Saturday, November 20, 2004

Yesterday was a day of firsts for me, one of which was among the hardest things I've ever done in my life.

In my "Skills and Dynamics of Therapeutic Relationships" class we were talking yesterday about assertiveness. My teacher brought up a subject which I had spoken to her about ... the fact that the people in our class tend to be really chit-chatty in our science classes and that it drives me insane. And hey, guess what, I'm not an assertive person, so the idea of turning around and asking anyone to please be quiet sends me into a complete panic. So she brought the subject up with our class, not using me as her example or anything, but just letting people know that this was a problem. And a huge discussion erupted, with tempers raised and people acting up. And I, for one of the first times in my life, managed to express to everyone there how angry it made me when people around me talk. I told them that I'm not an audio learner, so that in order for me to even hear what the teacher says I need it to be virtually silent. I told them that the program that we're taking isn't cheap, and that under no circumstances am I paying to hear about how their weekend was. I told them that it really, truly, makes me livid to have to deal with it. The entire time my palms were sweating, my heart was pounding, and I was shaking to the point of barely being able to hold on to myself.

At the end of the discussion the teacher says, "Now, is there anybody in this room who, because of this conversation, doesn't feel safe?" I raised my hand. It honestly didn't have anything to do with not feeling safe with the other people in the room. It was just that expressing my anger makes me not feel safe in general. So one of the girls in our class said, "I don't understand how anybody wouldn't feel safe. I mean, we're on the massage tables mostly naked with each other every day." I pulled my pounding heart out of my throat and responded, "I would rather, in a million years, be completely naked and standing in front of this room than do what I just did and express ..." And that was as far as I could get. I burst into tears and went running from the room. I think the only person in the room who really understood just exactly what had just happened was my dear Ms. L.

And here it is. I would rather run around naked in front of my entire school, get on 50 airplanes, or have a turantula crawl around on me than try to express anger. I would rather do just about anything than let someone in on that particular emotion. Truth be told, I don't even know where this hatred of my own anger came from, but it's there. I somehow don't think it's appropriate for me to be assertive or to express my emotions (other than happiness and sadness ... those I'm damn good at expressing). I hate this about myself and it's something that I'm working really hard on changing. So I believe that what I did yesterday is commonly referred to as a breakthrough.

Basically, that was a long badly-written story that I'm sure nobody except for me actually cares about, but it made a giant impact on my life. You can't imagine the balls it took for me to express myself in that particular way.

Oh yeah, the other first ... When I got home last night, after having a complete breakdown in front of my entire class, I was too upset and too riled up to just sit around and eat dinner. So I put on my running outfit and went down to the river, where I jogged back and forth for a little while. It was hard to run outside! But oooooh, running on dirt feels freakin' amazing. And it actually made me feel infinitely better.


Blogger Lauren said...

You are my hero. Truly. Getting to see you in action, expressing the hell out of yourself, mustering up that kind of courage was absolutely incredibly. Honestly, it was a breakthrough simply to be sitting next to you.

Love you so much!

7:40 PM  
Blogger bicia said...

That is so great Margaret! Its interesting to read about this kind of struggle since I tend to do the opposite, I am SO vocal sometimes I use to hide what I really want to say . . . just tell a story and distance myself from the event. I rarely let myself get emotional (I remember how shocked YOU were when I cried in front of you the first time!) so I admire your breakthrough immensely.

Oh, and isn't running on the river AWESOME!!! I can't wait until we can meet up and run a few bridges together!!!

9:35 PM  
Blogger faye said...

Margaret...Let me just tell you that I really do relate to this--and, so I am really feeling for you. These days it is pretty easy for me to express myself (if it is something negative I'm expressing) --with maybe a little flutter of the heart---But, I can remember visibly shaking (voice shaking, too!) if I were to get assertive about confrontational issues a couple of years ago...As cheesy as it sounds, it really just took me little steps to get over this specific anxiety--I'm not sure why I was the way I was, but I just started being real with people--just thinking, Hey, life is short--who cares?---

You know what I think? I think that if people are going to be disrespectful of my feelings, then they should have to be the ones to hold onto that knowledge and that uncomfortable-ness-- not me --they created the problem, so when I confront the problem with them, I feel that I am almost tangibly passing that burden (which they created) along--

In my opinion, this is a step on the journey to positive self-esteem and the ability to really take care of myself--Really, though, I just wanted to cry for you when I read this---and yet smile for your mini-victory!!! The time will soon come when you won't have to be distracted by someone else's bullshit--you can just let them know how you feel about it and then let it go...And it will be just another day in the life of Margaret....

You go!

11:27 PM  
Blogger Mia Goddess said...

Yay Margaret! Seriously, I'm in awe of you. I've still never been able to do something like that. Nonconfrontational = me. Funny, I wonder if we're alike in so many ways *because* of that quirk, or if it's just one of many characteristics, each unrelated to the other. Kind of interesting thought.

I'm so with you on the running on the dirt thing, too! I was writing about that in my journal - how "feral" it feels. I just got back from camping and a motorcycle race, and it had that same effect on me - you know, the I'm-gonna-go-kick-some-ass effect!

12:55 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

I, too, relate to your experience. I've found that the process of finding your "voice", both in the literal sense and in a more abstract sense, is absolutely vital to feeling comfortable and confident.

For me, expressions of anger are hard for many reasons -- it means that I am no longer the "good girl", the good-natured one, if I express anger. It might mean that change could erupt, that attention will focus on me, all of which feels dangerous somehow.

It's also matter of finding out what kick-backs you get from supressing that angry voice. What I mean is that while there might be fear and anxiety attached to expressing anger, there is also a part of you that holds onto that pattern because it's useful to you as well. In my case, holding onto anger lets me continue to hold on to the image of myself as someone more in control and more perfect that others.

Anyway, I do think this experience is a breakthrough. I'm glad you wrote about it.

9:19 AM  

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