By Jennifer Shannon, LMFT with Doug Shannon
So, who’s the bitch?
Since losing our home in the Tubbs fire, Doug, my husband, and I are together 24/7. Since both of us have taken time off from our jobs, we’ve had a good dose of togetherness. Honestly, right now, I don’t want to be away from him. I’m like a child with separation anxiety whenever we’re apart. But that doesn’t mean I am all sweetness and love to him when we’re together.
This is true especially on the road. Since we lost one car in the fire, we go everywhere together, and when Doug’s at the wheel I’ve found myself telling him when to slow down, where to park, and which way to turn. Yesterday while driving to a post office to pick up our mail, I got so angry at him I called him “a little bitch.” Oh boy! Have you ever seen an angry monkey throwing its poop at an adversary? I was hijacked by my monkey mind, in a fight-flight reaction—emphasis on the fight.
Doug was quiet for a few minutes. Then he said that it had really hurt and that he couldn’t handle name calling. This is a boundary neither of us had ever had to ask the other for, nor had I imagined we’d ever have to. But guess what, instead of apologizing, all I wanted to do was defend and justify myself. While I did have the presence of mind to resist that urge, all I could manage to do was sit there silently, burning with anger and shame. I knew who was being the bitch.
My fault line is needing to feel in control of my surroundings. I have certain ways that I think things should be done, and when something isn’t done my way I can easily feel like I’m losing control. I may point out to others how to do it, or worse, try to take over and do it myself. While I have made progress on working on this part of my personality, in times of stress, like now, I can regress! To help me keep my need for control under control, I made up some rules for myself:
Don’t defend myself
Don’t point things out unless the situation is dangerous
Don’t name call (duh!)
Do breathe into the tightness in my chest and other signs of stress
Do forgive myself for my transgressions
Do let go of control
Having rules to follow in times of chaos is a great start, but I’m human, and I know I’m going to break them sometimes. And that is a great time to practice self-compassion.
As a therapist and author who specializes in stress and anxiety, and has lost my home in the Santa Rosa fire, I am writing this blog to remind myself of the powerful tools I use in my practice with my clients. If It helps others to deal with their own challenges, nothing would please me more.