Comfort and discomfort

This weekend has brought a radical change of thinking for me, so I’m going to share it on the off-chance someone else finds it useful.

Triggering and panic attacks are big issues for me. Less of a problem than they used to be, but still things I have to navigate through. I know that people can trigger me in all innocence. They can do things that look like other things and panic me. My panic is not the measure of whether someone else is a good person or not. So, for years now, I’ve tried very hard to manage my reactions so that I don’t upset someone who has accidentally triggered me.

My experience of talking to people (usually, but not always men) who have triggered me is that many resent being asked to do differently and have expressed the idea that its unfair being held responsible for dealing with the consequences of something they didn’t cause. I’ve heard that and taken it onboard.

It means that much of my behaviour in response to panic and distress is about trying to keep other people comfortable. It’s not been about my comfort, or what I need to do to heal. Some of it is because I feel safer if I keep the men I’m dealing with comfortable. Thankfully the men I live with are not an issue on this score and are willing to hear, change and support. My safety is not dependant on their comfort. But in any other situation, if there’s a tension between my comfort and someone else’s, I tend to feel that asking for my issues to be heard is risky and may make things worse, not better.

This is where I’ve decided to make radical change. I never feel comfortable dealing with people who trigger me and expect me to deal with that. Even when they aren’t setting me off, I don’t feel safe and I am always on edge. I’m going to stop putting myself in those situations. I am not going to show up, or if I really can’t dodge it, I am going to get out at need. I’m going to stop investing energy in trying to make comfortable the people who make me uncomfortable.

If they call me a drama queen, or they say I am making it all about me, or being unfair to them, as has happened before in such situations, maybe I’ll just agree. And get out of the situation. I do not have to feel emotionally responsible. I do not have to feel obliged to comfort and reassure people who discomfort and unnerve me. I do not have to make their opinions the measure of whether my feelings or needs are even valid. It occurs to me that I don’t even have to get this right, or be fair or reasonable, that I can say no because I want to, and that I do not even need to justify it.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

6 responses to “Comfort and discomfort

  • Readerbythesea

    Well done! I think sometimes people use you against you if that makes sense, so if you remove yourself from the equation they can’t.

  • Abfalter - The Appletree Druid

    Trying to make comfortable the people who make you uncomfortable?

    May I offer a thought? Watch the scene linked below from one of the Harry Potter movies. At minute 1:34, Snape conveys a message from Dumbledore to Harry. Then Harry asks Snape “Travelling where?”
    Observe Snape’s reaction, and how it exits. Watch again. And Again. As often as you need to 100% mimic Snape’s glance of indignation, condescendence, and annoyance.
    Use vigorously in the situations you describe.
    You might need to get a robe like Snape has – the swooshing just adds insult to injury.

  • jrose88

    This reminds me of a post I just saw on tumblr, which recommended to women using dating sites that they test the waters before meeting a potential date in person by disagreeing with them about something completely trivial. Just something simple, like “No, I don’t want to meet at a coffee shop, how about X?”, or “No, not Wednesday”, or “No, I don’t want to recognize each other by both wearing green shirts”. How the potential date reacts (respects your real opinion about a small insignificant issue vs gets annoyed and incredulous that you reject Their Suggestion and Inconvenience Them In A Minor Way) is an indicator of how they might react some time in the future when you actually have to say no to them about for a serious reason.

    It works for friends too. People can decide for themselves whether you are being dramatic or whatever, but they don’t have a right to know and approve all of your reasons for things in order to deign to respect that you said no about it.

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