I had stopped writing and within that time a point had been mentioned that OCD reactions within myself are caused by becoming overwhelmed by patterns that are triggered by memories which are triggered by my environment. The difficulty here is that these memories may have occurred very early on in life, and it may be close to impossible to recollect the particular memories in any other way than the emotional energetic experience they create. The reasoning behind this would be that experiences in early life occur before language is understood, therefore there is no way to describe and comprehend the experience, not even within oneself.
Memories that affect us in the present moment can have happened too long ago to recall, wherein one did not have the necessary means to communicate about the experience, or even be able to give it a name. However, when the experience that is triggered by the memory occurs again in the present, it can now be named. The experience can thus be captured in words, words within which acceptances and allowances and associations can be forgiven, released and/or changed. In other words, who self is within these words can be changed. The way one lives the words can change, quite simply, yet at the same time, with much effort as consistent application in every moment. This may seem daunting or exhausting, except the fact of the matter is that we each and every one of us already do apply ourselves in such a way. The only difference is that we have done so in unawareness, in falling into patterns and habits that have become so habitual that they have become automatic.
I have already proven to myself that such automation can be changed. Using the tools of self-forgiveness, self-honesty, self-commitment, and self-corrective application, new habits and patterns can be developed, and become the new ‘normal’.
Within OCD, for me, I become overwhelmed by the patterns. I create an entire energetic experience connected to the patterns which looks to be released, and which I find a release for within obsessive compulsive behaviours. This happens daily.
What I’m going to do is identify the patterns that overwhelm me my taking a look at my day to see where the overwhelmingness begins, and describe with words the energy that was created. These arevwords I can relate to and I use them to figure out the patterns that cause them. They are: dizzying uncertainty, intense isolation and self-damning depression.
Looking at the day:
This morning I had agreed to assist with some children wherein I was only required to be present in the early morning. Everything was stable as I had a very predictable and clear set of tasks, such as: make breakfast, eat with the kids, help them get dressed, put away my bedding and pack my belongings, and drive home. The overwhelmingness began as I was driving home. I am living I a new city and do not yet have a routine. The prospect of having a day wide open with no routine is something I would long for while at work or while doing my studies. However, in this situation, it was only an overwhelming prospect for me. The trigger is thus then being in a position where I have to take steps to accomplish all the things I want to get done over time.
As a child I would have used the time doing whatever I wanted: watching television, playing with friends, playing with my toys, drawing etc… doing whatever pleased me. Now things are different, Now I have responsibilities and I have to structure my ‘time off’ in order to be able to create a balance between getting things done and putting time aside for enjoyment. So, I would consider then , that the shift occurred when I began to have responsibilities in my life, or things that I was supposed to do and I didn’t know how to do them, or how to organize myself to be able to begin them, or discipline myself to see them through.
I’m recalling chaos, confusion, and dizzying uncertainty. I’m recalling a memory of nursery school where I was first learning French. The teacher was reading a book and asking students to name in French the images she was pointing to, such as ‘caterpillar’. I recall the students calling out ‘chenille’, and I was struck and dumbfounded by the fact that these students knew these words I had never heard before. I felt as though I could not participate in the activity, and that other students were pleasing the teacher and I could not. I didn’t understand where or how I was supposed to have known these words, or where or how the other children had learned them. I didn’t understand that some of the students were just learning the language for the first time, while others may have already been exposed to it in their homes or in other programs. I felt I was at a disadvantage, I felt embarrassed and like I wanted to disappear because my perception was that all the other students knew and understood something that I did not. I was not able to, at that age, consider that there is a learning process. I did not realize that I was being actively taught something, and I thought that I was already supposed to know these things that the other students knew. I didn’t realize that it was ok that I didn’t know the language yet, or that I was not the only one in the position of not knowing. I reacted to the situation in a state of fear and confusion, and instead of remaining in the present moment and enjoying the learning process and simply listening to the new words, I searched into the past as if I had forgotten to do something or missed something along the way, and I remained utterly confused and frozen with incomprehension as I searched fruitlessly for this knowledge I was apparently supposed to have. Obviously I did not have this knowledge yet, and my search for it was in vain.
I can relate this experience to my present experience, wherein, when I was presented with an open day in a new living situation. no schedule, new city… I did not have any past experience to tell me exactly what to do in the moment because everything was so new; I did not ‘automatically know’ the best way to set myself up.
