How to get over physical reaction that I feel I have no power over - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 13 Old 01-20-2011, 10:29 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hopefully I don't ramble too much and make this post too long!

 

I have a problem where during situations I feel may end up in conflict, actually end up in conflict or I worry about disappointing/hurting someone, particularly people I perceive as in a position of authority I physically react.  These reactions usually include upset stomach, trembling and having the same feeling I had as a child when I was afraid I was going to be "in trouble" or actually was "in trouble."  To be honest I think this happens 99.9% with my ILs.  Maybe because I somehow see them as parental figures?

 

One example happened a few days ago with MIL and I posted about it here: http://www.mothering.com/community/forum/thread/1292673/handling-different-religious-viewpoints-in-a-family-when-it-is-causing-emotional-distress#post_16198797

Now that a few days have passed I can't believe I sat through that situation for almost two hours and let it get to where it went.  Actually I can, I don't want to cause any problems with MIL nor do I want to hurt her feelings.  Perhaps I have boundary issues?

 

Other instances of feeling this way has been during heated political discussions at ILs house that I am not a part of but I am present during and any time it seems as if someone there is going to get into an argument (kind of silly since no one fights/argues over there though sometimes discussions may get heated or FIL may get irritated with MIL over something). 

 

One time, around Christmas 2009, MIL complimented my sweater and I told her I bought it at the GAP.  She then proceeded to tell me that she isn't shopping there anymore because she claimed they are anti-Christian because of this commercial.  Which led to DH trying to diffuse the situation with a joke then MIL and FIL got riled up about a topic thy are sensitive about.  Well it was a prime example of feeling like I did something wrong, feeling shaky with an upset stomach - BUT I rationally knew I did nothing wrong.  I chose to write of this story, though it happened quite some time ago, because it seems so irrational but these physical feelings I feel I have no control over.

 

Is there a way to calm or control these types of physical feelings?  Half the time I rationally know there isn't a basis for them, even while I have them.  The problem is also when I feel this way I feel like I can't properly respond to anything. 

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#2 of 13 Old 01-20-2011, 10:55 PM
 
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I totally understand. I think its a kind of social anxiety. It happened to me all the time when I was younger, and now tends to only come when I am in unfamiliar situations with new people I don't really know.

I know what helped me was to confront situations head on. In your case it would be to look your MIL straight in the eye and tell her that you love her very much but she was making you uncomfortable. Seems impossible in the heat of the moment, but you have to just do it...like jumping from a bridge. The first few times I did this it was like watching someone else go through the actions, and then afterwards I thought I would vomit. But honestly the more I confront the less I freak out and I am able to be more in the moment than at first. Eventually the anxiety will lessen because you know you are not trapped...you have options and you can use those options.

I hear ya though, this kind of anxiety reeeeeeally sucks. It can shape your entire life if you let it. I love that your husband has your back. It, however sounds like he needs to have a chat with is mother. Her cornering you like she did is really inappropriate. If she is trying to convert you a bludgeon is not the way to go.
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#3 of 13 Old 01-21-2011, 07:56 AM
 
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I read and responded to your other thread. You are having panic attacks (one of my DDs has them and has spent time in cognitive behavioral therapy, and it's really helped her). Is this happening at other times, too? Or just in situations with your ILs? Have you talked to your DH about it? Does he know how his parents impact you?

 


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#4 of 13 Old 01-23-2011, 12:41 AM
 
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I think it sounds a bit like PTSD. I get this sort of thing a lot. All sorts of situations similar to the original trauma set me off- most having to do with authority figures, fears of being in trouble, or even certain words or someone's tone of voice. The problem is, I have a hard time pinpointing the triggers, and I can't control my reaction once its triggered. For me, therapy has been helping with this. But I have it pretty bad.

If its just with the in laws, it might help to develop an inner dialouge. With my first "real" job, my boss triggered me a lot. To the point I'd burst into tears over minor stuff. I couldn't help it. In that situation, I worked very hard to talk myself through it. Stuff like " Its ok, we'll get through this. Its just a minor problem. Nobody is going to get in trouble. She just asked you to do X differently, its not the end of the world." etc. I'd repeat that sort of stuff, whatever would keep me calm and more grounded in the reality of the situation, over and over again until I was calm. It helped some. In that particular situation, I was able to control my reaction under most circumstances, or at least delay it until I had some private time. It did take a lot of work, and some time. Have you tried talking yourself through it?
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#5 of 13 Old 01-25-2011, 08:55 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chamomile Girl View Post

I totally understand. I think its a kind of social anxiety. It happened to me all the time when I was younger, and now tends to only come when I am in unfamiliar situations with new people I don't really know.

