The fun part – kind of!
- I have an inability to recognise and communicate my needs, which leads to them being unmet – hard to meet something that is not known, it’s a physical/internal sensation of “something missing”. This makes sense as I’ve always put others’ needs and wants ahead of my own (avoidance of criticism/rejection, a yearning for acceptance).
- Internal stressors are exacerbated by external factors. Negative thought patterns will look for negative external evidence as “proof” e.g. If you think you are worthless, finding someone who treats you that way – it can be a dangerous self-fulfilling prophesy.
- Communication issues are a major issue. Not being able to verbalise thoughts/feelings in a world which expects, as a grown adult, you should be able to do compounds the theme of failure. This affects self-esteem. Easier to internalise negative feedback as truth than believe positive feedback.
- Both responses are fighting with or fleeing from a “want/need”. I think this is fear based, which manifests itself as frustration and/or anger.
- Neither response resolves an issue, except to push it away or pull away from it temporarily. Long term, they damage more than fix. Burning bridges attempts to permanentise this temporality, again, this does not “fix” the issue.
- Living in a Neurotypical world, full of neurotypical rules and expectations makes the understanding of this response easier. Feeling/being misunderstood for so many years it’s become second nature to flee from or fight against this. Fleeing from what doesn’t make sense and fighting to be heard; to be understood.
- Expectations, both of self and of/from others, not being met are a driver of these responses. Escapism in flight and escalation of fight are often extreme responses to extreme expectations. I think this goes hand in hand with black/white all/nothing thinking – a failure to see the grey, a failure to remember that yourself/others are fallible! (I know, I don’t like to think of myself as fallible ever but realistically it is true *sigh*)
- Being in this responsive “high state of alertness” means I notice everything, which is great, until I don’t process something the way it is intended; e.g. someone’s words. This can lead to thought looping and rumination; it is distressing. If I cannot get reassurance that my processing has been erroneous to my satisfaction then I arrive at the wrong conclusion. And one of the responses is activated. Emotionally I regress.
- Being “wrong” as a child taught me how to behave in situations even if I thought I was right. Being wrong = punishment. Technically, punished for being myself. Is it any wonder that late diagnosed Aspies often don’t have a clear sense of self? How can we? Our “self” is wrong. (Not really, not at all! But it’s hard to “un-learn” this)
- Because these are such BIG responses they can lead to impulsiveness. Without the ability to rationalise the situation in the moment impulsiveness can be dangerous and/or damaging – both to self and others. Sometimes to the point an apology will not fix it; you will lose people or they will become very wary of you. Rationality would tell you to STOP and THINK about the consequences – irrationality (both responses are irrational if activated in a relatively safe environment in my opinion) spurs you on, the consequences seem irrelevant, you act NOW in the heightened responsive state, stopping and thinking is impossible.
- I tend to blame others when things are my fault, and blame myself when things are others’ fault. Fight response seems to activate when I’m projecting blame and flight response when I’m internalising blame. I think this is linked to shame. I made a mistake I can’t fix – that’s your fault, you made a mistake I can’t fix – that’s my fault. Shame and embarrassment are two sides of the same coin to me. I find solutions to problems and I fix things – that’s what I do, that’s what I’ve always done. It embarrasses me when I cannot do this. It embarrasses me to get things and read people wrong.
- I catastrophise. If I am wrong about one thing I am wrong about everything! Again, a lot to do with black/white all/nothing thinking.
- Loss of control is a theme between both responses. Not “feeling in control” of external and internal factors in my environment is a big trigger.
- If change is not gradual or forewarned, or someone is indecisive in relation to an issue that affects me, these responses can be triggered.
- If I feel “stuck” in a situation or place I can begin to panic internally, sometimes I can subdue/hide this feeling, other times it triggers one of the responses. I need to know where the “exits” are just in case, otherwise I tend to make one myself e.g. walking out of a relationship = a permanent solution for a temporary problem which I couldn’t recognise/verbalise. This makes sense to me as I have a suicide ideation, it’s comforting to know there is an escape clause to life. I am NOT suicidal but I won’t lie and say I haven’t thought about it. I don’t equate self-harm with being suicidal, for me it’s an attempt to transfer mental pain to physical pain.
So, I’m sure there’s more to be drawn from this! But these little bits of self-awareness have opened my eyes a lot. I need to find out how to break out of this cycle, or at least be able to recognise it as I’m in it and give others’ fair warning. It is not healthy to be in a constant state of stress and high alert – I am not a soldier in a war zone! (I can see how PTSD manifests being in that constant state, plus bearing witness to unimaginable horror). I’ve done the groundwork on this in relation to myself, to recognise it and some of the issues it can, and has, cause/d. Now to find a solution – which I will employ the help of others in finding e.g. Books and my psychologist for a start!
Image credit: Google image search “seeking” https://www.axelera.com.au/blog/20150727/seeking-drivers-digital-transformation