I do not want to be so afraid anymore.

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by Copabanana, Jun 4, 2016.

  1. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    As a person I can appear to others to be fragile and vulnerable.

    M says I do specific things that invite attack by others, that I could stop. He cannot quite understand why I do these things--look beseechingly at others, stand too close, eyes locked on theirs, as if I need reassurance, an almost cringing demeanor. He says I look like I want people to hug me with reassurance. He cannot understand it.

    Thank you M for sharing. Actually, I brought it up to him today, as a topic of conversation. To be honest, I wanted to hear what he had to say. I am trying to have the intention to be stronger or more to the point, appear stronger. Because I think I am already strong. It is just to manifest it.

    I am highly competent in my work, respected, in demand, and actually completely confident about my work. M thinks I am actually terrifying when I get angry.

    Which leads me to believe that I may try to conceal my own power.

    It seems like this prey-like demeanor may to some extent be subterfuge, something I learned when I was young, as a survival mechanism, which is now unconscious on my part. It seems as if I may act this way to look like I am a less-dominant person, in order to throw people off--i.e. not appear threatening to them. Like it is some kind of adaptation on my part, which makes sense because both my mother and sister tried to be very dominant and demanding of any resource or advantage there was to be had.

    It was like I achieved anything I ever got by being that insect or bird or small animal that developed spots to blend into the forest.

    The problem is I do not any longer want to be an animal whose only defense is subterfuge and camouflage. I want vivid colors and plumage. I want to crow and to fly.

    So, that is the problem. So, what would be the nature of the solution, that is what I need to know. I know a woman who said she was like me, and she changed. She demanded respect and she came to absolutely love confronting people who treated her badly. She had been an abused wife and she changed.

    I am no spring chicken, but I believe it is still possible for me to change.

    What I want is to feel I do not let people walk on me, deliberately insult or disrespect me to gain advantage, or believe that I will not fight back. I know I cannot change other people but I can remove the sign, open season, from my forehead and I can learn to take a swipe so that there is some deterrent to attack.

    So, if I did a thread, I would ask for support in the following:

    One, I am afraid.

    Two, I need to have some mantra on the ready so that I know I can defend myself and how.

    Some time ago on FOO, Cedar came up with a response that we could use, when people were verbally aggressive. "What do you mean?" So simple, and yet so perfect, to put the onus on the aggressor not on the victim.
  2. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Actually, I have firm control over my work, individually, and in groups. I have firm boundaries and I hold my ground. I do not have any sense of insecurity or vulnerability with those with whom I work for. It is only with colleagues.
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2016
  3. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    I always functioned very well in my work, before my mother died. I am held in high regard except for this one set of characteristics I am describing.

    I do it away from work, too, M says. Actually, it can embarrass him. Because in a Latin culture women who stand too close to men are considered sexually promiscuous!! He sees it as inappropriate and can get mad and sulk!!

    I am completely unaware of having any kind of motivation at all when I do this--and I do it with women, too. I tell him it is because I cannot hear anybody anymore and have to get close in to hear--but it cannot be this.
  4. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    It seems I am not the only one dealing with this. I grabbed this quote from Walrus' no thread.
    Maybe I should (finally) go to Alanon.
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2016
  5. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Here are some Alanon sayings that resonate:

    he will either drink or he won't... what are YOU gonna do?

    what you think of me is none of my business

    feel good about saying no

    let your faith be bigger than your fear

    I can't control it and I definitely can't cure it

    "jade" (do not) justify argue defend or explain.

    fake it til you make it.

    say what you mean without saying it mean.

    every decision I make stems from what I think I am and represents the value I place upon myself.

    what is the decision I made based on self that placed me in a position to be hurt?

    "one day at a time" (or one hour, or one minute)

    the only winning move is not to play.
  6. New Leaf

    New Leaf Well-Known Member

    I am thinking of Cedars posts to seek mentors one of who is Maya Angelou, I adore her. I can't imagine Miss Maya having had moments of vulnerability or being unsure or run over by people. But she was a human being so she must have. She wrote a lot about finding courage and knowing people through their words and actions.
    Not being judgemental, but having good judgement. There are so many wolves dressed in sheeps clothing. Sometimes it takes awhile to recognize people's true colors, they do reveal themselves over time.
    I like your comparison to animals and camouflage because it can be a jungle out in the world.
    I am glad you have M to talk with and he shares his observations.
    My life has changed so much in the loss of hubs. I am trying to move forward and be strong, but in reflecting on your post, know that I can appear as "prey" to certain personalities. I can also be stubborn and bull headed, talk too much, or reveal too much of myself to people who don't need to know me that well. Where is the balance? Between being nice and vulnerable but not a pushover to those who would use those qualities for their own gain?
    I am intrigued by people and their personalities and makeup. Copa, you have so much knowledge about psychology, I wonder if your coming "in close" to listen to people has anything to do with that? That you are genuinely interested in what they are sharing with you? You have also written previously about being an empath, I think this is one of those qualities, listening and engaging closely with people. Your responses to folks here, show your kindness, forthrightness, wit and unique understanding of life's situations.
    I am so glad for you that you will be returning to work, what a huge step this is. I am also happy that you are looking to work on yourself so that you can be guarded and careful around those who turn out to be wolves in sheeps clothing.
    I need to work on that as well.
  7. pigless in VA

