Consistency

The one consistency during my childhood were the inconsistencies. People around me were unpredictable in their attitudes and behaviour towards me and each other; one moment they were positive, the next there would be abuse of some sort. I never had any sense of solid ground beneath my feet; and no cushion of unconditional acceptance to fall back on when I stumbled.

Instead, I created consistency through the dissociative system.

When the dissociative system went beyond it’s ability to cope, and instead showed disordered behaviours and thinking, I needed to seek consistency outside of the system again. I had to start looking to those around me. I looked to partners, therapists, and people at work to act as that anchor. As with many people from dysfunctional and abusive backgrounds, I continued to select partners and friends who were dysfunctional and repeated the negative patterns I was familiar with (e.g. husband, my American friend Matthew). I slowly moved away from these old patterns and found new people who seemed healthy (e.g. cynical workplace friend, Allison).

Because these new people have shown consistency over time, it confuses me when they become inconsistent.

Earlier this year, my cynical workplace friend started having an affair with a married man. The one person in the office that I could talk to, and laugh with, was now showing the dysfunctional behaviours from my past. This triggered so many old and new emotions. It made no sense.  She admitted that it was fun, and therefore didn’t see a problem with it.  Any issues within the marriage, were for him to sort out with his wife.  It had nothing to do with her.  Suddenly she wasn’t consistent anymore. She was seen by the system as being selfish, short-sighted, and not thinking of the family she was becoming involved with.  What about the man’s nine year old daughter?

While she had shown the usual mistakes involved with being a human in the past, this was a deliberate decision that she made.  Parts of the system found it incompatible with the person we knew and laughed with.  I know it’s about old emotions – the mother was convinced that the father was having an affair.  I know it’s about feeling let down by someone we trusted and respected.  But probably one of the biggest blows, was to our sense of trust.  Our poor lack of judgment in people, was again shown to be true.  I still can’t trust myself.

So one of my anchors was cut loose.   Yes, we still laugh and talk.  But it’s different now.  I’m not sure if she feels it or not, but it is.

What’s interesting about this concept of consistency and anchoring, is that within the survivor community, I see it as much more fluid.  At one point I will be an anchor for someone; at another, they will be mine.  I think this is mainly because of different expectations we have for each group.  I understand when fellow survivors are struggling with behaviours and thought patterns.  I can empathise and offer acceptance and validation.  We’re on the same journey of learning who to trust, what the boundaries are and what our place is within the world.  These similarities make the survivor friendships so vital.  Although they may serve a different purpose than the consistent anchor, they offer an insight and validation that the anchor may never understand or comprehend.

Consistent anchors don’t have to be therapists or people who know anything about our past.  They are people who you rely on to be there.  It can be something as simple as the person in the coffee shop smiling to you each day, to a friend you can laugh with about everyday life that seemingly has nothing to do with the past; but has everything to do with healing.

It’s the combination of these types of connections and consistency that I think will help us through.

—————-
Now playing: The Verve Pipe – The Freshman
via FoxyTunes

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36 thoughts on “Consistency

  1. Hi Castorgirl, I completely understand and agree that connections and consistencies are important. Like you one of my “rocks” has not been there for me lately and I understand how destabilising that can be. I hope that despite being let down by one of your “rocks” you’ve been able to find others to fill this void.

    ((hugs))

    • Hi (((Kerro)))

      I’m sorry one of your rocks hasn’t been there for you. It’s amazing how much it can affect us…

      I don’t make friends easily or well, so there hasn’t been anyone to fill the void. I’ve just adjusted and withdrawn, which I know isn’t good.

      Take care,
      CG

  2. This was a beautifully written post CG. The way you express your thoughts is very poetic. I’m sorry you were disappointed by someone you thought you knew. I think a good thing is that even though this person made obvious wrong and selfish choices, you are able to see that for yourself and adjust your relationship with her. What I mean is that there are people who repeat unhealthy patterns and even when they know it’s unhealthy, they can’t break away to help themselves. Even though it’s painful, you were able to recognize her inappropriate behavior and change your relationship with her. Good for you! Your point about anchors is also very, very good. I’ve written before about having a friend who stopped being a friend out of nowhere and manifested horribly selfish behavior. I’ve been trying recently to reach out to people, without the expectation or even hope of finding a best friend or even a close friend for that matter, but just finding some people that I can just hang out with you know? People you can just laugh with or sit around and watch T.V. with etc. No expectations, so hopefully no disappointment. And yes I know that’s not exactly healthy either but you gotta start somewhere. 🙂
    *Big Hug*

    • Hi tai,

      I look back over this post and I’m quite disconnected from it. I’m not really sure who wrote it… I had a really rough day at work, so there were quite a few gaps in time.

