earned savings, and a stellar resume – curled up in a heap on my bed like a spider checking out for good.

Did I mention that I’d tried dating in California? I did meet several fellows.  One was Harvey the Vietnam vet, a sweet man who bore a striking resemblance to Tarzan (he was ripped).  Harvey had survived some horrible experiences in combat, though.  And now I was beginning to feel like I knew just what he had been through.

Summer 2008, I thought, surely was the the end of my world. Surely it could get no worse than this.  One of my journal entries at the height of the 2008 Presidential campaign gave some pretty amazing evidence on my state of mind:

The Helicopter
(Apologies to Senator McCain)
August 2, 2008

My friend Harvey fought in Vietnam as a combat photographer,
At 6’3″ he weighed over 220 pounds.
On one evacuation the GIs pushed him off the helicopter:
“Pansy photographer! We can’t take off with your weight!”
Harvey was captured by the Vietcong.  Eventually he escaped.

Sometimes I have that helicopter feeling:
That my parents threw me out of my house,
That my husband threw me out of my life,
That the economy threw me off of the bus.

I forsook my family and gave up everything for you,
But you threw me out of my life,
You threw me into the world completely unequipped,
To know that I was prey.

You threw me, without ever having been loved,
Into Superman’s arms,
He took me for a flight, and I thought “Oh, maybe this is love?”
But soon he was done — and he threw me off the helicopter
—————————–All
———————————————Over
—————————————————————–Again.

Bang!  You’re dead.  All over again.
I’m MIA — and no one even knows I’m missing,
Or will know whether I die or whether I live…
I’m MIA — and I can’t even run for President;
I don’t even have the dignity of a dog tag.

 

———————————
This is from Chapter 2 Part II of Kathy’s forthcoming book DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder – How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.  Watch for the continuing series of excerpts from the rest of her book every Friday, in which she explores her journey of recovery and shares the people and tools that have helped her along the way.

2,750 total views, 2 views today

Share Button

No Tears for Dad

#9 in my ongoing book series; original post September 27, 2013

After my 27-year marriage fell apart, by late 2007 I was reduced to writing long poems for Dan the East Coast rebound affair, in a bizarre attempt to figure out how his mind worked, why he kept calling me, and how to inspire him to “get it.”

My notebooks repeated one theme for two years:  I was dead — but now I want to be alive.  I’d been left “home alone” by my ex for so many years I thought I was dead, as I said during my divorce.  I emailed friends often in the months to follow that Dan had brought a dead woman back to life.  One March 2008 poem ends: “If you someday chose to take a breath/ I’ll be there at your command/ You gave me life, I owe you life/ Call upon it if you can.”

BrousBlog11a Turtle Stayin' AliveI didn’t learn until four years later that the reptilian brain stem controls a lot of these functions, and this feeling of being dead has a technical tag: dissociation.
Whu Nhu?

But Dan’s every “come here” ended in a “go away,” so I couldn’t stay alive.  I’d been so happy to escape the marriage torture chamber, divorce, and start a fabulous new life, I just couldn’t understand why I felt so lousy. “Dan ruined California for me,” I decided, and launched into a new round of kayaking, sailing, dancing and dating on the West Coast to replace him.  Good luck in that mindset.

Periodically I’d fly back and forth across North America, making money, visiting Mr. Wrong, and going nowhere at 600 MPH.  Who needed meth, I was high as a kite on my own hyper-schedule.

After a late 2007 trip to visit Washington DC defense sector clients and Dan’s Maryland fortress, I flew back to LAX into the worst Southern California fire season of the decade.  The desert from the air showed flames and plumes of black smoke rising as far as the eye could see, as if the plane were “just taking the tram into Mordor.”  A descent into hell, literally and emotionally.

My California dream had become a nightmare.  As 2008 wore on, Dan the Anti-Christ of Anti-Attachment was eating an ever-larger hole in my soul.  I spent days near LAX writing billion-dollar proposals for radar systems and nights writing Dan doggerel, trying to fathom my obsession and work it out of my system.

But no matter how I tried to fix my present, it never hit me that all this emotional pain could be from way far back in my past.

Reality Check

Reality finally hit when my father died and I couldn’t cry.

In spring 2008 I saw an ad for a concert of my all-time favorite, Mozart’s final ”Requiem Mass,” at a community college in Huntington Beach, and moved to take back my music.  On May 15, 2008, I sang the “Requiem” with full chorus and orchestra, realizing my dream to be singing again and in sunny California with a new start.

The next morning my brother-in-law phoned from New York to say that my Dad in Florida had just had a heart attack, please catch the next plane to Miami Beach.  California?  New life?  A little joy?  Kiss the vision goodbye for the Nth time, honey.

BrousBlog11b Amadeus PosterBack in the air across the country, back to the dreary East Coast I flew, Mozart’s fearsome call of Judgment Day ringing in my ears.  Back to my “family of origin” as it is technically termed, back to my parents and my younger sister.  Back, back, back in time.

My father lay in the hospital dying.  He had an oxygen mask over his nose and mouth and could do little more than groan and wave penciled lists of things that needed doing in the general direction of my mother.  He had had a stroke and acute respiratory failure as well; his major systems had simply given out.

Dad worked long hours into the night and on Saturdays for 40 years for his family because, as the Broadway song from “Carousel” goes:  “She’s gotta be sheltered, and fed, and dressed, in the best that money can buy.”  Yet there was always something strange about his situation. When at age 4 or so I first noticed Dad, he was controlled access only.  He’d come home late, Mom would allow my sister and I each a quick hug, say “Daddy’s tired” (always the same words), seat him in a back room with dinner and the TV on, and close the door with us outside.  She’d joke, “They never knew his name was Ralph; they thought his name was Daddy’s Tired.”