I also did not immediately consider that my perceptions of this was not exactly true- I have moved homes many times and have had to start over/star my life from scrath many times as well. I have had to find a new job, and I have set up utilities all over again, and I have directed myself through scheduling a \open day’. The only difference now is that I’m in a new city and country that I am not yet familiar with the people and surroundings.
What happened in my current situation was that I immediately went into the reaction of confusion, fear and uncertainty, within the belief that understanding, adapting and learning are unattainable, not because it is in fact un-do-able in reality, but because I had created this pattern which produces a dizzying confusion when the knowledge is not already there in my brain. Within this energetic experience it is very difficult to think straight or make a directive decision. I fall into the pattern of helplessness within the belief that ‘I don’t know what to do or how to do this’, which is a belief and a pattern and not my living reality. because I do in fact know how to take the first step, and from that step, how to take the next by assessing, learning and yes, sometimes making mistakes and having to do another take.
Looking at this pattern now, I can see that it could have begun way earlier than this pre-school experience. Being the younger child, I would have grown up with a sibling that would seemingly have known may many things that I did not yet know how to do, such as speaking and walking. Even simply being a child, new to the world, one would be presented daily with other beings that know things and are doing things that are well beyond the child’s ability to grasp. Until the child realizes what learning is, and grasps the idea that repetition over time equals new skills and understanding. Learning, as I recall it as a child, was not something that was consciously done, I would simply engage with something and I would explore and experiment and it would be fun and fascinating and I would eventually learn about it through this play and exploration. But this recalling foreign words and memorizing them was not something I would have ever thought to do on my own, nor was it a process I understood.
Previously, I had written a blog series called ‘Fully Committing to My Studies’ within which I touched on ‘Becoming an Effective Student’ and ‘Learning How to Learn’. Within this series, I realized that I did not have a working understanding of ‘school learning’. I would simply be pushed along this process of memorizing and reading and never considered or contemplated the actual process of breaking down the learning tasks or information into steps and walking through each step to completion.
This pattern is connected to other patterns that together create energies within me, such as dizzying confusion, self-damning depression, intense isolation and extreme frustration. These energies are obviously very uncomfortable and unpleasant to say the least, and instead of investigating them and changing the patterns that cause them, I had accepted them as Who and How I Am, and lived with them until they literally drove me ‘crazy’ in that I developed OCD to cope, and OCD is a mental disorder and we tend to call people with mental disorders ‘crazy’(although it can be argued that everyone has some form of mental disorder or another).
The other patterns that are connected to this pattern of dizzying confusion when confronted with a task or set of tasks is actually fighting the learning process. This stems from the experience that I am being forced to go through a process that I do not understand, that makes me feel lost and confused, and one that, as a child, I felt I did not have any say in why or how I should do it, but felt as though the entire thing was forced upon me. Within this I felt trapped, and reacted within constantly looking for escape. Instead of throwing a tantrum as many children do, and instead of trying to communicate to others what I was experiencing, I would internalize the reactions and go into fear. I would submit to this fear by seeking to escape and dis-associate (‘checking-out of reality and withdrawing into myself) rather than trying to learn or understand my situation because it seemed impossible and totally un-relateable to my experience.
This escape I found within myself within imagination and fantasy, my internal world which was the only place I experienced safety and self-expression that I was not able to experience in the real world. This eventually contributed to the intense isolation I would create by giving myself only two options: either submit to the will of others, or be alone. I would, over time, experience intense isolation to the extent that I could escape within myself even while in the presence of another. This would appear as ‘aloofness’ and ‘airiness’, which can create all sorts of reactions in others because it would appear as though one does not care, when in reality, one is so deeply within one’s own mind as an alternate reality of escape that one is almost not at all present. I would be screamed at by teachers and people becomnig frustrated with me, and the intensity of their emotions became quite traumatic for me as I was in an already confusing situation and feeling quite vulnerable. It becomes difficult to retain details and converse or become fully engaged with another in this state because one is actually isolated behind thick walls, even while in the presence of another. I was soon labelled as being ‘slow’ and having a learning disorder. I felt ashamed and like I was a burden on the world, but at the same time, I was glad that the expectations were being lifted from me, as my potential value as a ‘productive member of society that would excel and succeed in this world’ slowly diminished. It felt as though the world was giving up on me, and slowly, over time, I began to give up on myself. The only place where I remembered myself, my value, my enjoyment, was deep within myself in absolute isolation, dissociated from the outside world.