      I still struggle with getting away from unhealthy relationships that occur within a professional context or any sort of romantic relationships. But I’m slowly learning.

      In contrast I’m totally inept at the whole friendship thing. I don’t know how to do meaningful connections. So I rarely have a connection to break 🙂

      I admire the courage and strength of those who can reach out – especially if they’ve been hurt in the past or are fearful of what might happen. I think it’s healthy as long as your “no expectations” has a baseline of being treated with respect. You can be casual friends with someone, but if there’s no respect, then the old behaviours come back into play.

      Besides, you’re amazing, so you only deserve the best. To be treated with respect, care and compassion.

      Take care,
      CG

  3. Excellent post. I really do have a comment beyond this, CG, but my mind isn’t clear about it at the moment, so I’ll be back, later.

    ~meredith~

      • Hi, CG;

        Everything came together in a very inspired way. This is the first event I have done in five years… and I was scared to death… but no one around me was. The bride was ecstatic, which really did my heart good.

        Thanks for thinking of me.

        ~meredith~

  4. just popping in to say hi. I hope you are able to find other consistent things in life. Im always here if you ever wanna talk, come on msn sometime and say hi 🙂

    • I don’t know. I’ve been told in the past that trust can be withdrawn at any moment. I know I test those around me that I am thinking of trusting. I recently read over some old comments that I made on another blog, it was obvious when there were changes in my levels of trust. It was also obvious when there was a bump in the road for some reason.

      Everyone has motivations for doing something… the coffee shop person might be smiling because of their customer service training, they like you or they like the concept of “small acts of kindness”. Some people have positive motivations, some have negative. I think that part of our healing is to work out which is which. It’s tough, really tough… we’re questioning our perceptions of others and our ability to trust our own judgments.

      Sending positive thoughts your way…
      Please take care,
      CG

      • You make a very good point and you hit the nail on the head about questioning ourselves. Because of our experiences we tend not to trust ourselves. I know I’ve ignored my intuition because I didn’t trust myself only to find out my perceptions were correct. And then when you take a chance on someone and they let you down it feels like our judgment is flawed and it’s that much harder to trust ourselves the next time. *Sigh* Maybe though, it’s worth it to keep trying because despite how it seems, not everyone in the world is a jackass 🙂 There are actually decent people out there with no agenda, I think? 🙂 I actually think that because of our experiences, in some ways we have better developed intuition than some people. It’s hard to find a healthy balance between over-thinking things and not protecting ourselves I guess.

  5. This is a really interesting post … there are a lot of things that strike me about it, but what stands out most, I think, is your saying that due to Cynical Friend’s decision to have an affair, you take that as an indication of *your* lack of judgment.

    While I agree that having an affair is a crappy and irresponsible thing to do — I also know, from my own experience working through this very issue (friendships, I mean) that dissociatives and abuse survivors have a tendency to make very unrealistic demands of people as far as the standards they are expected to live up to. This is not a criticism of you in any sense — it’s a phenomenon I have seen with just about every abuse survivor who is learning discernment in interpersonal attachments.

    Cynical Friend is indeed behaving irresponsibly and unkindly … but she is not behaving that way *to you.* The irresponsible behavior she is evincing is also a type of irresponsibility that will almost certainly never affect you or your relationship with her — clearly she has sexual intimacy issues, but … that’s not the relationship you have with her. You did choose truly and well *in the context of your relationship with her*. What she does outside your relationship … may not be relevant.