BrousBlog11c Billy Bigelow SunsetIt felt as if Dad was always off into the sunset somewhere, like the movie finale of “Carousel” where Billy the Dad returns to heaven after one day on earth.  Dad would say, “I learned in a house full of women to keep the toilet seat down,” as if he did not belong.

A few Sundays a year Dad would take us to the carousel in the next town, which I awaited eagerly as my only time of any duration with him.  I had such longing to belong with the colored lights and pretty horses, and for Dad to see me and recognize me as part of that beautiful setting.  But Dad didn’t seem to notice me; he’d put me on his horse in front of him and focus on jumping for the gold ring.  The big scary outside moving horses seemed to go awfully high up when I was so little and when Dad jumped it terrified me, but he just laughed.  I wanted to hang onto Dad but he was jumping, so I hung onto the horse’s leather strap instead.

The next memory I have of Dad was in school after the Kennedy assassination, when for no reason anyone could grasp, I began crying uncontrollably and went on sobbing in my room for weeks.  Finally Dad came in and said, “That’s enough now, cut it out.”  Mom and he were displeased when I cried as a kid and that was the signal to be quiet.  It never occurred to either of us for him to ask what was really troubling me, or to hold me while I cried.

Let Me Call You Sweetheart

Dad grew up in a big house with showcases of silver, plastic slipcovers on the furniture, and tennis courts.  His father was a New York City merchant who commuted to Manhattan every day by Long Island Railroad.  After the 1929 crash, Grandpa lost everything, but still went to the station every morning and sat there all day to keep up appearances.  One day the kids at school told my Dad where Grandpa was, and Dad had to go to the station and tell Grandpa “Come on, Dad, let’s go home.”  My Dad never connected this to post-war times, but when I heard the story, it hit me that appearances had always been really important in our family.

Now I realized watching Dad in the hospital, waving lists of things to do, that he was still trying to keep up appearances, to maintain some sense that he had control over events — in a situation where that is notoriously impossible.  I was reminded of the lists later when my sister Linda and I stumbled over eerily similar boxes of objects Dad had stashed at home.  Large cartons of nail clippers, endless cases of pencils, crates of bills from decades past, an empire of things he spent years trying to control.  Lynn was bemused, but I remember feeling scared and wondering why.

I haven’t mentioned Mom much, in order to let you continue to look over my shoulder and see events exactly as I did – or to be blind to them, as I mostly was.  Let’s simply say for now that another reason it was difficult to communicate with Dad was that it always seemed I couldn’t really speak to him except through Mom.  It was still pretty much controlled access.

Mom had her moments; one afternoon she held Dad’s hand and sang “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” until we all were in such tears that emails to the cousins reverberated across the internet. You could hear them singing along with Bing Crosby all 1,200 miles from Long Island, New York to Miami Beach, Florida that night.

But Mom wasn’t glad to see me, as usual.  I felt sad I hadn’t visited them more in later years, but Mom never seemed to want me around and I didn’t have the courage to face her.

When I arrived at the hospital Dad was visibly upset – “Kathy?!” he cried, almost in terror.  I can still hear the alarm in his voice.  It hit me that my face made him realize he must be seriously ill, if I were there all the way from California, and despite Mom’s resistance.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

BrousBlog11d Generic CarouselI spent the rest of May 2008 in what felt like a giant nation-wide United Airlines staging of “Carousel,” jetting round and around, back and forth from the hospital in Florida to Washington DC, where I had a  contract this time to work on a $2 billion proposal to restructure the national information systems at the Transportation Security Agency.

I never connected the two at the time, but in retrospect I was in such emotional pain seeing my parents in Florida, pain so severe I couldn’t even become conscious of it, that my resolve to kick the Dan habit went right out the window.

As I said when I first left home in 2006: “I was in so much pain, I just walked out on Newport Beach and proceeded directly to medicate.”  Straight from the hospital to Dan I went and for a few weeks his brand of organic chemicals numbed me up right fine.

On June 3, 2008, Dad passed away.  Back to Florida I flew.  My sister the Wall Street lawyer seemed to have the funeral service as well scripted as a prosecution.  But in fact it was Mom who literally wrote scripts for everyone but me to read.  Linda’s two sons balked at reading the scripts; they said they loved Grandpa, and wanted to speak of him in their own words.

But finally they had to agree, since Mom was distressed and everyone had to “make Mom feel better.” (Actually that had been everyone’s obligation since at least the 1960s, especially mine.)

Something in me rebelled as I saw this train coming down the track, and when Lynn asked me to start the service, I said “No, I’m the eldest, I’ll go last.” For some reason I’ve never understood, everyone accepted that as fact immediately.

My two nephews each got up and read their scripts, but then extemporized as teens will do, Lord bless ’em.  Linda’s husband spoke, then Linda read a speech she’d had me type for her the night before about the greatest Dad on earth.  “Of course I can’t type,” she said.  “I knew I’d never be a typist so I refused to take typing in high school.”  (I type 98.6 words a minute so I wasn’t sure whether that made me chopped liver but I let it go.)  At the service, Mom didn’t want to speak; she sat impassively.

