Quick self case-study anecdote that I hope will tickle you…
As some of you already know from the Intergenerational Trauma Training featuring me snotting all over Mark, one of my most significantly traumatising experiences happened when I was 7.
My poor Dad, a serving police officer at the time, battling with his own trauma, was drunkenly fighting with my Mum in the middle of the night after a family party.
I was scared, I intervened, the situation escalated, and he went for and loaded one of the many guns he was permitted to keep in the house.
Mum struggled with him, got the gun away from him, got it back in its case and thrust the case at me telling me to run down the road with it and get my Uncle, my Dad’s brother. I have a dissociative gap at this point but my Uncle and Aunt came and things started to calm down.
Fast forward close to 40 years and I’m very happily partnered up with my own policeman (and I quote my beloved therapist from when I first met him “you’re just Freud’s wet dream, aren’t you Claire?!”) and one of the things we’ve enjoyed together with my Dad is, somewhat surprisingly, shooting at his Airsoft gun club with him (air-powered pistols with pellets).
We have enjoyed it so much that Dad built me my own air-powered handgun to use to practice with at home. I know. But testament to the quality of my therapy, no? And guns were a big part of our extended family’s culture and bonding time as well as a source of danger.
Anyhow, the gun is in a crate under the bed, and the other day my partner was goofing around showing me his new rather intimidating-looking work-issued face-mask and I was pretending to be scared of him.
At which point he said “You think this is scary, you wait” and then started to bend down. And I knew instantly what he was going to do, and shouted at him “STOP. NO! DON’T. THAT’S NOT FUNNY” then promptly started sobbing and shaking.
Of course he was wonderful, and we both took good care of me until I’d restabilised.
Later whilst out walking, I realised that it was massively significant that I’d shouted (and been able to shout) “STOP”. I don’t believe I made any sound at all during the original incident. That “STOP” had been stuck in my body for 40 years.
Last night sitting together on the sofa I was telling my partner about that realisation.
Now get ready for the punch-line.
Which, to appreciate it fully, you need to know that my partner is around 10 years my senior, white, blue-collar, DEEPLY curmudgeonly, cynical, and with a mild tendency to roll his eyes at the world of therapy.
So, he turned to me and asked (with absolutely NO knowledge of any of the technicalities of desensitisation) “and what did it prove to you?”
“What do you mean?” says I.
“What did it prove to you, shouting “STOP” at me?”
“I’m not sure what you’re getting at” I said, getting a bit frustrated because he can be a bit mansplainy…
“Well what happened when you shouted STOP?”
“You stopped” I said.
“Right” he said.
“So what does that show you?” He continued.
“I still don’t take your point” I said (come on, AIP!)
He looks me in the eye, takes my hand, and says “You have control now. You didn’t then. You do now.”
Then he kisses me on the head, burps, gets up and goes and gets another ale.
So if someone could organise a certificate for him, I’ll be transferring over my clients during the next few weeks :-))))))
Happy Thursday, friends.