    This was such a difficult concept for me to grasp; I nearly “broke up” with a very good friend for reasons similar to what you describe here … I really disagreed with how she was handling issues in her marriage. But she was a good friend, really a good friend to me, and that was her stuff, not mine … she wasn’t my parent or my life partner, so that stuff really had no impact on me, except insofar as I chose to judge it … which I was doing to keep myself safe, but … from what? That was what I had to ask myself, over and over and over again … what was I protecting myself from? I wasn’t married to her. Her own pain and folly and fears and mistakes … didn’t have to matter to me, in the context of our friendship.

    If she had been my life partner, it would have mattered immensely. But as my friend, it didn’t.

    Of course I am looking at your situation from a great distance, and through my own lens, but … I don’t agree with you that you need to mistrust your judgment based on the errors your friend is making with her own life. From everything you’ve said, she has been a good friend to you. And that’s what you need her to be, as well as giving her space and permission to make her own mistakes and learn from her own life’s journey. I am in no way condoning marital infidelity, and I agree with you that she is making a hurtful mistake. But that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s not still a worthy friend.

    • Hi David,

      Just to clarify, we’re still friends… I’ve been at work since 5.30am this morning so that we could attend a webinar from the US together – she’s rather technophobic, so needed me to be here to push the right things at the right time 🙂 Usually I’d attend webinars like this from home, but it was good to be here with her. So, although our friendship has changed, she’s still my friend.

      I agree that survivors can put expectations onto people around them. This can range from incredibly low, through to perfection, or for them to fill a role that we missed out on in our lives. Which is why I tried to say that, as a system, we saw her having a sustained affair with a married man, as different from the usual mistakes that occur as part of being human. It also shows different motivations and needs than a one-off event, or self-injury related issues indicate. She’s smart, funny and attractive. But, she was devastated by her husbands death, and needs to be desired and needed. She latched onto the first person who showed some interest in her. He was her “rebound” guy.

      I realise that my reaction to the affair is heavily charged with my own past and issues surrounding my parents marriage. I know that the marriage of the man she is seeing is “open”, in that the wife knows where he is and what he is doing with my cynical friend. This knowledge further complicates my reaction to the affair, as it triggers doubts as to whether my mother knew what my father was doing in the past. So, I know I bring issues to the table.

      You’re right, her choices about her private life have nothing to do with me. I don’t want to be romantically involved with her, or take the friendship outside of work. But as so much of her spare time revolves around this man, he is pretty much all she talks about.

      Does all of this mean that I made a poor judgment in being her friend, probably not. Does it make me put up another barrier towards people because I realise that I will never really understand them, yes. Does the world revolve around me, I wish 🙂

      Thanks for challenging me David, I appreciate it.

      Take care,
      CG

      • I just wanted to say that it’s ok for us to have boundaries when it comes to our beliefs on morals. People do immoral things, it’s a fact of life but that doesn’t mean that we have to accept their behavior as being alright with us, if it’s not. I think your reaction to her conduct was perfectly normal. We’ve all had people who have disappointed us in some way by doing things we never thought they’d do and I’m not talking about abusive situations just regular stuff. 🙂
        It’s ok to feel let down by someone or disappointed in the poor choices that they make especially when it conflicts with who we thought they were. Perfectly normal and natural. We don’t have to agree with every moral choice a person makes and it’s ok for the relationship to change according to whatever you need. *Hugs*

        • Hi tai,

          I should probably clarify something here… David has been a commenter on my blog almost since I began writing. He doesn’t comment often now, but when he does it’s usually a sign that I need to think about something. So, when he (or anyone) challenges what I’ve written, I take it on board and think it through. He’s quite right, on one level I was making a statement about needing consistency; but underneath, there was still that dysfunctional thinking evident in my belief that I will always be able to predict, control or influence others actions and thoughts. That if they don’t meet my ideals, then I withdraw. I’m not as bad with this as I used to be, but it’s still there.

          I also think you’re right tai, it is healthy for us to have boundaries around beliefs and morals. This is one of the things that I need to work on. Parts of the system have extremely high moral standards; others, not so. It creates huge levels of conflict internally.

          Take care,
          CG

          • Yea I realized after I posted that last comment that I’d had a very strong impulse to defend you and what you were feeling and thinking and writing. I should’ve gotten off my soapbox lol
            🙂

            • Soapboxes can be good 🙂

              I was thinking about this last night, and realised that if you didn’t know about David’s contributions over time, the comment may seem out of context. But to me, it made perfect sense and was appreciated.