No one had any idea what I was going to do, least of all me, until the last moment.  I rose and said, “Everyone else has said all the wonderful things there are to say about my Dad.  I’d like to do something for my family here.”  And then I sang; it was “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” the finale from “Carousel,” a long-time family favorite.  The hundred person audience in the posh Miami Beach retirement home all cried and then, almost forgetting it was a funeral, applauded the long high note at the end.

Everyone cried, that is, except me.  I sang that whole slow sustained song acapella (no piano,  no nothing), and my voice was entirely clear.  “I never thought you’d make that high note,” my sister whispered later, “But you nailed it.  How did you do that?” I was shocked, too; I had no answer, but it came easily, and with perfect confidence.

The emotional soprano who cries whenever music moves her, at the movies, or on so many other occasions, could not find tears for her own Dad.  Actually I had tried to cry for days.  Lynn and I both remarked how strange it was.  I was worried, too.  It did not seem right, but there it was: I somehow felt nothing.

My Dad had died, and I could not cry.

———————————
This is from Chapter 2 of Kathy’s forthcoming book DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment DisorderHow I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.  Watch for the continuing series of excerpts from the rest of her book every Friday, in which she explores her journey of recovery and shares the people and tools that have helped her along the way.

1,528 total views, 2 views today

Share Button

Enter the Dragon

#8 in my ongoing book series; original post September 20, 2013

OK, step away from the brain science; back to how my life fell apart with Attachment Disorder.  When we last looked at the end of my 27-year marriage, I’d stumbled into a rebound affair.  Dan* had a fake southern accent, I was from southern Long Island, and I was toast.  I had no idea how the real world works;  I thought he was looking for True Love.

In “Working Girl” (1988), Melanie Griffith’s character Tess is too nervous to make the corporate cocktail party in her boss’s $6,000 dress, so her friend Cyn passes her a few of the boss’s valiums. Tess then passes out in the cab. Eyeing the bottle later, Cyn quips in New York-ese: “Gee, shoulda checked the milligramage. Oh well, Live and Loin…”

That was me in late 2006 – shoulda checked the milligramage.

BrousBlog10a KB TractorBut Whu Nu, and who cared? After Dan came at me for weeks at the family swimming hole, I finally went to his Maryland farm for dinner.  After dinner, we looked at years of photos showing how he had built his house from scratch; in fact, he was so constructive that one thing led to another.

Before I knew it, all my emotional pain from 27 years of married neglect and abuse was being medicated into oblivion.

This went on for the next few weeks, as Dan pumped a flood of feel-good dopamine, oxytocin, and other mating chemicals through my bloodstream with enough intensity to knock a gal senseless.  I was like a Stradivarius manhandled by a ham- fisted tone-deaf bass drummer (that would be my ex) for 10 years, tossed into storage for 20 years — and then found by a master violinist.  It was a trip from nothing, to a whole lot of something.  To call me putty in Dan’s hands would have be a major understatement.

In his college days, Dan had been seduced by the wife of a French diplomat; this exotic lady taught him more things about a woman’s anatomy than Henry Gray ever dreamt possible.  If not George Washington University, then at least the CIA should have had him teaching post-grad courses in his area of expertise.  Surely there was some branch of our secret services in which he would have been an enormous asset.

Dan was systematic at ensuring my chemical addiction, but he wasn’t just shining shoes to please a client.  He took the abandoned delight of a kid in an ice cream store in what he did, and it showed, which naturally made me think he really cared for me.  “If you enjoy something, why wouldn’t you want to make it last as long as you can?” he would say, going into hour four at 2 am with no let up in intensity.

New York City Girl found herself literally on another planet, playing farm wife complete with apron, wood fires, and home-cooked meals.  (Even though sitting on the tractor, no matter how hard I tried to “go country,” I still resembled nothing so much as Martha Stewart…)

“Grandpa used to say: A woman should be chained to the bed — with a chain long enough to reach the kitchen,” Dan would drawl.  We’d go out back down by the lake where he’d give me shooting lessons so that I could one day join his frequent hunting trips which kept the basement freezers stocked with deer and fowl.  I got to where I made a killer venison chili.

Suddenly, I had an enthusiastic taker for all that country music I’d been logging mindlessly in my head for months. We’d ride around on the tractor or in his four-wheel drive singing “I Ain’t as Good as I Once Was” by Toby Keith at the top of our lungs (singing and dancing ensued, in fact, at the oddest hours and angles). Everything seemed to fall in place.

War on Bonding

BrousBlog10b Iguana no-face CropImagine my surprise when, after three months, Dan began to talk up my earlier plan to move to California.  One day, he announced out of the blue that it would be a mistake for a gal to hang around him too long.  “Why can’t women be like my guy friends? If I don’t call them for two weeks, they don’t care,” he said.  (“Doin’ them same gymnastics with the guys?”  I considered asking, but it seemed counter-productive at the time…)

“Women are too obsessed with relationships,” he went on. “Guys don’t care about that stuff. Relationships are for marriage, marriage is for having children, and I’m done with all that,” he said.

“Women who want to hang on to a guy need to get over it. Sex is for adults. Women who can’t have sex without getting attached to a guy need to grow up.”