    pigless in VA Active Member


    I think you will be fine at work. I think M has given you some insight in to mannerisms that you have which could be problematic for you. I think you will remember that and reduce those behaviors. I think that each person that we lose in our lives (like your mother) resides somewhere deep in our hearts and makes us a little bit stronger. I also think that as we get older, we increase our ability to reflect on our actions and change our behaviors.

    You are no longer that vulnerable, grief stricken person. You've been through the grief and emerged on the other side as a stronger person. I think that you should purchase a talisman, like a pin or a scarf, and wear it to work to symbolize the vivid plumage of your phoenix. Or perhaps something to sit on your desk to remind you that the open season sign has been removed. It doesn't matter what it is, because the meaning is solely for you. Give yourself a visual reminder that you are a stronger person.

    The other trick which works for me is to take whatever pain I happen to be feeling whatever the cause, to visualize placing it into a box and closing the lid. For instance, I am worried about my former father in law who is now ill. I cannot carry that worry to work with me or else Jack will see it and unravel. Seriously, the boy is unbelievably empathetic. I absolutely cannot show him any sadness. For him, I have to be nothing but strong. Before walking into the school, I take those worries, stuff them into that box and slam the lid shut. I do not take them out and examine them while at work.

    I asked my SO about how I appear to others who do not know me. He was honest and said, "aloof." I heard that once before from a friend many years ago. I'll take aloof.
  8. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Copa. I am also a "professional". I use quote marks, because I believe that there are more professionals than just people with degrees and designations.

    They tell me I am two different people. The "work person" and the "not work person". The work person is very strong, very capable, intense. The other person is weak, indecisive, unresponsive. Why. I don't know, totally. But I do know that it is possible to put my "professional face" ON when I go to work, and naturally BE that person. My core values and beliefs don't change at all. They say my voice changes. I think it's partly because I have had more "success" in my career than in the other parts of my life.

    You can do this.
  9. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    This thread already is teaching me so much. Thank you everybody.
    This is true. I had a long and intense therapy when I was young. The thing that emerged most forcefully about me, was my investment in relationship. I really adore people, but I fear them.

    It is interesting to me that I fear my coworkers, but not the people whom I serve in my work. What I can think about is, one, I am more guarded and defended against one group, and not the other. For example, I do not so easily let the loving feelings, the forgiving feelings in with coworkers. I see the worst, not the best. And with the people I serve, it is the reverse.
    Pigless, my mother was the most confident of people. She craved attention and never, ever that I saw held herself at fault or to blame, or in any way lacking. I am the reverse. Gee. I wonder if that means anything?
    Good idea, Pigless. I have a number of scarves. I will make it a point to wear one unless I am stopped (it is a prison after all, and I have been warned before that I make it too tempting to strangle me.

    Now this is the most interesting thing of all. The words used about me that I remember as having the most impact are: arrogant and intense!!!

    I mean, what is wrong with this picture? What does this mean? Aloof, intense, arrogant. These are not adjectives describing powerless dingbats.
  10. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    Okay you guys. I asked D H how I appear to people who don't know me. Without batting an eye he said: "Nice."

    Then he laughed and laughed.

    So I gave him the finger and now, I am back.


    You will be fine, Copa. I am happy you decided to begin working again. Good for you, Copa. This is why you will be fine: Not everyone is a predator. You know now how to recognize an attack. It will key your shame base. You have appropriate response. Monitor your body language and ask the would be predator to clarify: "What do you mean."

    Not a question. Not aggressive, either.

    The key here is to recognize when our shame bases have been triggered. That is where predators do their damage. In our own shame bases. What the predator is doing is nothing personal to you. If they are doing it to you, they are doing it to others.

    Again, nothing personal.

    Someone here used to post about putting on her big girl panties. That imagery will help you too, I think. There are all kinds of people in the world. Be strong, be kind (and this includes to yourself), and you will be fine.

