Everyone has an event, a person, a habit or a pet peeve… that just pulls their trigger.
The “emotional volcano” trigger.
It’s that one thing that just crosses every line you have drawn in your head, that sends you over the edge, and down into the abyss. Reason takes a hike, and emotion takes over, leaving you flailing and usually, struggling just to keep breathing while the world seems to crumble around you.
For me, I’ve got a couple of things that trigger emotional overload. One major event being one I wrote about a while ago, that happened when I was a young teenager. Anytime this gets brought up, referenced to, or triggered in my memory… I lose some of my rationality, and revert to a more basic, almost animalistic, id state. Fight or flight takes over, and reason goes by the wayside. I lash out or shut down, depending on where I am, and who I’m with at the time. But it’s not about the thinking part, the reasonable part of my brain. It’s about the lost, scared, betrayed child inside, wanting repayment, validation, and revenge.
Talking to EldestDaughter last night, I told her something that I realized about her a while ago. Even though she knows that she has made her choices on her own, good and bad both, and neither one of us blames her Paternal Gene Donor for her behaviors…
I know that a lot of the reasons why she does what she does, is because she’s been looking for his affection, attention, and acceptance all her life.
And has never gotten any of it without strings.
There has never been the “unconditional” terminology attached to his feelings toward my daughters. They always have to do things his way, or he pulls his affections back and holds them for ransom. And in fact, in talking to ED, I learned that his other children, the ones that live with him, have to toe the line too, or they lose his approval and his affection, too.
And so, I told ED… that her PGD is her trigger. Every time something happens between the 2 of them, or something that even reminds her of him… she falls off the wagon, emotionally.
Sometimes, she’ll do something stupid… and while she knows that he’s not to blame for her choosing to do these things, it is a bonus to get his attention. Even if it’s negative – at least he’s paying attention to her. He sees her, even when it’s because he’s mad, and flies off the handle, he’s acknowledging her. And she gets some of what she searches so hard for. His attention.
I told her too, that until she gets her real feelings out in the open about her dad, with someone who can help her figure out just why it triggers her behaviors, she’s not going to be able to change the stupid habits. She’s working on it now, and has been talking to a counselor about just this very thing.
But it’s a process, and probably going to be a long one.
Especially because the PGD doesn’t believe in therapy. Calls it “psychobabble”, and claims it’s never done anyone any good, ever. That ED will never be able to change her behavior, even if she’s in therapy for the rest of her life.
Because… he claims, people never change.
And yet – when I met him, he was a drug-using, long-haired, hard-drinking band boy.
Now? He’s a Bible-thumping, alcoholic, hypocritical, power-hungry, arrogant…
Not that I’m bitter at all…
I’ve always tried to keep my personal opinions about the PGD to myself in front of my daughters. Growing up, I wanted them to make up their own minds about what kind of relationship they wanted to have with him. I tried to keep any criticism of him out of the conversations, even when he did things that made me want to scream (like “forgetting” YoungerDaughter’s birthday for 3 years in a row).
For years, I told the girls to “make up their own minds”, and kept things from them both that might color their opinion of him. I didn’t want to influence their relationship with him, because 1) I knew that their relationship with him was between them, not me and them; and 2) I knew that he’d hang himself, given time, and enough rope. He didn’t disappoint.
Yeah, his history of crap behaviors over the years is yet another trigger for me, as you can tell.
ED is doing her best, having opened up a lot more in the last few months, and especially in the last week, than she has in a long time – if ever. She’s starting to recognize that when she spins off into wild and stupid behavior, there’s usually something behind it that starts the whole thing to begin with.
And once she identifies that moment… that one thing that set her off in the first place, she can choose to not follow through with the old behaviors. She can choose something healthier for herself, and step away from the thing that caused the problem.
And that’s one of the keys to therapy.
It’s not about the therapist filling your head with psychobabble.
It’s about the therapist giving you a safe head-space to open up, spill all the beans out in the open, and find the answer for yourself.
And then, you can choose – eyes open – what you want to do about it.
Pull the trigger? Or lay down the gun and go off in a different direction?