Back to brain science, where one of the first things you learn is that our brain has three or four gross subdivisions, which behave very differently, as Dr. Bruce Perry’s Slide #1 showed last week.  First, in the womb, we develop the brain stem and cerebellum for pure survival, aka “Reptilian brain.” After we are born, the neurons of the Limbic brain aka “Mammalian brain” fire up, so we can manage emotional attachment to Mom.  Only much later, the neurons of the Cortex aka “Thinking Brain” finally come on line. [FN1]

Reptiles just don’t get attached; they don’t carry their young, they eat their young.  That’s because reptiles have no emotions, and that’s because they have no emotional limbic brain. The limbic brain first developed in mammals, who developed the ability to feel. They felt it was better to carry and care for their young. They developed the ability to feel attachment.  The lack of which is attachment disorder.

Dan was militant about not using his mammalian limbic brain – and of reptiles he was rather fond.  On one of our vacations in Mexico, I envied the iguana he found, it got so much TLC.  Dr. Stephen Porges explained in a recent interview how to detect such folks, but me in 2006?  Who Nhu?  [FN2]

To be fair, Dan had been through a seriously nasty divorce years before.  He never knew that his wife, whom he loved to distraction, was having babies with other men while he was hard at work at Reagan National airport, until their third child. He went ballistic, and vowed never again to become attached.  “Ah ripped out mah heart with a pick axe, now Ah’m heartless, and Ah likes it that way,” he’d drawl.  “Ah’m famous for being heartless, even at work.  She did me a favor:  she made me bulletproof.”

Dan had years ago declared nuclear war on attachment.  Now he tells me.

Instead, he bought 15 acres of wooded land in the Styx of rural Maryland, way out down a dirt road as far west as he could go. He cleared half of it for a farm, and built himself a fortress by hand, a large, airy, three-story building of wood and stone with a huge fireplace which could heat the entire house even in 20-degree weather.

After one particularly tender evening with me, he awoke next morning with a nightmare which had been repeatedly haunting him for a decade.  He saw his wife enter his new house with a crew of workmen, directing them to rip out of the walls all the custom made-wiring, conduits and pipes he had built so painstakingly by hand.

He could run, but could not hide, from the emotional pain of rejection and grief still lacerating deep into his soul.

As I said in blog #8, I was like the Singing Nun right out of a cloister on this ball field.  And now in my naivete, I was blown away with compassion for Dan’s tragedy – hook, line and sinker.

“Come Here Go Away

BrousBlog10c Girl+SyringeBy now, Dan had learned (one hopes unconsciously) that telling his heartrending tale with his big blue eyes full of hurt, was a surefire way to get a gal’s defenses down.  It brought out the mom in her, her co-dependent wish to rescue the underdog, and all her bonding hormones, in one fell swoop.  While she was in the grip of this mindless emoting, Dan could get away with murder.  Good gosh, it was crazy-making.

I was the No Eye Deer at the time, but it was a classic case of “Come Here Go Away.”  Dan used his tale of woe and his carefully induced chemical addiction campaign to have a gal bond like crazy glue.  But once she got involved, he would flip and say “Go Away.” [FN3]

Only way, way later did I realize that it all resembled nothing so much as the scene in the Bruce Lee film “Enter the Dragon,” in which Hahn the drug lord has built a factory for the white slave trade under his palatial Hong Kong chateau.

BrousBlog10d Girl+Bruce LeeStealing in to investigate, Lee’s character discovers rows of red cages, each holding a kidnapped young woman. Nurses in crisp white uniforms are systematically injecting heroin into their shoulders to addict them, so they never attempt escape.

Now, all those organic chemicals Dan pumped into me had me rowing in the same slave galley.

Far-fetched? Nope.  Helen Fisher, the anthropologist upon whose lab studies all the picky questionnaires on Match.com and Chemistry.com are based, has a book out on it. [FN4]  But I was of course clueless at the time.  Whu Nhu?

I was convinced (and I wasn’t the first gal or the last to buy it) that I could be the one to melt Dan’s heart and save him from his emotional prison. At first, I heard his stern, high-horse lectures about the moral superiority of acting like an adult and not getting clingy, with disbelief.

Then ruminating on it in the months to follow, I began
to wonder if perhaps this is how all men are, for what did I know of men? Certainly my ex had made even less of an effort to relate to me.  If I were to do the math, it’s possible Dan spent more time touching me in those first few months than my ex had in 30 years.  And it sure felt “right.”

As Dan repeated his lecture time and again, I began to wonder: what did I know, anyway, about relating in these matters like an adult, man or woman?  I knew the global foreign exchange markets and I knew how to build a nuclear reactor, but I was clueless on this playing field.

Perhaps he was correct? Perhaps maturity is being able to rule oneself entirely by one’s mind and not let one’s emotions run away with the stage coach?  Either way, what profit argument?  If I just kept showering him with love and compassion, wouldn’t his heart melt one day?

Not only had Dan declared war on bonding – he had sold war bonds to me.  I knew I had a problem with unruly emotions, so I bought his idea that if I didn’t understand him, it was my own emotional immaturity.

What’s Love Got to Do with It?

So what is this lurid tale doing on a mental health website? Have my editors gone nuts?  Nope, but the rest of us might have issues.

BrousBlog10e Dragon Nurses As low-brow as my story is, it is a very common one and it may have happened to you a time or two.  Put it another way: who in their right mind would put up with Dan’s treatment for a month, let alone almost two years? Exactly.  Putting up with this is precisely “not being in my right mind.”  Something which is definitely not mental health is at the root of putting up with this.

OK, why?  Cry “psycho-babble” all you want, but this is exactly what happens to people who did not receive good secure attachment as kids.

And like I say, that’s up to 50% of Americans.  The sad fact is, with a population of over 300 million Americans, about 150 million women and men are putting up with something like this right now, and for years at a stretch.

