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C12P17 – Nobody would Listen

C12P17 – Nobody would Listen published on 14 Comments on C12P17 – Nobody would Listen

This family has a serious problem with cliffs.

I was feeling a lot like Zhiro last week. My anxiety kept getting larger and larger, fear and doubt and despair becoming an overwhelming mass that sat in my stomach like I’d eaten something poisonous that needed to be expelled. Yet every time I tried, I’d be stopped by well-meaning friends who wanted to fix the problem with advice. Advice that only made things worse, because I was already feeling overwhelmed and incompetent, so not only was I failing to do what I knew I needed to do, but then I felt I was ALSO failing at the things THEY wanted me to do. And the feelings in my stomach grew worse. It happened with everyone. Cory, my closest friends, and even my therapist. They were all trying to help, but few recognized, including myself, that such an approach was actually adding to the problem.

It wasn’t until I read an article that talked about how stress manifests in different Myers Briggs Typologies that I realized what I really needed. I showed this to Cory (who found it eerily accurate for his typology as well) and we were finally able to talk in a way that helped the tension ease.

What was the solution? Well, I am an INFJ. The piece of the article for my type that really jumped out at me was, “Let them express their thoughts and feelings. Understand that they may be irrational. Don’t judge them.”

I realized that, sometimes, I need to be given the space to be a completely Irrational Person. At the time, I know that the words that are coming out of me are completely irrational. It’s not that my Logical Mind can’t hear and evaluate those thoughts. It knows. It’s highly aware. In fact, it’s deeply embarrassed that I would say such things and absolutely MORTIFIED that it can’t get me to stop. Nor can it wrest control back so that it can talk instead. Because when I’m really stressed, that Logical Mind gets stomped down by overwhelming FEELS and it doesn’t get to run the show anymore.

The reason advice only adds to this stress is that the Logical Mind starts shouting, (to nobody, locked in my head) “I KNOW! Don’t you think I’ve TOLD HER THAT?? What do you think I am, STUPID? Well, SHE might be STUPID. I guest that means we MUST be STUPID. Otherwise the Self would be listening to ME right now BUT SHE ISN’T.”

I think the reason everyone is so quick to jump in with advice is because the piece of me that is talking SOUNDS like it’s a rational mind. It isn’t. It’s a wounded animal that’s learned how to talk human. If a dog was howling and whining and scratching you wouldn’t say to the dog, “Hey, I think it’s time we talk about your business plan.” Yet that’s what people do with my wounded, emotional, Irrational Mind, because that mind learned a long time ago that if it uses WORDS then at least people will notice it. And being noticed is better than being in pain alone, right?

So what I need is for people to listen to the EMOTION of that wounded animal seriously…but not to take any of the words it says with any degree of seriousness. For people to let me be a little bit insane, but not to think that represents me ALL the time. To view my madness, but not judge me mad. Just…mad-for-the-moment. So I can get the emotions out, and they don’t sit in my stomach any more.

And the best part? That Irrational Brain has a positive quality that gets to come out when it’s given some space. It’s where my sense of humor lives. The irrational mind has a deep appreciation for the absurd. So where the Logical Mind feels shame and guilt and anger at all the crazy emotional thoughts, the Irrational Brain, once it’s no longer being poisoned by trying to contain all of those feelings, can look at those melodramatic statements that felt so true a second ago and say, “Actually…that’s kinda hilarious. Also, let’s pretend to be a T-Rex for a moment. RAWWR MY ARMS ARE SO SHORT! THEY ARE MADE FOR HUUUUUGS!”

Freeing up that Irrational Brain to play and run around and laugh and see the world for a silly place where things don’t really matter as much as they might sometimes seem is a wonderful thing. If the Logical Mind is in charge all the time, it would like that part of me to sit quietly in the corner and not move or speak or do anything really, can’t you just behave? Why do you have to make this so difficult for me? Do you like torturing me, is that it? Is it?

