Ticking Time Bomb

07/01/2005

Friday

The past month has involved a lot of discovery. I’ve invested myself in learning about Arwyn and my relationship patterns. I’ve delved deeply into my own thinking patterns in order to discover the various sources of trouble. And there are plenty.

In Gottman’s Why Marriages Succeed or Fail he adds much to the discussion by joining behavior, thinking and physiology. I’ve given some discussion of this in my other blog.

This blog deals primarily with my interactions and struggles. I bring up concepts covered over there and apply them here. And so it is regarding my own reactions to conversations and interactions with Arwyn. I’ve basically been programmed and conditioned into a mode of hostility towards almost everything she says. And her reaction is defensiveness to the point where she will rise to defend herself no matter what I say. Repair attempts by either of us are minimzed or ignored.

Today I was in the midst of paying bills which is always stressful anyway. Then she asked me if I had any cash.

My heart rate went through the roof. It was already going up because of the bill paying experience and she unknowingly triggered a physiological avalanche of stress and defensiveness. We didn’t really argue or fight. We’re both stonewalling at this point. But I became keenly aware of my body jumping into combat mode almost instantaneously at the sound of her voice. I sometimes feel like a vicious and wild animal, ready to pounce and strike.

Healthy? Only if heart attacks and strokes are a healthy goal! My thinking goes into negative mode, my emotions jump in and my body follows. There is simply no easy cut and dried technique for controlling this. First off, getting a grip on my thoughts seems to be the first step. I have to catch my thoughts before they cut loose. The problem is that once a negative emotion is induced, my body starts dumping adrenaline into my bloodstream and my thinking goes south from there. This is a prime case where emotional arousal becomes a bad thing. I need to get ahold of my thoughts but they make the jump to light speed at the slightest provocation. I become ambushed by my own emotions.

None of this is Arwyn’s fault, per se. She can certainly aggrevate and escalate. She played a part in the conditioning process, but I’m not sure she could turn the tide if she wanted to.

Most therapists are not even familiar enough with respondent conditioning to even address it. I have touched on some cognitive interventions such as REBT and The Work. But there probably needs to be some counter conditioning going on. I’ll look into this to see if such a program could be developed. Gottman is good, but he isn’t a behaviorist. His suggestions are good provided the negative pattern doesn’t run deep nor is too long running or severe. Mine is all of these.

I wrote earlier that Arwyn represented the challenge of my life. I was wrong. *I* represent the greatest challenge of my life! My own health and well-being are at stake. I’m a heart attack waiting to happen.

D.

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3 Responses to Ticking Time Bomb

  1. Square1 says:

    Perhaps this sort of interaction can be circumvented easily. How often do you make a habit of iforming Arwyn of your financial state? I have encountered this situation with hubs.

    We are tight financially always. Anytime I asked if we had money I saw the wall going up and the response was always no. But when we ran out of something in the house the first thing out of his mouth is, “Why didn’t you tell me? I would have picked it up at the store.” Well… I didn’t think we had any money so I figured I’d find something else to improvise rather than stress him out about the finances. It also built a lot of resentment, because when he would go out and splurge on something unnecessary I would fume that we were going without practicalities because I thought we were totally and utterly broke. He of course would think we could afford the splurge, not knowing that I had supplies at home that I was running low on. I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t.
    I finally got sick of feeling like a pauper because I never knew how much money we had, and after reading some principles in Jimmy Evans I came to learn that not only did I have a right to at least be informed, but I had a duty to at least keep abreast of the financial situation. What if something were to happen to hubs? Would I be able to take over and run things in his absence?

    So I worked out with him a schedule where he sits down and breaks down how much we’ve got coming in, which bills are due, what’s left for household items… etc. etc. I know upfront what’s going on so that I don’t ask questions that make him feel defensive, and I don’t resent being turned down every time I have a need for something around the house. We don’t always adhere to it, but when we do it seems to work out much better. I prioritize my list of needs, see what fits into the budget and then do without the items that simply don’t. Hubs does a sreadsheet up on his computer to go over with me, and since I sort the mail it’s become sort of my job to keep track of when incoming bills are due and to remind him. We’re still not the best about managing our finances, but we’re learning together. Neither one of us had much training from our parents on handling money… so we’re making our way together.

  2. Rob says:

    Yes, I would say, from reading your words this morning, that you probably are a “ticking time bomb”, a heart attack waiting to happen, especially if you also may have other issues (not known to me) such as being a heavy smoker/drinker or totally inactive couch/computer potato 🙂

    Yes, you (and many of us) are programmed into what we are. The challenge of course is how to reprogram ourselves so that the little voice in us stays under control emotionally.

    Btw, I too pay all our bills in the family, just not all at once, as I tend to pay them as I get them. It kinda spreads out the pain a little easier. I also long term budget for them. And I share all this with my wife (just in case I keel over on this computer one day – lol) so that then she can ably take over and have the bill paying “fun”). But I digress.

    I guess the deal here is stress management. Everyone has stress and as Hans Selye wrote there is both good and bad stress. If we didn’t have any stress then we’d be dead. The objective is how to control it – thru exercise, diet, meditation, marital therapy, religion, or a whole combination of things. Only each one of us can and needs to decide on that. Good luck cuz it’s a lifelong challenge but hey, as I often say to myself to cool down:

    “Don’t sweat the small stuff, and in life, everything is – small stuff”.

    Have a pleasant weekend.

  3. Marie says:

    Like Rob says, stress is an inevitable and even necessary part of life. How we choose to react to it is partly what makes it good or bad, or rather what dictates stress’ effect on us at least.

    I can relate to your stress related to finances. I’ve always tended to be a bit avoidant when it comes to dealing with the realities of our financial situation. I’m aware of our debts and cash flow limitations & needs but sometimes I have been pretty insensitive and this infuriates my husband of course.

    I’ve gotten better recently though. I started to realize that my carelessness with $$$ was less about me being plain ignorant about our finances and more about me rebelling. Like in the past, if I was pissed off at my husband about something, I’d go and splurge on something that was completely unnecessary. Then I saw how this kind of behavior was more destructive in the long run and I now attempt to keep a better handle on my spending habits. It also is helpful that me and my husband now sit down together and do the bills twice a month so we’re both aware of the money coming in and out of the household. Its been an eye opener for me and it also alleviates some of the pressure from my husband having to deal with organizing and paying the bills by himself.

    BTW, I have been reading at your other blog and I am finding the material really interesting. I’ll have to pick up copies of some of the books you’re mentioning. Thanks for sharing!–>

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