One of my biggest struggles in recovery is to convince myself that every ambiguous thing I hear, isn’t secretly a negative thing being said about me.
My brain likes to tell me EVERYTHING is about me.
My brain likes to interpret everything as an attack on me, or a secret (or not so secret) insult, or otherwise evidence that people dislike me or are plotting against me.
Understand, part of me KNOWS that’s unlikely. Not impossible, but unlikely.
But this is how attachment trauma affects the way we see the world.
Many people reading this are familiar with the hypervigilance that goes along with trauma— how we get tense and suspicious about everything around us.
An example that is frequently cited as an example of PTSD symptomatology is how we can be ultra sensitive to sounds in the environment or physical touch.
But hypervigilance definitely extends to our perception of others’ motives.
What’s maddening is, we might KNOW that it’s unlikely that others are constantly talking about us or plotting against us.
And even if other people ARE talking about us behind our backs, we KNOW it frequently doesn’t matter.
Others’ opinion of us is usually none of our business. Much of the time, other people talking trash has zero impact on our lives, unless we go out of our way to see or read them doing it.
But tell our attachment trauma that.
Tell our attachment trauma that we DON’T have to know if someone else is talking trash about us, especially if that person isn’t involved in our day to day lives.
Our attachment trauma will respond that we HAVE to know what others are saying…and if they don’t like us, if they make fun of us, even if it’s not to our face, then it’s terrible.
But even BEFORE we hit that point, our hypervigilant brain will try to tell us that LOTS of things are about us…that may not be.
Understand, our brain is tying to do something good.
It thinks if it can get out ahead of a threat, it can manage that threat. And it thinks that if it’s gonna err, it’s better to err on the side of thinking something’s a threat than not.
So our brain is likely to hear trash talking where there may not be any.
And our brain is likely to interpret trash talking or mockery that MAY be happening as more threatening or relevant to us than it actually is.
I find that, in order to manage my own sanity, I have to make a conscious effort to not seek out what my brain is telling me might be someone trashing me.
My own trauma “fight” response is somewhat overdeveloped, and that part of me instinctively wants to go to war with someone who’s looking to pick a fight.
But I have to be real: I don’t have the bandwidth for all the battles that the “fight” instinct in me wants to wage.
I have to pick and choose my battles.
And people who may or may not be talking trash about me is usually not a battle that is worth fighting, even if I “win,” whatever that means.
Every single day in recovery means making choices about our focus and energy.
Our depression, anxiety, addiction, and trauma will try to yank our focus and energy toward battles we don’t have to fight— battles that largely exist in our heads.
I have imagined SO many battles in my own head that simply didn’t exist outside of my own desire to fight or blame someone or something.
Making progress in recovery means successfully restraining ourselves from stressing ourselves out, taking bait we don’t need to take, and picking fights we don’t need to pick.
Physically quitting my substance of addiction was easier than trying not to care what someone may or may not be saying about me behind my back.
But reeling that in is essential to creating a life worth living.
Don’t spin out about what people MIGHT be saying or thinking about you.
You have a life to live that doesn’t depend on what they do or don’t do.
Subscribe to the Doc’s free email newsletter!
One thought on “Maybe it’s not about you. Or me.”
‘We gotta keep the devil way down in the hole”