And the Irrational Brain points out that this is a remarkably ludicrous and illogical line of thinking for somebody that claims to be Logical, but OH MAN does the Logical Mind NOT APPRECIATE THAT.

The Irrational Brain needs a playground. It needs somebody to just listen and nod and understand that even though these feelings might SEEM like the end of the world RIGHT NOW that everything will probably be okay in a few minutes if we just let those feelings come out. The Logical Mind wants very much to be seen as an adult, but the Irrational Brain is a child, and that’s actually a valuable thing. It doesn’t need to be turned into a “cold-blooded vulcan.” It just needs some space to breathe and not be told to “grow up” when it does.

Do you have a Logical Mind and an Irrational Brain, or do you experience things differently? How would you describe your experience? What value have you found in aspects that might at first seem to only have draw-backs?


Children visit this site. Moderate your language accordingly.

I read that article too and found it very interesting and helpful. I am a logical minded introvert most of the time, so when I get stressed out, I do have a part of me that knows what I should do to not get stressed out (aka: regulate my meals, get sleep at the appropriate times, etc.). The problem is that the emotional side is too stressed to do it, and adds tons of worries. Then the reaction I get from most people either downplay my stress (saying it will pass, you never get more than you can handle, or other sayings) or offer advice. Both of these make me feel stupid, as one makes it seem like I can’t even handle something that I should be handling, while the other I already know what I should do, so telling me to do it doesn’t help, much like with you.
It does make me very hesitant to talk to people about it, since I haven’t found a good person to talk to about my stress. Even doctors tend to be bad, and due to my bad experiences and my avoiding confrontation combined with my shyness and not wanting to feel like I have no reason to feel the way I do, I HATE going to doctors and talking about how I feel. It makes it pretty complicated to get anything done since I am trying to work on my master’s degree while having very stressful things happen to my family. I get behind on my work and with most people, rather than seeing if I am alright and helping me take a break to get a breath to relax, they ask why I haven’t finished something yet. It gets to the point where even thinking about a task becomes stressful. Throughout the whole time during this, the logical part of my mind is sitting there thinking everyone is being stupid, including myself.
I do think it is unfortunate in our society how we push people to repress emotions, and act as if anyone who can’t is incompetent. Ignoring emotions tends to make them worse and have them build up, whether it is fear, sadness, pain, anger or something else. And while some people can “push” through emotions for things like phobias, that doesn’t mean that everyone can, or should. Nor does it mean that the emotions should control the person, but allowing them to act out their course, and acknowledging them and where they came from helps maintain control over the situation. Of course, knowing that myself and being able to have my emotions in public, where people, including friends, get very upset if I get mad over something, or dismiss me if I am stressed or sad, are two different things. For all that people love my honesty when I am giving advice and for other reasons, they hate it when it comes to my own emotions.
I am glad that you have a supportive person in Cory.

All of that sounds like a lot to carry alone. Not to mention frustrating and isolating! I hope that you find a good person to talk about stress someday. Someone who will not only love your honesty for advice, but also for its own sake, and for yours.

And if it isn’t presumptuous to offer, if writing about it would help, feel free to email me anytime. Sometimes it helps to tell a relative stranger, who isn’t directly involved, what’s going on in one’s life. And I promise to do my best to just listen, and not advise or dismiss. (Don’t feel obligation though! Just an open door, not one you have to use!)

It’s iron bands constructing across your lungs, then pulling a massive weight to sit on your diaphragm, keeping you from breathing. You can’t inhale, can’t speak, can’t move your arms to reach out, all you can do is gasp at the heavy pain, tears leaking from your eyes and dry sobs from your mouth, against your will as the pressure builds and suffocates you. You’re totally alone, and what you prized and loved, coveted above all has been ripped from you, its removal a physical and emotional pain, as though its anchor was physically attached to your soul.

I get it, Zhiro.