    You are choosing this, Copa. You would not have made the decision to return to work if you were not fully ready.

    On the peer versus client part.

    This too is the shame base talking. Let her talk, let her tell you. This is where your strength defeats you, I think. You refuse to listen, leaving that part of you that requires validation to suffer alone. You protect the dungeon she is in, but she suffers there alone. That makes you vulnerable to someone discovering something unresolved, so you overcompensate.

    We all do that, I think.

    Very nice Copa, about going back to work. I am so pleased for you both.

    May I ask, how is Dolly?

  11. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Thank you, Cedar. What you say ties into these Alanon sayings which I found today:
    In the sense that I cannot take responsibility for the behavior of others. It really has nothing to do with me. I can take possession of it or view it as something neutral. I do not need to judge or to respond. I can just see it, and leave it alone.

    It is the lock and key. Let me remember that. I can choose to ignore the key. Not be keyed.

    So this is interesting, when viewed with your other observation:
    I seem to pay attention to the predator, and validate what he says, because I feel hurt.

    This is astute, Cedar. Because at no time do I ever believe truly that the predator is correct. Except I do. I defend but I keep reviewing and reviewing the offense, because I fear it must have a kernel of truth.

    The false assumption that I make is this: If something had not been wrong with me they would not have been mean. They would not have said it, if it had not been true.

    Which of course goes back to the child in the dungeon. I would not be there if I did not deserve it.

    So this transitions nicely to these other Alanon sayings:
    The key blunder or misinterpretation I make is to immediately judge myself as responsible or at fault when I have a shame response. It is like a red light (interesting choice of words) that immediately causes me to put myself in the dungeon.

    It is not that I hold myself of low value. It is that I make the decision to hold myself responsible.

    Actually, I hold myself as high value. I always have, I think. (I just kept it a secret from myself).That is my guilty little secret.

    I just blame myself for everything. Because I learned to do that as a child.

    I am the only one who I should really fear. I am the one who holds the keys to the dungeon.

    Thank you, Cedar.

    Dolly is wonderful. She was in absolute misery--and we (M) was afraid to take her to the vet, because he could not bear to lose her. We were certain we would put her down if she was quite ill. Thus (he) was immobilized. Finally, I put my foot down, that we must go to the vet, and we lucked out.

    It was dusk and the regular vet was closed. At an all night emergency vet, the most handsome and kind and knowledgeable man, helped Dolly. He believed it could be inflammation (arthritis) and/or infection, or cancer--as a long shot. So he did blood work and took xrays, sonograms of her lungs and abdomen and no sign of cancer to be found. We left with Tramadol, an antibiotic and anti-inflammatory and by the next morning Dolly was fine.

    She has been so happy, full of life--we are thrilled. Not to mention grateful. I asked M last week if we could get a Boxer puppy (my idea was that while Dolly was at her peak-Dollyness, she could socialize a baby Dolly who we would call either Holly or Polly. I think Holly. (I have already had a Molly.)
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2016
  12. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member


    This is M describing my demeanor sometimes. Now. This behavior on my part can be viewed as a stereotypically feminine stance, to show that one has renounced the power position, and is not a threat.

    If I am looking at myself through new eyes, kind ones, can I not rethink this?

    That is to say that I am not responsible for a predator's decision to prey. There is no need to turn myself into an alpha-female in order to stop predators.

    Nor will it stop them. Witness, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Hillary does not seem to have a persona much like my own, but that does not stop The Donald from going on the attack. Nor, does Donald's manliness stop Hillary from attacking him. (Moderators, this is not a political discussion. I am using examples that will be known by us all.)

    What is your thinking about this?

    Wow. Am I feeling better!
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2016
  13. pigless in VA

    pigless in VA Active Member

    Good example. Please don't wear a scarf, because now I will worry about you being strangled. How about a stuffed animal for your desk?

    Me, too. I fear them because they always seem to hurt me in some way. I think that's what happens to people who don't have loving, supportive families.
  14. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    Apparently I have a "manager face" and a "manager voice" that Hubby does not like when directed at him. 10 years in retail management will do that, I suppose.
  15. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    Holding this intention for myself resonates with me, lately.

    It is a beautifully simple way for me to recognize myself.

    To meet yourself
    face to face
    Without expectation

    Such freedom
    does exist.

    Kate Potter
    Namaste Yoga

  16. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Here we are. KT has a different kind of persona, and her husband finds fault...when directed at him.

    I agree with Cedar, in this:
    It is not the kind of face we have, whether tentative, correct, aloof, it is what we do when it does not "work" when there is the inevitable seepage of self into the frame.