After the “come here” came the “go away,” and I moved to California as planned in November 2006.  But Dan wasn’t done with me.  He kept calling and emailing; he knew I had Washington DC Beltway defense sector clients offering lucrative consulting gigs which could bring me to his door for a few months a year. I couldn’t say no to the East Coast contracts after what my ex had done to our finances, and I couldn’t say no to Dan and his perfectly legal and lethal natural organic drugs.

Thus it came to pass that the opium-like nightmare simply went on and on.  The rest of 2006, all of 2007, and half of 2008 were a blur of trans-continental red-eye flights, working 70 hour weeks for fat defense sector paychecks, making solo trips from LAX to rendezvous with Dan on the warm beaches of Mexico for tequila plus, and some very interesting long midnight coast-to-coast telephone calls.

This was a guy with a distance thing and an issue against getting close, all right.  A 3,000 mile distance thing.  The whole long, painful time I thought he must secretly “in his heart of hearts” want me back.  But reality was that the only reason he kept calling me was that I was safely (for him) moved in, 3,000 miles away.

*All names, except for mine, have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty, and any resemblance they may have to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.

————————————–

This is part four of Chapter One of Kathy’s forthcoming book DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment DisorderHow I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all. Watch for the continuing series of excerpts from the rest of her book every Friday, in which she explores her journey of recovery and shares the people and tools that have helped her along the way.

Footnotes

FN1 Lewis, Thomas MD; Amini, Fari MD; Lannon, Richard MD; “A General Theory of Love,” Random House, 2000;  See: www.paulagordon.com/shows/lannon/
FN2 Baer, Drake, Interview with Dr. Stephen Porges, “How To Know If You’re Working With Mammals or Reptiles (and Why It Matters To Your Creativity).” “Can you pick out the reptiles in your workplace? According to neurophysiologist Stephen Porges, if you want to be creative, you want to be on the lookout for the scaly types, and seek out the mammals instead. Porges explains how to detect each behavior and become a creative animal.” [Article features an embedded Porges slide show video] www.fastcocreate.com/1682363/how-to-know-if-youre-working-with-mammals-or-reptiles-and-why-it-matters-to-your-creativity
FN3 Earle, Ralph, PhD, “Come Here Go Away: Stop Running from the Love you Want,” Pocket Books, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1991
FN4 Fisher, Helen, PhD, “Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love,” Henry Holt and Co., New York, 2004

2,381 total views, 2 views today

Share Button

Surgeon General’s Warning: Rebound!

#7 in my ongoing book series; original post September 6, 2013

I never liked the sticky suburbs of Washington D.C.  My ex had moved us there from New York City years before.  As I was boxing up my three-bedroom Virginia ranch and my life during my divorce, I got a call from a girl friend in Southern California who was gravely ill. When her hair fell out, her husband served her with divorce papers (attachment was not his thing).

BrousBlog8a Newport Memorial Day StanDue to the treatments, she couldn’t remember what happened on a given day in court, so I flew out to help. On my first trip, all I saw was courtrooms and hospitals. On my second trip, I stepped out onto Newport Beach and the beauty of the area hit me hard between the eyes.

“Why not me?” I thought, looking at the ocean, the sailboats, the rows of green palms and red Spanish tile roofs sweeping into the bright blue distance.  Why should I move down the pike in the dreary Old Dominion, shoveling ice and snow to commute the rest of my life — when I could move across the country to a beautiful place like this?  Back to Virginia I flew, now boxing up a storm, with the song of a warm sun, a rolling ocean, and a new life in my heart.

Trouble is, divorce doesn’t come with the warning it ought to have from the Surgeon General’s office:  “Caution: Rebound Affairs Can be Hazardous to your Health.”  Why didn’t the counselors and lawyers at the women’s center tell us?  Why didn’t they tell us that 75% of divorced folks end up in a second divorce?

Why?  Because divorce hurts! It hurts a lot!  So the natural tendency in divorce is to medicate, and many people do medicate, until they learn the hard way to stop. Medicating includes alcohol, drugs, food, or other substance abuse, workaholism, sports, video games, internet fixations of all sorts — anything which changes the subject, anything to avoid facing up to the emotional pain of the loss of an entire life.

Take my sudden Country & Western music jag.  Hindsight stinks, but clearly I was having a profound emotional crisis, emotional pain at a level which I’d later recognize as “break-through grief.”  Suddenly, La Soprano Classique can’t bear classical music, but she’ll bang on the steering wheel to Toby Keith for hours on end?  A clinical case of medicating with music.

At the top of the medication list is the feel-good of a new romance.  But when that’s done on the rebound–
without a time-out to understand what went wrong in the first marriage, or to take concrete measures to heal from such a major wound — then both parties come to the table with a lot of buried hurt burning up their hearts.  Character discernment goes out the window, mis-matches are legion, and even the best people –- each in intolerable pain of their own — eventually project it wrongly onto their unwitting partner. As they lash out, eyes wide shut, it ends in another divorce, more hurt piled on hurt.

Who knew?  “Whu Nhu? He was the Prime Minister of Burma before U Thant,” was again my tag line.  I certainly did not know.  “Whaddaya call a blind doe? ‘No Eye Deer’,” was my other refrain.  I did not get the memo, because for one thing, there was no memo.  Another reason for this book, ‘cos a memo on divorce and the dangers of the rebound sure is needed.

