Mental Retraining

Each of us have certain childhood mental programming, whether consciously taught to us, or unconsciously influenced (by family, friends or society). Sometimes, our perspectives of those lessons learned need to change and evolve in order for us to be more healthy. This is my journey.

Origins of the American Caste System

Note:

This post is only one of a number of posts regarding the white middle class in the U.S.A. The reality of social justice can only happen if we white people understand the where, how, when and why our privilege came about. I have recently had it shoved in my face (by someone I went to school with, and therefore they had the same information taught to them) that many of our white population’s understanding of history is literally “alternative fact” based.

Unless we white people understand our history and our European ethnic history, in particular, we white people — in general — will never understand how both institutional privilege and personal privilege have developed into what we have today.

Too many of us white people only EVER look at our personal and individual current conditions, ignoring that very important history. The “minorities” who live side by side with us cannot ever ignore white history.

I will try to post this at the top of every post I write in this series. I will attempt to keep each post to a summary, as re-teaching history to the US’s white population is a monumental task. I can only hope that my summaries will encourage my fellow white people to look deeper into our culture’s history and learn a thing or two.

To understand privilege, we need to go all the way back to ancient history to what is often arrogantly called “Western Civilization.” More often than not, “Western Civilization” is primarily the history of Europe and its colonies. “Eastern Civilization,” on the other hand, isn’t defined by a specific people or type of people. It is defined as essentially anything that is not European nor Europe’s particular colonies (in schools in the U.S.A. we attempt to separate ourselves out from being a “European colony” but…as adults we should face facts…our founding WAS as sets of a number of different European countries’ colonies.

OK, so back to what has been considered the history of “Western Civilization.” This “starts” with the Roman and Greek cultures, because our European ancestors glorified those cultures over any other culture that was alive, thriving and more technologically advanced. In fact, the Assyrian Empire, the Egyptian Empire (being ruled from Nubia at the time — yes, Nubia…the same country that our people of color refer to), Ancient China and Ancient India were ALL quite active and each had more advanced technology than what the Greeks had. One of the reasons Europe glorified the Greeks is simply the person of Alexander the Great. His tactics are still studied in many “Western civilizations.” The claim is that India and China made no impact on European culture, therefore they were just never “important enough.”

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Identity Without Limits

I was rewatching Halle Berry’s Catwoman tonite, and it got me thinking. I know that Wonder Woman is supposed to be this great re-visioning of what it means to be a strong, independent woman. I know many people looked at Catwoman as a complete and utter failure because of any number of excuses.

But what struck me is that what the movie does is reveals that women can only be free when they choose to define themselves, when they choose their identity and are true to it. It’s not about being “good” or being “bad,” but being who they are at their core.

For some women, being like Sharon Stone (Laurel Hadere) or Alex Borstein (Patience’s friend Sally) is who they want to be. They want to fit in with the world and build power and freedom within the limitations of what our society thinks is appropriate behavior for a woman.

They think if they can somehow attain that power (through their relative “attractiveness” or how closely to the supposed feminine ideal they can be) then they will be accorded the freedom to be themselves. The problem is, by the time that they attain that height, they have become something completely at odds with who they really are. Sadly, if they choose to try to reflect that inner truth, all of that so-called “power” or “freedom” disappears like a burst soap bubble.

The “living marble” that Laurel has become is a wonderful metaphor for this false self. We choose to try to conform as a way to keep from being hurt. We become who our family wants, who our husband or partner wants, who their children or friend group wants us to be — or who WE think they want us to be.

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My Life As It Is

Sorry it has been so long, ladies and gentlemen. But my health takes first priority to everything else. Self-care has not been my forte, but I’m working hard to make it so.


It’s not the obvious rapists or misogynists that scare me. Why? Because I know how to fight that kind of obvious violence and hatred.

It’s the charmers, the manipulators — the true women-haters who turn a woman’s strength against herself. And this kind of person isn’t just some men. It’s often exactly how society has programmed both men and women. Yes, women can be this kind of perpetrator, and men can be victims too.

Many of us — myself included — give pieces of ourselves away because that’s what someone who is in love does. In the beginning, it’s only little pieces. It’s not that someone else is violently ripping apart our souls, it’s that we offer them up to be devoured.