I wish nobody ever felt this way, lest of all someone as wonderful as you. But…I hope this isn’t weird to say, but as horrible and painful as what you’ve described is, you’ve also described the experience in such an evocative, human way that it is strangely beautiful too.

I’d like to argue with Zhiro… but unfortunately he’s right. Tama and Mizha are too wrapped up in themselves. Kali would probably listen, but they are Not Friends. Yet. I hope.

I like your description of the “irrational brain” as a howling dog. It’s really just a cry for comfort, same as a new puppy whining in his crate. All you need is cuddles and someone who cares to listen. I do have the rational/irrational split, but for me it seems to be more helpful, because my rational brain is just like “Shh, shh, shh, it’ll pass.” Rational Brain knows Irrational Brain just needs to be Irrational. And, also, rationality cut off from emotion is useless. (IDK if you’re aware that people who experience dulling of their emotions make terrible decisions. They can’t act in their own best interest because everything makes them feel the same, pretty much.)

Yeah, I also feel bad for Zhiro. He did have someone he could talk to as an equal(*), Dream Eater (I hope I am remembering the name right), but he’s even lost that person.

(*) This is ironic, because this person is also a god, but, their conversations always showed a kind of … closeness that I don’t see with Zhiro and anyone else.

Yeah. Sadly, Mizha and Tama are…not really there yet. At least, not to initiate. I think either could surprise Zhiro, but it would be hard to say under what circumstances, and I can’t particularly blame Zhiro for not giving them the chance given past experiences.

As for my own past experiences, as a person who spent most of her life dulling and dissociating from emotions (this was why I looked for therapy in the first place) I absolutely know how difficult good decision making becomes. I’m only just starting to come into an understanding with myself that I’m actually a VERY emotional person, but I’ve got very few skills in processing, identifying, or working with those feelings. I’m actually really hopeful that having this realization about the wounded animal side of me will help me develop a much healthier interaction between the rational and irrational parts of myself! Just like what you describe.

OH. MY. GOD. YES. I recently told a good friend I’ve had a crush on him forever. I then spent two weeks mired in sick regret nearly every day. According to my Irrational Brain, it is a Cardinal Sin to tell someone more attractive than myself that I like them, because it will be insulting to them. Logical Mind is like “He TOLD you he thinks you’re hot. Multiple times.” But Irrational Brain is like “You manipulated him and he only said that because he feels sorry for you because you’re such a loser.” I don’t know if my sense of humor or anything valuable comes from Irrational Brain though. I definitely love the absurd. Irrational Brain is totally about the feels, and I need the feels to make up stories. But I feel like the storyteller is a purer part of me, above and beyond either of those brain-halves. Irrational Brain is an amalgam of voices from my childhood (bullies, teachers, my mother) that saturated me with worry and self-loathing.

But what I meant to say before I got off topic is I think this is one of the most beautiful pages you’ve ever drawn. It really captures how time can feel like shuttery stop-motion when your heart is breaking.

The inner storyteller does seem to be a piece a little more in touch with…for lack of a better way to put it, The Self. Something that is influenced by everything else we are, and would be very different without those irrational and rational aspects, but still operates on another plate.

And thank you. I’m really proud of this page. I’m really proud of a LOT of this chapter’s pages.

oh, sorry this comment is so long!

That is a really neat article! It will take me awhile to read through it, but, at a glance at least, some of every list applies to me, and some of every list does not apply to me. The Meyer’s Briggs test never fit me terribly well anyways though. I walk the line between modes (which frustrates the test, it wants you to fit in categories), and I slosh between modes.

When I’m stressed, what I need depends on why I’m stressed. Often, I need some kind of badness to stop, and some kind of reassurance that its not happening again, or if it does happen again, we have a plan to deal with it. If the badness is not being heard, then venting helps. If the badness is anxiety over doing a task, doing the task helps. If the badness is feeling like I don’t have a way to solve a problem, brainstorming helps. etc etc.

