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Visit from someone who triggers me

I have written before about a member of my husband’s family who triggers me regarding abuse as a child. (Here) Well would you believe it, he and his wife turned up unexpectedly this week! They had asked to visit overnight a few weeks back and we had made our excuses but this time we just had to provide a cup of tea, so we just had to suck it up.

After my initial meltdown I decided to reframe it as a useful exercise in observations. Firstly, there was a significant chance I had created a bogey man / scapegoat figure in my head, to pin my very negative feelings on, here was a chance to match that with reality.

Secondly, it was a good chance to observe my reactions and feelings, explore my anxiety and anger, relate them back to my childhood feelings and hopefully detach them from this figure (who has not harmed or behaved inappropriately to me in any way)

Thirdly, it was a good opportunity to make enquiries about the extended family, to prove or disprove my gut reactions, I can’t help myself for still looking for circumstantial evidence!

So how did it go off?

Well, the short answer is that the meeting didn’t alter my outlook on the man.

I didn’t want to embarrass my husband but I also wanted to be true to myself. I warmly greeted the wife (no problem with her) and avoided speaking to or acknowledging the man in any way. I believe him to have some autistic traits, lack of empathy being one of them, and I very much doubt he even noticed.

And I gave them copies of my zines and a tea towel to take away, which on one level are totally innocent and appropriate gifts to family, in my head however, being true to myself, the gift is saying “is this relevant to you in some way????”

With regard to my own feelings, I recognised that it triggered my childhood sensations of anger, powerlessness and frustrations in that all the “grown ups” are denying there is any problem when I think there is. That of course is all my shit and doesn’t belong to anyone else. I just have to sit with it and let it pass, recognising where the anger really belongs, with my mother’s failure to respond.

I also recognised that they are a separate, extended family unit with their own difficulties, I should feel compassion for them and recognise that it is nothing to do with me and actually none of my business.

Finally, I heard nothing to alter my beliefs and a few things which fitted in circumstantially, with adding to them. (My daughter warned me here about “confirmation bias” which is always a danger!)

Overall, I don’t believe anyone vulnerable is at risk, which is good, and I still do not want to be in the company of this man, now or in the future.

Random sketchbook page which is a reminder to me to NOT go down the anger spiral about this person and other family members.

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