I Thought I Was Dead

In July 2006 when I left home, I had been left “home alone” for dead for so long by my ex, that I thought I was dead.  Larry moved us from New York where we met and married, to Virginia, then left the house one morning, and never came home until past midnight.  For about 15 years.  There was no breaking bread together, no “How was your day?” emotional connection to soothe daily hurts, and for the last 15 years, no physical contact — and no children.

We didn’t have time for that stuff; how could I have kids on airplanes?  We were above all that, we had to save the world! So I furiously trotted the globe on business, organized conferences in Tokyo for diplomats from several nations in three languages, and devoured great music in another few languages.

When I turned 50, a perceptive friend actually asked me if I’d ever thought I’d live past 50, which if you think about it, is a shocking thing to ask a female gym rat as healthy as a horse. “No, I guess not” I blurted without self-editing, “Is it so obvious I’ve been burning at both ends?” I’d been lost in East Berlin in the rain on the wrong side of the Wall, and deep under the Korean DMZ in a miner’s rail bucket. I’d been to so many places on so many adventures that a co-worker asked, “Kathy, is there anything you haven’t done?”

BrousBlog8d Newport boat July 4aWell, er, it turns out there were still a few things, and by Murgatroyd I was going to do them all — and now, starting with a lot of Pacific Ocean water sports.  I really never thought I’d make it to 2010 alive, which encouraged a certain devil-may-care attitude.  (That’s me in red.)

Larry was so callous for so many years that by the time I left, my view finder was filled with nothing but the sheer relief that I was no longer banging my head against his wall of indifference.  Just to be breathing felt like a party.  Just to see the sun and the ocean and the odd palm tree, to be free of the constant adrenaline panic of deadlines, was a breath of air so fresh it made me want to dance, and so I did.

BrousBlog8c Kathy Kayaking Laguna w.hills #63I danced a lot of two-step and wailed to hard rock; I sang a lot of country; I raced sailboats; and ocean kayaked; and hiked; and dated up a semi-tropical storm.  I had no intention of not doing the right thing.  Fun appeared to be the only intensely rational thing to do.

Fact is, I’d taken such an emotional hit with the divorce that I was numb.  I had so much pain from all those decades of being left alone, that I didn’t even know I had pain. ( The technical term is dissociation.)

How was I to know I was serial-medicating a whole landslide of pain with all this partying? Whu Nhu?  I just thought:  “I’m no longer banging my head against the wall! Let’s go dancing instead.”  But reality was that I was in so much pain that I just walked out on Newport Beach and proceeded directly to medicate.

In particular, I thought, love is simple. “I married a bad man, he was mean to me. Now I’ll find a good man to love me,” I told myself.  Famous last words.

The Singing Nun

I knew the global financial markets, but after a 30-year hiatus from dating, I was like a nun out of a cloister on the ball field of romance. As I was boxing up a storm in Virginia, a statistical fluke hit; at least, I thought it was a fluke.  It was to be the first of many. I found myself picked up and dumped into a vat of the ultimate pain medication.

For almost 20 years, every Sunday in August I’d gone to my local pool where everyone knew me as Mrs. Larry. First Sunday in August 2006, while living in my best friend Sandy’s basement, I went to my pool, only to find it padlocked, due to be bulldozed for the construction of a furniture warehouse.

I was weeks from moving to California, and wanted a tan, so across the river I drove to the next pool in Maryland 20 minutes away. It was an innocent family spot where I’d never set foot in my life and in a few weeks would never set foot again; I’d be 3,000 miles gone.

So it was that three weeks out of my home, I was minding my own business in spades, secure in the glum knowledge that Larry found me completely unattractive and certain that no man would ever look at me again as long as I lived. It was 90 degrees in the humid shade and I was half asleep in the pool holding onto a ladder, when he hailed me: “Hey, ladder lady.”

I thought he wanted the ladder, so I swam away.

I was amazed when he appeared minutes later at my lounge chair, a wiry fellow with burning blue eyes, hitting on me like a ton of bricks (not that I knew the term “to hit” at the time). My jaw must have dropped a foot but he wasn’t looking at my jaw. Later he said, “When I saw you, the first thing I noticed was that you weren’t wearing a ring. The second thing was the bikini. I wanted to just eat you all up.”

He chatted awhile, and handed me his impressive business card, which indicated he managed billion-dollar equipment as head of air traffic control at Washington National Airport. “Come to my house for dinner,” he urged. “I’m moving to California,” I said point blank, “I’ll show you my car trunk full of boxes to prove it. It’s pointless.”

I had been with one man for 30 years (including before marriage) and hadn’t dated since college. I was like the Singing Nun out of a cloister, or a dead ringer for Wilma Flintstone with a bone in her hair, from a time capsule out of pre-history. To say I needed to learn about men was the understatement of the millennium (ok, it had been a short millennium so far).

My ex hadn’t touched me since forever and I was a top contender for Loneliest Gal in the Old Dominion. I was already road kill before this truck hit me; I was chum suitable to be tossed to the sharks. I had no tools to handle anything remotely approaching this.

Dan Heller*, for his part, had one heck of a tool box, and was not a man to be deterred. Three Sundays at the pool he came back at me, “Come to my house for dinner.” He had beautiful eyes, and knew how to use them. Finally he figured out that I was fascinated by construction projects and air travel after working on all those Third World development plans on the other side of the world. He guessed correctly that I wouldn’t be able resist a “back stage tour” of the airport.