The badness is often something that has happened many, many times and wasn’t resolved or went badly most of those times, particularly in childhood. So my lizard-brain reacts very strongly to the concern that the badness won’t end. But, badness can be many things (not being heard, being saddled with too much work because someone else won’t get work done or is generating work rather than doing it, moral values being misaligned, being put in the position of the responsible one all the time, having to cover who I am too strongly for too long, not enough alone time/social time/exercise/calories/green vegetables/protein/sugar/water/sleep/sunshine, fear of making someone unhappy with me (especially someone I view as an authority figure), desire for approval/safety/a sense of belonging, being horribly overstimulated, being controlled, being used as a free source of emotional labor and getting nothing in return for several interactions in a row).

Each of these has gotten easier to manage as I train myself that when the badness happens, I can and will do something about it, and that something is effective.

It sucks when certain things aren’t effective consistently, because then my lizard brain hurts even more. In particular, I still need to figure out how to manage speaking up to people about my needs and setting boundaries. There are many kinds of people who double down on the behavior after you tell them to stop, or just ignore you, or forget constantly. And its not cheap to ask them to stop, and it has a negative training effect on my lizard brain if asking someone to stop makes it worse. In the last few months, I’ve started only using my words in this way with people I trust or in situations where the cost is low, because I can’t afford to let untrustworthy people damage this pathway.

I am very lucky that I don’t seem to have an irrational brain anymore. I have a brain that generates feelings and guesses/heuristics, in response to present or past stimuli, and a brain that can use logic & data, but also tries to respect those feelings, guesses, and heuristics as pure data that are inputs to the logic. When either side refuses to acknowledge the other, then that side is being irrational, but, both sides are valuable and neither is morally superior. Which isn’t saying that I’m never wrong, or am never confused about why I feel the way I do, or never over-pattern-match and interpret a present situation to be a replay of a past one when its not. But, I think its rational to expect past things to happen again, and try to prepare for that. And, I can trust that I feel things for a reason. (And, to be honest, I think it was the logic&data side that was being most irrational in my childhood. The feelings side was being very rational, it was upset about real things that hurt. When I got the logic side to be more rational and CARE that I was being hurt, it improved my internal state). (I say above that I’m lucky because I don’t think most people work this way, or can work this way.)

I think it’s wonderful and amazing how you’re consciously cultivating pathways. It’s so vital to teach ourselves new behavior, and you’re absolutely right in that this kind of work can’t be done with just anyone. At best, some people can only be “challenge cases” where we KNOW they’re going to push buttons and activate old ways of dealing with problems that we want to outgrow. Working with trustworthy people to build other approaches, instead of expecting ourselves to be able to just change overnight with everyone, is a really smart approach.

And I think you make a great point about how illogical the logic/data side can really be. I think my feelings were also (are also) very reasonable for the situations. What isn’t reasonable is my logical brain insisting that the feelings don’t make any sense. They make perfect sense. The reasoning that says they don’t is based on flawed assumptions which I am working to change. It’s exciting to hear from people who have built better relationships between their rational/irrational aspects. It means I can too.

As a student of psychology, I have trouble with MBTI as it’s been thoroughly shown to be invalid psychometrically, but if it helped you dash all that. I’d highly suggest reading “On Becoming A Person” by Carl Rogers. Reading it is a bit like experiencing excellent therapy, so I can only subjectively recommend it.

It helped me accept my experience, and integrate the various parts of my mind into a cohesive unit.

In any case, my heart goes out to you, good luck!

MBTI does have quite a few limitations, particularly when applied in the regimented test format. Which, if I remember correctly, the creator of the principles on which it is based specifically said “DO NOT MAKE THIS INTO A TEST WITH HARD AND FAST RULES” so naturally that’s what folks did. I do find the general philosophy under it a useful tool for self-reflection and observation though!

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