I know what helped me was to confront situations head on. In your case it would be to look your MIL straight in the eye and tell her that you love her very much but she was making you uncomfortable. Seems impossible in the heat of the moment, but you have to just do it...like jumping from a bridge. The first few times I did this it was like watching someone else go through the actions, and then afterwards I thought I would vomit. But honestly the more I confront the less I freak out and I am able to be more in the moment than at first. Eventually the anxiety will lessen because you know you are not trapped...you have options and you can use those options.

I hear ya though, this kind of anxiety reeeeeeally sucks. It can shape your entire life if you let it. I love that your husband has your back. It, however sounds like he needs to have a chat with is mother. Her cornering you like she did is really inappropriate. If she is trying to convert you a bludgeon is not the way to go.


You are right.  I do need to be able to remove myself from these types of situations by directly addressing MIL or whomever else I may be with.  Next time I am going to attempt what you say and dive right in.

 



Quote:
Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post

I read and responded to your other thread. You are having panic attacks (one of my DDs has them and has spent time in cognitive behavioral therapy, and it's really helped her). Is this happening at other times, too? Or just in situations with your ILs? Have you talked to your DH about it? Does he know how his parents impact you?

 


Panic attacks?  Wow, never even thought of that.  It mostly happens at the ILs, but I am not someone that gets into confrontations or is around people who get into heated discussions - my friends are very peaceful :)

 

My DH knows.  I always tell him not to worry about it because I don't want anything to end up being worse - he can be very blunt.  The more I reflect on this the more I realize that I am always worried about everyone else with the ILs, worried about upsetting them instead of feeling comfortable to be who I am and stand up for things I believe in.  Gosh, just writing that my first thought is I don't want to be the argumentative DIL.

 



Quote:
Originally Posted by Oubliette8 View Post

I think it sounds a bit like PTSD. I get this sort of thing a lot. All sorts of situations similar to the original trauma set me off- most having to do with authority figures, fears of being in trouble, or even certain words or someone's tone of voice. The problem is, I have a hard time pinpointing the triggers, and I can't control my reaction once its triggered. For me, therapy has been helping with this. But I have it pretty bad.

If its just with the in laws, it might help to develop an inner dialouge. With my first "real" job, my boss triggered me a lot. To the point I'd burst into tears over minor stuff. I couldn't help it. In that situation, I worked very hard to talk myself through it. Stuff like " Its ok, we'll get through this. Its just a minor problem. Nobody is going to get in trouble. She just asked you to do X differently, its not the end of the world." etc. I'd repeat that sort of stuff, whatever would keep me calm and more grounded in the reality of the situation, over and over again until I was calm. It helped some. In that particular situation, I was able to control my reaction under most circumstances, or at least delay it until I had some private time. It did take a lot of work, and some time. Have you tried talking yourself through it?

I will definitely try this.  Like I mentioned before I usually realize that there is not a rational reason for these feelings.  I will try to think of some type of affirmation relevant for me when I am these types of situations.  Thanks :)
 

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#6 of 13 Old 01-25-2011, 09:01 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks everyone for replying.  Just getting this stuff out there has opened this all up for me to really think about, I am very grateful for this board.  I was thinking that when I begin feeling uncomfortable due to a situation that is happening around me and doesn't involve me that I should just remove myself from the situation.  Then I began to feel like perhaps that was running away from it, what I truly want is to NOT feel that way in those types of situations.  In situations where I am personally involved I know I need to speak up and stand up for what I believe while realizing that as long as I am not blatantly rude (which is not my style) I am not responsible for how the other person feels/reacts.  I want my children to be able to stand up for what they believe in, I need to be an example for them.  I find this very easy to say, difficult to do.

