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There is Danger, Therefore I Think...

Updated: Feb 2, 2023

Childhood abuse can create cycles of over-thinking. It is a defense mechanism. There seems to be this belief that if you had just thought about it, then you could have prevented it. If you could just see it coming, then you could avoid it. Not always true, sadly.

It is a common trauma response to over-think. Thinking becomes a defensive posture that takes over feeling and gives one at least the delusion that they are safe. The head is able to process or not, far harder things than the heart.

This becomes a way of life for some of us. We think our way out of danger, and it works. Except it didn’t. Which is why we had to develop the strategy at all...

I am a thinker. I prefer that over feeling really. I like to take an issue, break it down, apart then put it all back together. I will do this endlessly.

Ask me to feel something and you will get a completely different response...I will evade, avoid, fail to make eye contact, and maybe just stop talking to you completely.

I have made progress on this, really, I have. But I still go to thinking when afraid. I get all up in my head where no one can reach me and I attempt, sometimes very successfully, to see the way out, the way around. Some way to avoid the pain that is likely coming.

Worst case scenarios help for preparation. They don’t really do much for living. I mean life is going to do what it is going to do. Me thinking of all the ways something can or might turn out doesn’t really help me all that much. Except it has. I can give concrete examples of times when it all worked out because I spent time thinking the issue or problem through. I can point to times where this strategy of mine, actually saved me.

The issue with it being the only strategy is that I miss what is happening in the moment. The older I get the harder it is to think and be present. It is like the effort required takes me far away from the present moment and I cannot think and be present for what is happening. Which means that I am missing things in my analysis that might really change the trajectory of my path.

Thinking is likely always going to be preferable to me than feeling. It is safer. It feels removed. It maintains the walls that I have laboriously erected and maintained. And I have this love/hate relationship with them. I want to be vulnerable but I also want to be safe. And this is still a dilemma in my life.

I am currently working to rebrand and consolidate my professional life. And unfortunately for me, videos of myself talking are something that I am going to have to do. And it makes me so uncomfortable. It makes me feel uneasy and flighty. I hate doing them.

What is interesting about the whole process is that I have learned what I do when I feel uncomfortable. I can see myself leave the conversation, while I am having the conversation. I am getting to see all the ways I leave when I sit still. I watch my eyes dart all over the place, desperately searching for an exit from that which makes me uncomfortable. I stammer and repeat. I cross my arms and hold myself tightly.

I think on some level I knew that I did all of the above, but now I SEE it. And it doesn’t look good. It isn’t confidence building. It doesn’t make me look trustworthy or authentic. What it does do a good job is show how uncomfortable I am in my own skin, still.

So there is the work. How do I maintain eye contact? How do I slow down? How do I feel worthy to occupy the space that I actually take up?

Practice feeling. Try not to think.

It is hard. Both equally. My head so much more trustworthy and safer than my heart. But I have lived my life thinking for safety and it has done a good job on the whole. I mean I am still here. So there are good arguments for thinking as a life saving mechanism.

But I also know that I have missed so many opportunities to connect with others. So many feelings, good and bad, that I have avoided because I was so much more content to think than feel.

What I know now is that my thinking is a trauma response. And it has served me well but now I can see how limiting it is and with this knowledge I can begin to notice, and then release it.

Meditation has taught me well. It was on the cushion where I learned that thoughts will come and go, and I do not need to go with them. I can just allow them to float away, returning to my present moment which is the only place I can ever really access my true feelings.

So I am noticing when I am thinking...over thinking. And then I can just let it be. I may be able to stop it, or I may not. That is not the point. The point is that I notice that I am doing it and with that knowledge, comes the possibility that I might be able to see what is underneath all that thinking.

Emotions are informational also. And they are not out to get just feels that way.

Healing requires a lot of patience and practice. Never getting it “right”. Hopefully, though with enough practice, I can begin to notice all the places where compulsion ruled supreme, and once I see it, I can begin to alter it.

And I cannot banish the trauma response. It has served me well, I can be grateful. Much like someone who has out grown a pair of beloved pants. You can hate yourself for no longer fitting in them or you can be grateful for how great they made your butt look, how many things you walked through in them.

I am grateful for my traumatic responses for they served me well AND I have the desire to do some things differently going forward. I can be grateful and want to change at the same time. Incongruence seems to be the place where the most growth happens for me...I just have to be willing to allow the discomfort I feel to unfurl, rather than cocoon me. The choice is always mine. And today, anyway, I want to grow and change and try new things that scare me.

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