[This blog uses we/us and I/me pronouns interchangeably]
When we make a mistake and no one is around to witness it, we are sometimes gentler with ourselves than when others witness our gaffe. We will still usually berate ourselves–You idiot! Typical!–and when no one is around to see our mistake, we might address those inner-critics with compassion.
It’s alright. Everyone makes mistake. This is part of our common humanity.
Yet if other people are around to see our error–especially the few people we truly treasure–Spouse, Children, Therapists (who are, let’s be honest, really the only people we see on a regular basis)–we savage ourselves and channel our energy into Anger, a secondary emotion.
The Anger is to hide embarrassment, maybe shame, and often fear. And most of the people on our “treasured list” are afraid of our Anger and so it is a sign for them to leave us alone. We don’t want them to acknowledge our mistakes in life. Because then they would know that we are not perfect. And then the whole lie starts to unravel. We’re not actually _____ (insert anything positive the Treasured Ones think about us). We’re impostors.
Living with Trauma is like that. It can be the Secret you’re hiding. Perfection is your cloak. As long as no one questions you, you can hold up the facade.
Of course, since there is no such thing as perfection, the Treasured Ones already knew you were human–as they are. They may even love you more because of your foibles. Spouse is unbelievable this way. The bigger the gaffe you make, the more Spouse adores you. In the moment, Spouse is a virtual geyser of love when you do something embarrassing.
So if we can try to not react with Anger when we have human moments, we can attempt to notice–even bask in–the love that Spouse showers.
The one person so far who will meet Anger head on is Primary Therapist. Tough. As. Nails. And as caring as the Alaskan summer day is long. Primary Therapist will react as Primary Therapist sees fit in the moment. Primary Therapist will meet Anger with Anger or meet Anger with Acceptance or meet Anger with Love or meet Anger with Diffusing (to get to the primary emotions).
Here were our comedy of errors today after therapy session with Trauma Therapist:
I wanted to go outside to fill the bird feeders. Someone else inside our body was hungry for lunch, so we preheated the toaster oven and took food from the freezer and put it on a cookie sheet. We also wanted to remember to bring out the “rubbish fruits and vegetables” that we feed to the birds (and squirrels and rabbits), so we put them near the door to the garage.
We then put on our snow pants and winter boots and trudged to the garage to retrieve the bird food. We used a sled to pull the bird food around the house to the backyard feeders through deep, deep snow. When we got to the back window, we looked forlornly inside at the bag of rubbish food we left on the table. Aha, we still have house keys in our pocket! We trudged through more deep snow to the house’s back door and…the screen door is locked and it isn’t the type that has a keyhole. You’d think we’d know that after 10 years of having that door. We yanked on it as a burglar might. Thankfully, it didn’t budge.
So we slogged back around the house to the garage and back into the house to grab the rubbish food–at which point we see the cookie sheet sitting on the counter next to a very preheated toaster oven. We look down at our boots and try to conceive a way to cross the fifteen feet from the garage door to the toaster oven without mucking up the floors. We see plastic bags, area rugs, newspaper–and realize the best way is just to take off the damn boots at this point! They are the really tall hunting boots that have to be crisscross-laced, so taking them off is its own ordeal, let alone putting them on again.
After taking off the boots, we put lunch in the toaster oven and then glared back at the rubbish food (don’t forget to bring it out once you lace your boots). We laced up our boots and…remembered to bring the rubbish food! We even went out the back door to save us extra trudging!
We filled the bird feeders and scattered the rubbish food. Then we pulled the sled back back around the house to the garage and put away the bird food. We attempted to enter the house and…no keys. We hoped they were resting on the kitchen table whence we retrieved the rubbish food. At this point, it was like, “Argh! This is a lot of shit to not go as planned in 20 minutes!”
And we could also see the comedy in it. “Haha! This is a lot of shite to not go as planned in only 20 minutes!”
And that’s when we realized that moment of levity, that grace, was exactly what was needed to defuse the simmering Anger and soothe the Inner-Critic who is four major mistakes past exasperated.
We doddered through the snow and in the back door, which was, thankfully, still unlocked. We tracked snow all over the floor, took off our winter gear, and reveled at the perfectly timed (wink) chime that announced the toaster oven was done cooking our lunch!
If others were around to see all that fumbling about, we would have acted apoplectic! Instead, since we were alone, we praised us for all the remembering so much (it isn’t 100% forgetting if you remember to do something, even well after your intended time). And we recalled that it can be hard for us to remember to do even one thing (like fill the bird feeders), let alone make lunch and bring out the rubbish food, too.
Hopefully, you could laugh at our follies and think a little about how you react to errors you make when you are by yourself versus when you are with other people.
Now, why do we have this nagging sensation that we forgot to do one more thing…