              Thanks and take care,
              CG

            • Just to pop back in here for a moment — I may not have been sufficiently clear in my initial comment that what concerned me most was Castorgirl’s tendency to criticize *herself* based on Cynical Friend’s surprising behavior. I agree that everyone can and should have boundaries regarding what they will and won’t accept in a friend, but I don’t agree that a friend’s bad behavior means that Castorgirl or I or anyone in a similar situation was wrong or foolish to trust that person’s friendship in the context of the relationship you or she or I or we established with them. People can be wonderful friends and really awful in other contexts … just as I myself, for example, am a great friend and a good partner, but the world’s crappiest co-worker.

              So the main substance of my concern was that CG was chastising herself for someone else’s behavior which she could not possibly predict or control.

              On a secondary note … and also from my personal experience … CG, one of the reasons it can be very helpful to not withdraw from people who are good to us personally, but whose behavior with others triggers us, is that they give us the opportunity to recontextualize those triggering experiences. People with DID, especially, see things in terms of black and white, because many of our parts are children, who also think in those terms. That’s why it’s so confusing when someone we have known or trusted behaves in ways that seem to parallel our own wounding experiences. And sometimes those parallels really do exist, and that person isn’t someone we should be around. But when the person is basically good, but flawed or wounded themselves and working that out in ways that aren’t ideal, that’s an opportunity to teach the system how to gradually accept shades of gray in people, and gently educate about the differences between safety and personal power now, vs. safety and personal power in childhood. All of my close friends have triggered me massively over the past five years, and it was hard for me to stay close to them. I’m glad I did, even though they did things that really didn’t fit into my ethical structure. But they all genuinely love me, and vice versa, and none of them has done anything to hurt me personally. And by sticking with them, I’ve learned some interesting things which were useful in establishing shades of gray for the system. I’ve learned that not all parents who declare bankruptcy expect their children to somehow take care of them. I’ve learned that not all alcoholics turn out to be narcissistic assholes. I’ve learned that not all preschools are bad places for young children. And all of this information, painfully acquired, has helped to educate the system that the world we are in now is safer and different from the world that created us.

              This process is hard, and it may not be one your system is ready for. But it also starts in tiny bits and pieces, and usually the first part is trusting someone who embodies contradictions that are painful to the system, for the reasons I’ve just described. Recontextualizing that pain can be a step in recontextualizing the world. It doesn’t happen overnight or easily, but it is possible.

              On another note — Tai, I hope you will always stand up for people you care about; it doesn’t matter who I am or what my history may be on this blog or elsewhere … if you feel strongly, you should say so, and I’m glad you did.

            • Tai is amazing, isn’t she 🙂

              Thanks for the clarification David. I see what you’re saying. Just in this interaction between yourself, tai and I, there were all sorts of emotions and old behaviours stirred up. I’m learning.

              Take care,
              CG

  6. This is a beautifully written and well stated post.

    I think as survivors, especially dissociative ones, we do long for consistency outside of us. We use that as a model to help us build it on the inside.

    One of the reasons why, I think, your interactions with other survivors is different than, say, with your “workplace” friend who’s had the affair, is that we are always questioning our behaviors, even the very dysfunctional ones and constantly trying to make sense and change the ones that are not good. Many people aren’t as committed to change as many of the survivors I have met are.

    Good for you for bringing this up. I’m glad you see that this is important and also glad that you see that consistency can be found in many places. I’m talking about good, healthy consistency.

    Paul

    • Thanks Paul.

      I wish I knew what was happening with my writing lately (here and at work). It’s definitely different. Here, it feels very different between the posts and the comments. Building up my walls again, may be? I’m not enjoying being acting team leader, and the workload/pressure that it’s creating is huge. Possibly that’s the problem.

      It’s interesting that you talk about people working on their issues. My cynical friend regularly sees WPT; but her work with him has been on her youngest daughters reaction to her being in a relationship again. So another layer is added, regarding whether WPT agrees or not with her life choices. The rational part of me knows that he is not able to draw conclusions, or influence her. But, the emotional part still reacts.