BrousBlog8e Reagan Nat'l Control TowerThat next Wednesday at 5 p.m. I met him outside the airport office. We climbed into his official Jeep and roamed far and wide, examining the great soaring machines which move people and economic equipment all over the world from angles a mere passenger never sees. We toured the extensive supporting plant and fuel tank farms, acres of new construction, numerous hangars with aircraft of every variety, and I learned the difference between a taxiway and a runway.

The coup de grace was a ride to the top of the new Air Traffic Control Tower which was 99% complete but not yet in service. The control room at the top had a breathtaking 360 degree panoramic view of the entire airfield, the great runways stretching to the horizons, the glorious landscapes for miles around, and a layer of fresh-smelling sawdust from final woodworking in progress. We were alone way up there at sunset, Dan was in his element, and I leave you to imagine the rest.

On the fourth Sunday, I folded.

Walking into Dan’s Maryland farm house for dinner, we entered a great room all of pine with a two story vaulted cathedral ceiling, an acoustic I was sure would be terrific for Mozart (if I could bear to sing it again). I sang a few bars; Dan looked bemused. There was a bay window with a sunset view of the lake, and a promising grand staircase. “Ah built this house with mah own two hands,” he drawled, having somehow acquired a killer Southern accent, and proceeded to show off his construction photos.

He was from southern New Jersey, I was from southern Long Island – and I was toast. I had no idea what goes on in the real world. I thought he was looking for True Love.

No, Virginia, there is no Santy Claus, and he sure wasn’t. He had a closet full of hunting rifles and camouflage, and he was looking for a deer to take. Once he had the carcass, he was going to lose interest in that deer real fast. But of course, Ms. No Eye Deer was blind to the obvious.

*All names, except for mine, have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty, and any resemblance they may have to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.

——————————-

This is part three of Chapter One of Kathy’s forthcoming book DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment DisorderHow I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all. Watch for the continuing series of excerpts from the rest of her book every Friday, in which she explores her journey of recovery and shares the people and tools that have helped her along the way.

2,911 total views, 4 views today

Share Button

Plowing Emotions Under

#6 in my ongoing book series; original post August 23, 2013

At the end of last week’s post, after the collapse of my marriage, I was asking “Who Dunnit?”  Who’s responsible for so many divorces in this country?  First the gals and I blamed our men.  Then being an egghead, I blamed the economic crisis for depressing the men.

After that, I blamed electronic devices for replacing face-to-face interaction.  I’d been irate since the ’90s about the rise of the sound-byte society, a decade before neuroscience caught on. [FN1]

BrousBlog6a Tokyo punkIn luxe restaurants high above the lights of Tokyo and Seoul, my diplomat friends and I whined over the sashimi about the decline in personal connection, which didn’t start with email, cell phones, or texts, but was sure coming to a head with ’em.  As we planned development projects for Asia and Eastern Europe after the fall of communism, one Japanese official groaned, “Do we really want to export our so-called ‘modern culture’ to these people? Aren’t the Mongolian plainsmen happier in their yurts, without green hair, pierced noses, acid rap, and cell phone cranial transplants like our kids down there have?”

Mongolia? My beef was watching people show up at meals so glued to their devices that they never saw the living beings in front of them. By 2006 when my divorce began, I’d been to a slew of Washington, D.C. luncheons at which I was the only person not fixed on a cell phone screen.

That Christmas 2006, a friend’s daughter went abroad for a college semester in Lithuania.  She was away from home at Christmas for the first time, out of the country for the first time, on the other side of the world in a place barely out from under the Iron Curtain, buried in snow.  Eagerly, the extended family in New Jersey gathered around a wide computer screen to video-cam with Laurie. We could see her beautiful life-size face as if she were with us. After a moment’s eye contact, she turned her gaze down to her lap and left it there, not so much chatting as distantly answering our questions about her adventures.

Finally, I turned to her dad and asked, “What’s she doing?” “Oh, she’s texting her friends,” said the beaming parent, as if it were fine.

Egads, I muttered to myself, face-to-face, look-me-in-the-eye-and-please-be-home-behind-your-windows connection, is becoming a thing of the past. I felt like a dinosaur lost in an Atlantic City casino.

What Attention Span?

Next I went on another egghead tear.  I’d sung classical music a long time and was bummed about the sharp drop in new gigs.

Americans’ ability to sustain interest in a marriage, I journaled, is also related to an alarming drop in attention span.  To me, that was shown by the collapse of interest in longer classical music pieces, in favor of modern 3-minute cuts.  Handel’s “Messiah” and Rossini’s “Wilhelm Tell” used to be household fare; check out the movie score of “The Bells are Ringing.”  But today, more and more orchestras and opera companies nationwide are closing their doors each year. No audience.

I’d sung mucho Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven, and the stuff’s got an architecture the size of the Golden Gate bridge. It requires concentration to write, sing, or even just audit.  There’s a scene in the 1984 film “Amadeus” showing how Mozart became famous for extending the length of a musical piece.  Before that, the longest single thing ever written with no silent space was maybe a 12-minute Bach chorus (for which Johann S. took a lot of flack; his average was more like 5 minutes).  Mozart expanded the length of a single vocal quartet to 23 minutes, and expanded the length of an opera from one hour to four.

Beethoven? His attention span was over the top.  The SONY engineer in Tokyo who invented the CD, designed it to hold 80 minutes of music (far longer than an LP) specifically so as to hold Beethoven’s complete Ninth Symphony. (And even then, only with a really fast conductor.)  Check out this video:
What Would Beethoven Do? by Jonathan Keijser   [FN2]

John F. Kennedy said it in quotes engraved on the walls of the Kennedy Center concert hall on the Potomac: “I look forward to an America which will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft.