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Sex & the Doctor/Patient Relationship

 

I’ve been working on my “new patient” paperwork for evaluating a new doctor. I never assume that the doctor I am seeing will work as a primary physician until after I have an initial appointment with them. Unless they can treat me as a partner and equal in my own health, I won’t have anything to do with them.

Now, I haven’t had any real issues filling these out, but I’m glad that when the paperwork is more than 2 pages long they chose to mail it out early to give me a chance to fill it out (whereas it would not be filled out completely if I had had it at the time of my appointment — it’s 4 pages, plus pages to explain my issues).

But I came across a question that I have never seen on a new patient intake form before.  They want to know if I’ve had more than 4 sexual partners.

I understand that sexuality is an important part of one’s health. Letting your doctor know about your sexual activity (and its relative health or ill health, as well as how careful or how ignorant you are about protecting yourself from STDs) is important. It is also important for them to know your sexual orientation and where you are on the whole gender spectrum.

But, it is a subject difficult for many people. Women who have had over 4 sexual interactions in their lives are told by our society that we are “dirty sluts” or “skanks.” It doesn’t bug me, but I could see some female patients avoiding the question for fear of being judged by the doctor. And that’s even BEFORE considering whether one should confide their sexual orientation, thoughts on polyamory/open relationships, transsexualism or any of thousands other issues that people fear to confide to anyone — let alone a medical professional who is supposed to have strict ethics.

It’s the specific number that bugs me. Who chooses that line in the sand? I know that “on an average” most heterosexual women have 4-5 sexual partners in their lives and most heterosexual men have maybe 6-8. I’ve never lied about the fact that my numbers are more than 10x the average for a heterosexual woman (which may be a surprise to one of my old boyfriends who found me on Facebook some months ago………I think I was still somewhere in the single digits when I was with him). But I can see some heterosexual woman (or even bisexual, not so sure about lesbians) looking at that and saying to themselves: “Oh, I’ve had 6. I must be a slut!!”

We are so very quick to judge ourselves worse than anyone else.

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Too Damned Stubborn To Stop

There is a lot of discussion of resiliency among people in therapy. Why? Probably because they’ve heard their therapist say something about it, and to quote Inigo Montoya (Princess Bride) “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

There are people who use this word to describe people in other classes. For some, the actions and choices of the rich define what they think resilience is.  On the other hand, there are quite a few professionals (not necessarily all involved in psychology) using the word as a goal for the poor, because if they can “just be resilient” then life will be all unicorns, rainbows and butterflies.

Guess what, people? It ain’t that way in the real world.

  1. There are resilient and not-so-resilient people in all economic classes. Neither your economic status nor your relative financial success/failure defines your ability to be resilient.
  2. To quote the American Psychological Association (APA) Psychology Help Center’s brochure on “The Road To Resilience” resilience is defined as:
    “Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means ‘bouncing back’ from difficult experiences.”

Let me say this loudly:

The ability to persist
IS NOT
being resilient!

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Defining Your Terms

While I’m not quite as bad as my Grammar-Nazi sister, there are some frustrations that pop up once in a while.  Plus, I seem to be getting reminders in the last few months that using the correct terms — especially with your mental and physical health care personnel — is extremely important.

My frustrations with other people’s misuse of idioms include the following cringe-worthy items:

  • “For intensive purposes” — No, that would be “for all INTENTS AND purposes”
  • “Extract revenge” — “EXACT revenge”
  • “Part and partial” — “part and PARCEL
  • “By in large” — “by AND large”
  • “Case and point” — “case IN point”
  • “Orientate” — “ORIENT” (the noun form — orientation — does NOT get translated into orientate! The correct verb form is ORIENT). The same issue seems to happen with the noun form of conversation — No, the verb form is NOT conversating. It is CONVERSING

But, that’s a bunny trail. The real issue is that too often we seem to be forgetting that just because a descriptive word or phrase makes sense to us, it rarely means the exact thing to someone else.  Remember my discussion on connotation versus denotation? (links to definitions, if you didn’t read the previous post)

I had a recent interaction with someone where I was repeatedly required to ask how they were defining their terms.  Sadly, their idea of “defining their terms” was to repeat the word or phrase with the inclusion of a generalized adjective (such as “very” or “extremely”). This is NOT defining your terms. In fact, it isn’t even communicating.