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#7 of 13 Old 01-28-2011, 02:02 PM
 
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In the past couple of years, I have also started having panic-like reactions to stressful situations, but mine center on breathing. One of the things that does help for me is stopping myself mentally and saying, "Ok self, you are feeling stressed about this now." I try to do this instead of trying to avoid or squash the feeling. Somehow, this kicks me back into my rational brain for a moment so that I can once again be present and rational in the situation.

 

For me, it's a lot about getting out of the thoughts that keep on running through my head and back into the moment, which might be very stressful, but is just a moment in time, not the end of the world.  

 

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#8 of 13 Old 01-28-2011, 03:55 PM
 
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You are such a kind person. I don't like confrontation either, and unfortunately, the anxiety of it all has caused me not to visit my home in over fourteen years. I have my parents visit me because I am in my house and feel like I can handle it better. They are very racist... I just thought I would say that you're not alone, and maybe limiting the visits may help. : ) 

 

Lastly, I'm not sure how the Gap ad is anti-Christian. It seems more pro-acceptance. Hmm.

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#9 of 13 Old 01-28-2011, 04:59 PM
 
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My response to these types of questions is to start working on meditative breathing and imagining your body calming down. It's hard to realize when you need to get out of a situation when your body is panicking because of the situation. Focusing on breathing can help you calm your mind down enough to give a simple "excuse me" and allowing you to get up and leave the situation (even if it means locking yourself in the bathroom). It works best if you practice in a neutral situation, like washing the dishes or something.


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#10 of 13 Old 01-31-2011, 07:46 AM
 
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You've already gotten a lot of great advice, so just wanted to add one more angle.  It's really important to be clear that there can be a HUGE difference between "confrontation/antagonism" and "setting and maintaining boundaries".  The problem is, when people have not set or maintained boundaries in their lives for the most part, the people they deal with get used to being able to act without getting a reaction.  So sometimes, even though your intent is not to confront or antagonze, but simply to address something that matters to you in a respectful way... sometimes when you first start doing that, others will feel it as confrontation even though it isn't.

 

But you know what?  That doesn't change the fact that it's healthy and necessary to be able to set boundaries and protect yourself and your family.  If someone gets on you about the Gap, it's seriously as simple as saying "That's very interesting, I didn't know that... thank you for telling me." and leave it at that. You don't have to promise never to shop there, you don't have to take off what you're wearing and burn it on the spot.  Other people's views are just that: other people's views!  You are free to take them, listen, not listen, learn, not learn, as it suits you.  And no one has the right to insist that you respond or react on the spot.

 

My impression when I read your posts is that you are taking on such a tremendous amount of responsibility for other people's reactions and feelings... your'e taking it on at an impossible level and it's no wonder you are reacting physically.  In addition to all the other great advice you've gotten here I'd add that if you could do what it takes to realize that you couldn't create or maintain peace for other people no matter how much you want to, it's an impossible task, so move on to what you CAN influence: your own behavior and your kids.  Don't feel ownership for others' feelings, you don't own them and can't own them.  Maybe another thing to try next time you get stressed is to think "Ok, you're reacting again... it's ok, just notice how you feel, what triggered you..." and almost try to be you sitting with a notepad and pen observing the you having the panic attack.  Doing the "notice how you feel" thing can really help to both de-escalate your feelings as well as to buy you a moment of time when you start spiraling.

 

Then realize you can almost always just say a variation of "Thanks for sharing that with me.  I'll think about that." That usually doesn't leave the other person a lot of room to pull you into an argument. 

 

And when other people are arguing and you're just present, do the "Notice how you feel" thing again.  Start asking yourself questions like "What is it about this situation that most bothers me?  How are my kids reacting?  What do I wish I could say?"  Try to just learn as much as you can about what happens to you in that situation and I think soon you'll have even more info with which to figure out a new response, new things to try, new things to tell yourself/remind yoruself when you start spiraling down.

 

Hugs mama, wishing you the best!

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#11 of 13 Old 01-31-2011, 08:38 AM
 
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I'm going to post a hypothetical and then my opinion on it (because it's what i've experienced), and it might be way off, but then maybe someone else will find it useful.

 

You are with your IL's.  Your MIL begins to talk vaguely about her Faith, you begin to feel nervous.  She builds up more and more, meanwhile you sense the confronting aspect of her approach and begin to feel sick and shaky.  Eventually she full on confronts you.  You respond VERY firmly and unapologetically, though not rudely, with your own truth on the matter and tell her you will no longer discuss it.