    Is our persona really us? Or the bag we carry around to contain our stuff, the guarded interior of remembrances, yearning and love.
  17. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    There is a lovely column in today's NY Times written by Walter Mosley, of the great Ed Rollins mysteries, about Muhammad Ali. He talks about how Ali framed his own life--demonstating love of self, in the best sense, not of grandiosity but of self-worth, commitment to character and to the worth of others.

    Mosley writes:

    When I was 15 years old some kid at my school asked me what I felt about the draft and Vietnam. He wanted to know if I expected to go to war and if I was happy about that possibility. I told him that I had no intention of fighting the Vietnamese, “first, and most importantly, because I have no desire to be killed or maimed and secondly, because I feel no hatred toward or fear of the Vietnamese people.” These are the words I used and even at the time I wondered where they had come from.​

    The answer was, of course, Muhammad Ali. His courageous and articulate stance against the imperialism of that war had seeped into my awareness without my knowledge; that’s how powerful he was. I mean, he was fast and strong in the ring, but Ali’s rope-a-dope or phantom punches were nothing compared with his character, his commitment to a code of conduct, and his unique ability to motivate the entire world.​

    And this:

    Not everyone loved him. If you choose a side and commit to change, if you’re brash and outspoken and brave there are bound to be detractors. If you put human life above nationalism, or one God over another, there will be haters. But even here, over the decades, Ali changed many hearts and minds.
    These are thoughts I am having about myself, in light of this essay.

    I asked M yesterday. If I look so vulnerable, how is it that I have achieved so much.

    He answered: because you persevered. You set your heart and mind on a goal and you never wavered. You got hit and you got up. And you went on.

    I remember when Muhammad Ali was Cassius Clay. And I remember the rage and contempt directed at him when he stood up to the whole world and proclaimed himself to be Ali, the greatest. And I remember his arrest for standing up to the whole military industrial complex when he as if said, "hell no. I won't go" and kill.

    Those with power threw every ounce of hatred and contempt at him...which he would not accept. And guess what, he prevailed and he survived on his own terms.

    For some reason I decided to make a career in the prison industrial complex, every bit as cruel as the world Ali stood down. And I walk in there looking as meek as a sheep.

    But I am Ali when I am there. I never remember one time backing down. Not one mean word. Not one time when I betrayed my responsibility for others. I have been interrogated and shamed and shunned.

    But I have betrayed myself. By as Cedar says, locking myself into a dungeon and leaving myself there, afraid.

    And this whole thread began as an exercise in the same: I was as much as shaming myself for my natural fear to return to a place where most would never go.

    And what was my crime?

    I stayed sweet. Like, Cedar. Nice. (Not a threat to anybody, not wanting to be.) Wow, what a moral transgression!

    So here again are Mosley's words:

    Not everyone loved him. If you choose a side and commit to change, if you’re brash and outspoken and brave there are bound to be detractors.
    Not everybody loved her. If you choose a side and commit to change, if you're sweet and soft-spoken and brave there are bound to be detractors.

    Wow. People will hit you just because--you have a voice (soft or strong) and commit to it. It is natural to be afraid, not a stigma. Actually, I wonder if I am even afraid. If it is not excitement.
  18. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    I had always seen myself as the manager, the one who organized, supervised, got things done. When I went back to school for my teaching credential, it was a similar thing. Now? Chronic pain, fatigue, get in the way of my organization. I don't like it, this out of control feeling. It is uncomfortable. But I am learning to adjust. Slowly, I am learning.
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  19. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    This out of control feeling....

    That would be very hard for me too, KTMom. My daughter lives with chronic pain since the beating. It came to dominate her life. The pain, and the fear of it.

    I am so sorry that is happening to you.



    The manner of interpreting emotional response and defining our situations through those interpretations will have been determined in childhood ~ with all that implies.

    We label the response fear. Someone else may label those same feelings intensely focused anticipation.

    You are coming through beautifully, Copa.

    Sincerely, proud and happy for you.

  20. pasajes4

    pasajes4 Well-Known Member

    I have been described as silent but deadly. Not very flattering. I am accused as being aloof, and not very friendly.

    I never felt the need to be friends with the people I worked with. I was not unfriendly, but I did not gossip nor did I feel the need to share things about my family. I was very animated and loving with my students and because I was not that way around staff, I was accused of being a phony. I did not have a problem in standing up to teachers when their actions were unkind towards my students. I fought for their right to participate in school functions and to be allowed to eat in the cafeteria, go to P.E., or use the library. This made me very unpopular.