how to change your mind

March 18, 2016 § Leave a comment

I am now 60 years old. This actually means something to me. What it means is that I do not have to put up with nonsense that I thought was normal. It is amazing to see old family systems persist in their efforts to coerce me into participating in family entrancement.

I did something new yesterday. This new thing is an indicator that I am actually succeeding in actually changing my mind. What I did was to delete voice messages from two of my brothers. Not only did I delete the voice messages, I did not call them back. This is new for me. In the past I would have felt compelled to call them back and talk to them. But not today. The compulsion has been reduced to the point that I can ignore it.

The first call had come in the day I sent out an email saying I would not be participating in a planned family event next September. I had decided it would not be a good event for me to attend (ie. not emotionally safe) and chose to opt out. I worded my opt out email in the kindest and loving possible terms. But I was firm that I would not be participating. I immediately got an email from my oldest brother putting pressure on me to attend. As if I owed family members my attendance. Within minutes he had called and left a message. I did not listen to the message for a couple of days because I knew it was going to be difficult to maintain my own sense of well-being and equilibrium if I listened to his message.

The second call came in yesterday in the middle of the afternoon while I was at work. I did not feel obligated to answer the phone and later I decided I did not feel obligated to listen to the message. This second call was from my youngest brother, who had just gotten back from visiting my oldest brother. Coincidence? I think not.

Last evening I decided I no longer need voice mail because I rarely listen to my voice messages as a matter of routine. I checked my voice mail and the mail box was full. To delete the voice mails I had to review them. I did listen to each of the messages from my brothers before deleting them. I was right. If I had not taken time to strengthen myself to be the recipient of codependent pressure, I would have had to spend time recovering my equilibrium.

The first message, from my oldest brother, indicated that he was angry with me by the tone of his voice and subtle emphasis on certain words. He said he wanted to talk. The second message, from my youngest brother, said he just wanted to check in. What I noticed about both these messages is that they were both positioned as casual, and that each of my brothers had orchestrated their calls so they only had a few minutes to spare for me. In the first call, my oldest brother put it this way, “I have a few minutes to talk, please call me in the next 17 minutes if you are able.” The call from my youngest brother was, “I am riding my bike home from the boat and had a few minutes to talk.”

I have been reading and listening lately to discussions about micro-aggressions and their affect on health and well-being. Most of the discussions have been about the effect of micro-aggressions perpetrated as racism, homophobia, and transphobia. But it has gotten me thinking about the use of micro-aggression in family systems to coerce behaviour and compliance to family ‘norms’.

I came into recovery from drug and alcohol abuse in 1996. Since then I have been working very hard to make sense of the family conditions that had such a debilitating effect on my health and well-being. As I have been working to come to consciousness I have become aware of what I call the ‘casual cruelty’ of my family members toward me. This casual cruelty results in me having to deal with mental and emotional distress, pretty much after every communicative event with my family members. I think, now, that what I have been trying to identify as instances of causal cruelty could also be defined as micro-aggressions of coercion.

It has taken me this long to get this close to a sense of what the truth is about my relationship with my family and individual family members. The good news is that I am getting better at predicting how encounters with individual family members are going to turn out, and becoming more selective about when, where and how I choose to engage. In this way, I am changing my mind. I am re-training my mind to extinguish the faint hope that anyone in my family is actually capable of showing a respectful interest in me, in making time for me, or wanting to form a healthy, authentic relationship with me. I am changing my mind to accept the reality of my individual family members, and to take steps to protect myself from their casual cruelty.

I feel pretty good this morning. I don’t feel as exposed, vulnerable, or susceptible to others irresponsible or anti-social behaviour.

Time to walk the dog.

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