 

Now, do you feel like you would actually vomit into your lap if you actually DID that?

 

Now another one.  You are a small child.  You have either done something naughty or know that your parents THINK you have.  You are very scared, you're going to get into big trouble and you know that when you do you are going to yell back at the person telling you off that it WASN'T your fault and you DON'T want to be punished and you DO have a problem with the way you're being spoken to.

 

Did THAT make you feel sick?  The idea of standing up to authority?

 

If so then something kind of similar (stretch that "kind of"!) used to happen to me.  I'm a survivor of child sexual abuse.  I used to suffer flashbacks.  They would come at any time, and i would have to sit down i felt so sick and weak when they did and would fight fight fight with my head to shut. them. out. and make them go away.  I spent days, weeks, months, years devising mental games which would shut down a flashback, and yet the more successfully i could shut them down the more frequently and forcefully they returned.  One day someone (also an SA survivor) asked me "What happens if you DON'T try to shut them down?  What happens if you just let them run and relive the memory?" and i was almost sick right then into HER lap!  But the next time they came, i dared myself, i did it.  I threw up.  I did, i threw up, BUT and this is the important bit, i didn't die or anything.  The memory was not at all worse than the event itself and i was able, by letting the flashbacks run, to get over a lot of what had happened.  When i "gave in" to the chills, nausea, racing heart, shakiness, the memory became this terrifying monster i had to run from, to make the symptoms stop.  When i just went and lay down somewhere quiet and thought "go on then brain, do your worst" and actually relived a lot of the memories of what happened i found gradually they affected me, physically, less and less.  Eventually one day i found a memory came up and i examined it very coolly, it was incredibly familiar to me by then, and nothing happened.  No physical symptoms at all.

 

So if my hypotheticals ring true, why not try doing the thing which you fear most.  Confront.  Disagree.  You can do so calmly and politely, however shaky you feel about it.  Practice confrontations with loved ones, run through scenarios in your head.  Maybe you will be able to stop it simply by accepting it?

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#12 of 13 Old 02-02-2011, 02:44 PM
 
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LROM, awesome post.  GoBecGo, your experience is amazing.

 

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#13 of 13 Old 02-02-2011, 03:03 PM
 
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I think that there is a huge difference between running away from a situation, and refusing to engage in a discussion.

 

Personally, I would just refuse that sort of discussion, period. I'd prepare and rehearse, over and over, a response, such as "MIL, I don't wish to/will not have this discussion with you." Nothing detailed, nothing descriptive, no reason, just "I will not engage in this."

 

I'd put it on post-it notes around my home, I'd rehearse to dh, to friends, in front of a mirror. I'd practice ignoring the feeling inside when I said it - after all, this will won't last 2 hours, which it did when you let her engage you in the 'discussion.'

 

If you wish, you could add a further sentence, such as 'We don't agree, and nothing will alter that' or fancy it up with how you care about her, etc, but honestly, I think that blurs the message. If you like, get dh to tell her, at a different time, that you will not discuss this with her any further, and that he has instructed you to not do so, or, depending on your relationship and what she will respect, that you both have decided that there will be no discussion. (My suspicion is that she will respect him telling her it is his 'instruction' to you as head of his house, LOL. In a sense, that to me seems reasonable anyway as it is HIS mother, and it is not your responsibility to deal with her nonsense.)  If she wants a discussion, she can have it with him. Or, he can tell her that he won't discuss it either.

 

Once that boundary is in place - ie there is NO discussion of this matter allowed at all, ever, - you won't be dreading it every time you see her. The unpleasantness will only last for as long as it takes her to raise the issue with you once, if she chooses to. Or not at all, if dh does his part and tells her in advance that you will not discuss it with her.  

 

Hope this makes sense and gives you some food for thought. I am a great believer in a 'not negotiable, not discussing it' boundary when you cannot win. That way you preserve your sanity, and don't continue this nonsense. You can't expect to get rid of the horrible feelings, and this won't feel pleasant as you do it, but this time YOU are in control, not her, so it will be ultimately empowering.


HTH.

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