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Epiphanies of Shame

I’ve started and stopped this post repeatedly over the last few weeks. I can only describe this particular difficulty with posting as the writing equivalent to avoiding someone’s eyes. As I stated in March 1’s post, this relates directly to the same reasons I was physically incapable of controlling my eye contact with my therapist when we pinpointed a particularly painful memory.

The basics of the memory are described in that post. However, since my therapy session, a few other experiences kept poking at that same set of emotions, choices and actions. This repetition is what caused the epiphany. And, like many such revelations, it hit like a Mack truck.

It’s been so hard to face that epiphany that I have had anxiety attacks just about looking closer at it or dealing with the understanding.  I’ve been having to focus on things that deal entirely with mathematics, even though my ability to do so has been seriously retarded by my cognitive issues. Dealing with pure equations — even though it takes me at least 10x as long (in fact, almost 70% of the last two weeks has been spent creating a completely math-based set of data collection for my physical and mental health). Before my breakdown, the data collection set up for simple data entry would have taken at most 8 hours).

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Teenaged Angst: 31 Years Later

Yes, another therapy post. You can pass on by if you want.

We were discussing relationships, and she asked me a somewhat off the wall question, at least from my perspective. I can’t exactly remember the question, but it was essentially one where she wanted to know if there was any specific memory that seemed to be associated with what I was feeling.

It took me straight to Homecoming of my senior year in high school.  Now, you have to understand a few things about my high school. It was a boarding school, and I was what could be called a “scholarship student.” I worked as a dishwasher at least both my junior and senior years, and my parents got loans either from family or from the church body that owned and ran the school (yes, it was a religious boarding school owned and run by a very conservative, evangelical Lutheran synod). We were not allowed dances, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t have those “special days.” It just meant that it was more about speeches and awards than about having some — hopefully — semi-clean fun. We had a joke about it (that I told my therapist) that we weren’t allowed to have sex because “it would lead to dancing.” Also, since it was the 80s, and most of the huge anti-hazing laws had yet to be created, there was a form of hazing for incoming freshmen. Anything (short of illegal or against the rules) that an upperclassman (juniors and seniors) told them to do, they were supposed to do.

I was, for a good portion of my high school years, the almost asexual, advice-giving friend. My senior year, I decided to take a risk. I asked an older freshman that I had been hanging out with to go to Homecoming with me.  I wasn’t expecting some huge romantic relationship, just having an escort for my last Homecoming of my high school career.

He stood me up.

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Dreams and Realities

I find it interesting that as my recovery continues, that my musical tastes evolve.

It’s not that I lose interest in my previously loved music, just that in many ways one can almost chart my emotional recovery by the differences in my musical tastes.

When I was still living with my ex, more often than not I listened to a lot of what is called “bubblegum dance.” Bands like Aqua and Toy-Box were my favorites.   And because I rarely spent money on myself, my Gothic tendencies were the Geek Goth Additionally, I was well on my way to denying all of my dreams (not that they have ever been even close to being numerous).

Now that I’m no longer in that situation, and focusing primarily on my mental and physical health (rather than sacrificing me for everyone else) I have moved from bubblegum to “angry pop” (i.e. Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson – break up songs, empowerment songs, and such) to grungy heavy metal and finally to symphonic metal/cinematic metal and classical crossover music.

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Making People Think

For the first time, I’m not going to set up an aside with a favored quote.  Oh, I’ll set up one that has pertinent information, but not the quote(s).  You’ll have to read (oh, horrors!) the books for yourself.

Now, the problem is, making people think seems to have become a felony.  Well, it’s been that way for quite a while, it’s just that we’ve extended Robert Heinlein’s “Crazy Years” by a couple of decades.

Reading either Robinson’s or Heinlein’s books should — in an ideal world — ensure that someone learns how to think just from reading their books.  Sadly, as can be found from reading some reviews (and in the case of Heinlein, reading ad nauseum how he is supposedly the anti-thesis of good depending on whatever the critic thinks is important), it is very possible for someone to read their books and still come away as ignorant (AND proud of their ignorance) as they were before they read them.

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