I recently read about this dissociative state (in fact, the day after I wrote this), in the book called The Tao of Equus, where the author relates the trauma of prey animals to that of human trauma victims. The following excerpt is from the work of Peter A. Levine, Ph.D.: “Physiologists call this state the ’immobility’ or ’freezing’ response. It is one of the three primary responses available to reptiles or mammals when faced with an overwhelming threat. The other two, fight or flight, are much more familiar to us.” Levine continues to explain that this dissociation “protects us from escalating arousal” and then that “[t]raumatic symptoms are not caused by the ‘triggering’ event itself. They stem from the frozen residue of energy that has not been resolved or discharged.” Levine continues with the actual experience of this state: “In its mildest f forms, it manifests as a kind of spaciness. At the other end of the spectrum, it can develop into so-called multiple personality disorder”.
I can relate to the aforementioned ‘freeze response’ and have blogged about my experiences with this in the manifestation of ‘aloofness’ within myself. Within this frozen state, or ‘aloofness’, active participation is limited, decision making is difficult, and self-movement is next to impossible. Mostly, I recall being moved only by outside forces in my environment, such as the fear of reprimand. The “frozen residue of energy” Levine describes is relatable to me as the internalization of the emotional energetic experiences which are not dealt with, but rather remain stagnant and fester within self. Whereas some children would well up with the energy and then lose control as an explosion in the form of what we call a ‘temper tantrum’ where the child will display an emotional outburst, others like myself, would internalize the entire experience, and dwell with it. The term ‘dwell’ is interesting because the energy is literally dwelling within the physical body, along with and as the beingness of the child (or adult, or being). For me, I see that both the energetic experience I would seek to escape, as well as the escape itself, existed within me. As I had previously described the escape mechanisms I used where that of introversion, wherein I would ‘escape’ into my mind and create alternate realities and other worlds where I would experience myself completely differently. Within this understanding, there are in fact multiple personalities dwelling within the body. What is also interesting here is that I have written about OCD as a personality, as an entity existent within and as me, which takes over and possesses me at times, sometimes completely. This relates to Levine’s description of the experience of the dissociative state as a ”spaciness” at the lesser extreme, and then “multiple personality disorder” at the other. There are, of course, many degrees of these experiences in the middle. Although I cannot recall any particular traumatic event in my life, I do recall experiencing fear reactions which, over time became a dominant experience and at times a form of ‘petrification’, which would cause me to ‘over-react’ in fear to situations which others might find only slightly unpleasant.
In a related part of the book, author Linda Kohanov describes the following effects of a particular tactic used to ’break’ disobedient horses: “the act of forcing a prey animal to lie down by tying up one of his front legs , dragging him to the ground, and sitting on him in this vulnerable position until he submits causes such an intense fear reaction that the animal’s entire nervous system short-circuits. The result [is] a sudden change in personality. The horse acts like a zombie, which to people who prefer a machine-like mount, appears to be a miraculous cure for chronic disobedience.” The author continues on to explain that this technique is used for even mildly disobedient horses that work for commercial trail riding stables where the horses are forced to repeat monotonous behaviours such as riding the same trail day after day.
This description reminds me of the ‘breaking’ of children in order to force them to sit and listen in class for hours on end, absorbing and repeating information day after day. In my own experience, being brought to the front of the class and criticized for my poor performance placed me in a vulnerable position where I eventually submitted. It felt like the teacher yelled at me for an eternity. Previously, this had occurred to me in kindergarten, where the teacher called the class’ attention to my work and briefly asked for a consensus that it was not good. The experience was not enjoyable, but it ended so quickly that I was able to bounce back and move on. The first experience I described, where the teacher kept me in the experience for longer, had a different effect. I recall feeling myself shrinking within myself, feeling very confused, fearful and humiliated, until I finally ‘broke’, wherein I began to cry, and something within me submitted, and from that point I constantly feared the event ever happening again. I carried the experience with me within the belief that it was ‘deserved’ because the teacher knows best . It helped to confirm pre-existent beliefs about myself as ‘not good enough’ in comparison to my class-mates. Over time, I utilized this experience as part of my self-definition of Who I Am in this world and this reality, wherein it still comes up and limits me in some ways to this very day.
The “zombie”-like state achieved in breaking horses, as described by author Linda Kohanov, can also be prevalent in the human species. Within the education system, this zombie-like behavior would be preferred, where spirited young children that ‘misbehave’ are seen as disruptive to the education process. Children are broken with punishment, humiliation, fear, bad grades, disciplinary actions, etc… In the past, and even still today in some areas, children are beaten to achieve this effect. Nowadays, it is more and more common to simply medicate the children to sedate them into compliance.
To be continued….