      Good, healthy consistency – look for it where you can 🙂

      Take care,
      CG

  7. Just want to say hi and thanks. You have been a wonderful support lately and I value your input a lot. You are a lovely person. I hope you are having a pleasant day.

    Dawn

  8. Oh my goodness, I just want to say that the sole purpose of this comment is to A)Thank CG for having such a safe and amazing place for us to come to and B) To say that I’m so sorry that I came off so strong with David! That second post he wrote explaining what he meant was SO good! I loved it AND I now I understand what he means. His post shows how much experience and wisdom he has. I’m newer to this community and I don’t know everyone yet so I’ll have to be more careful before I put on my Supergirl cloak lol! CG this was a great post it opened up a lot of diaglogue. 🙂

    • Hi tai,

      Your opinion is valid and important. So I’m glad you spoke up and sought clarification around the issue. We’re all part of the survivor community, so that means we are supporting each other, but may still misunderstand or be triggered by what is being said.

      You know what tai, it stunned me that someone would defend me. It caused huge amounts of confusion for the system. This was irrespective of the issue being discussed, it totally threw me that someone was defending me. So I’ve learned many lessons from this post, thank you all.

      Take care,
      CG

        • It wasn’t bad at all… it was just plain ole confusing. Because I respect and admire both yourself and David, there was no “side” to take. That’s what threw me. Usually in a situation, I’ll have a side to defend, or position to take… but here, I could see both sides. It was a great way to challenge some of that black and white thinking that lurks in my brain.

          So, do you want to come over to New Zealand and be acting team leader for the next two weeks? That would help me out heaps 🙂

          Take care,
          CG

  9. hi castor, what an insightful post and an amazing comment thread here. i really enjoyed and feel like i got a lot out of reading all of this.

    i really like the idea of anchors. that makes a lot of sense and i’ve never heard that metaphor before. i’ll have to think on that…

    then i can really really relate to you on your feelings about your coworker. two of my closest friends a few years ago each got involved with married men. and it was really uncomfortable for me at the time, because i cared about them and wanted to be their friends still, but part of me felt really upset at what i perceived as their selfishness and lack of empathy for the spouse/family of the person they were involved with. it seemed to go beyond moral judgement on my part. but to make matters worse, the subsequent consequences of their actions were very negative. and in my experience with each friend, the affair didn’t only affect them. that hurt rippled out and affected others, including myself and my own family.

    i think that both experiences caused me to reevaluate what i will be ok with in friendship and what i perceive as significant selfishness is no longer ok with me. because it shed light on the fact that their selfishness wasn’t only in their romantic relationships, their selfishness affected our friendship as well, i just hadn’t recognized it before.

    i hate to be judgemental, and so i had to discern that i wasn’t just being morally self-righteous and thinking they were wrong in their actions. though there was an aspect of that too because some part of me thinks that you should do your best never to be hurtful to another person on this earth.

    so it has been confusing and painful, sorting through those emotions. confusing especially because at first i was thrown off by the idea that they weren’t cheating on me, so what was my problem? now i am no longer friends with either person. but i feel that this is for the best. for one thing, this made room in my life for other friendships to evolve. though it’s still sad and i wish those old friends well. but from afar.

    i’m really glad for you though that you are able to stay friends with your friend at a level that feels safe to you. especially since you work together. perhaps if i had distanced myself from each of my friends at the times of their affairs, it would have protected and sustained the friendships. by not putting up my own boundaries when i first became uneasy, i was vulnerable to becoming affected directly by the consequences of their actions.

    so i think it’s really wonderful and healthy that you have taken care of yourself the way you have here. but i’m sorry it’s meant more distance with your friend.

    wishing you well always~~~

    • Hi katie,

      I’m sorry about the situation with your friends, it sounds very uncomfortable (to say the least). Although, I’m glad you were able to learn from the experience.

      I know I’ve compartmentalised the issues with my friend. In many ways I need to. Our office is arranged in such a way that when I look up from my computer, she is the first thing I see. So, in order to maintain any sort of good working relationship, the friendship must remain at some level.

      Thank you for commenting, it’s good to know that I’m not alone in struggling with these issues.

      Take care,
      CG

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