“I look forward to an America which will steadily raise the standards of artistic accomplishment and which will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities for all of our citizens. And I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world not only for its strength, but for its civilization as well.” – October 26, 1963

Sure didn’t seem JFK was talkin’  ’bout today’s music. I wrote the above in 2006 when my divorce began and it was fine as far as it went.

But while I was railing on everyone else, it never hit me that I had a bad emotional issue with it, inside myself.

Emotions R Us

Emotional pain is  an issue for a lot of us. We can get plenty angry in traffic, depressed at a football outcome, or freaked about the boss; that’s the superficial stuff. But when it comes to real, deep emotions that endure, many of us are too shut down to have the depth of serious feelings required for lasting attachment to other humans.

BrousBlog6c General TheoryI found a piece of this puzzle much later in 2009, when a friend stumbled on “The General Theory of Love,” a pivotal book by three psychiatrists turned neuroscientists who expose America’s hate affair with emotions (and several other issues).

“Modern America plows emotions under, a costly practice that obstructs happiness and misleads people about the nature and significance of their lives. That is more damaging than one might suppose,” they say. “Science has discovered emotionality’s deeper purpose: emotions allow two human beings to receive the contents of each others minds…For human beings, feeling deeply is synonymous with being alive… Emotions have a biological function — they do something for an animal that helps it live.” [FN3]

In fact, they say, Emotions ARE Us.  Emotions are who we really are.  I was shocked; I always thought “I” was all my scientific head talk, and America was the Land of the Logical. “Whu Nu? He was Prime Minister of Burma after U Thant,” I mumbled again.

And the peculiar heat of my passion for classical music was actually a sign that my real underlying emotions were almost 100% dead frozen.

Often when I would get up to sing, people were shocked by the intensity. “Sie feuhlt was sie singt! (She feels what she sings,) one German listener exclaimed of my Schubert songs. “It was always going to be different when you sang,” my best friend Sandy remarked, “It was a whole ‘nother emotional experience.”  For decades, I was pretty much obsessed with this music.

Yet I actually knew by the ’90s that I was using music as a stand-in for the communication which was absent from my marriage.

“Most of my best friends are dead,” I used to say of Mozart & Co.

What I did not realize was that I tolerated a marriage with no children, in which my husband never came home, so that I hung out instead with men who died 200 years ago, because neither the husband nor the dead guys would ever present me with the challenge to attach face to face with a live human being.  (Same song as in Blog #5 last week.)

I couldn’t feel my own feelings, so I gravitated to mega-watt classical because at least I could feel Mozart and Beethoven blasting out their powerful feelings.  (I didn’t get until 2012 that “emotionally shut down” is dissociation, another facet of attachment disorder.)

Once my divorce began, however, I did notice a problem with my obsession. Commuting to my latest defense consulting gig outside of D.C. in 2006, I popped in a CD to sing along as usual. It was J.S. Bach’s “Wedding Cantata,” the most glorious celebration of wedded love ever. “Love is better than the joy the flowers feel as they burst forth; now two souls become one jewel,” sings Bach. The man knew, he had 14 children.

“Two souls, one jewel,” I sang… and suddenly I had to pull off the highway, eject the CD, and collapse on the wheel in tears. I loved my husband with all my soul, and never, ever thought it would come to this. This was my first taste of “breakthrough grief,” the devastating emotional pain to come which was just a tiny speck on a distant horizon.

From that day on for over two years, I could not listen to classical music. I got back on the road to work, scanning the radio aimlessly. This being Northern Virginia, there were 3 or 4 stations playing only Country & Western, a genre so foreign to me it coulda been in Transylvanian. But the songs were a riot, with lines like “I met a man in Hollywood, he was a credit to his gender/He really worked me over good, just like a Waring blender.”[FN4]

And boy did I need a laugh or three.  Plus, I somehow had the urge to dance, so I began to soak up this new material like a sponge whenever I hit the road and sang along, really loud.
In fact, I did a lot of banging on the steering wheel…

————————–
This is part two of Chapter One of Kathy’s forthcoming book DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment DisorderHow I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all. Watch for the continuing series of excerpts from the rest of her book every Friday, in which she explores her journey of recovery and shares the people and tools that have helped her along the way.

Footnotes

FN1    Porges, Stephen,PhD, Page 15 of 2012 webinar “Polyvagal Theory,”  http://www.stephenporges.com/images/NICABM%20April%202012.pdf : “Well-developed human beings can self-regulate their emotional state by being with other humans,” said top neuroscientist Dr. Stephen Porges recently.  “But what about people who regulate their emotional state with objects?…We’re in a world now being literally pushed on us, by people who are challenged in their own social and emotional regulation, and we’re calling this ‘social networking.’ We’re using computers, we’re texting — we’re stripping the human interaction from all interactions… We’re allowing the world to be organized upon the principles of individuals who have difficulty regulating emotionally in the presence of other human beings.”

FN2   Keijser, Jonathan, “What Would Beethoven Do?” http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/478793577/what-would-beethoven-do?ref=card

FN3    Lewis, Thomas MD; Amini, Fari MD; Lannon, Richard MD; “A General Theory of Love”, Random House, 2000. http://www.paulagordon.com/shows/lannon/

FN4    Ronstadt, Linda, “Poor Poor Pitiful Me,” 1996

 

3,431 total views, 4 views today

Share Button