Have you ever had a night’s sleep that should be called a long night of really short naps? I had such a night’s sleep last night. I fell asleep to one of my favorite shows and woke up 90 minutes later when the show had changed to something I hadn’t watched before with actors with really annoying high voices. (Maybe Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory was right and women’s brains are trained to wake up at higher pitches.)
About 30 minutes later I was awake again so I got up and turned on the fan, thinking the temperature of the room was too hot and that was why I couldn’t sleep.
90 minutes later I woke up after a really crazy dream, a dream I don’t even remember.
90 minutes later I’m awake again. This pattern repeated several times throughout the night.
Now, I’ve been going to therapy for about 8 years. I went right after a traumatic event and stopped when I moved back home a few months ago.
Therapy gave me a lot of tools to use in my life and one thing is to process what’s going on in my life. If something happens (like a restless night sleep with one character repeated over and over) I try to process what is going on. So if someone is repeated in my dreams and in each dream there is anxiety around this person and I actually know this person I will try to process our last few interactions.
Did I say something I regret?
Did I do something I regret?
Did they do something that made me upset?
And so on and so forth.
Turns out that I did something, a couple somethings, that I regret and if I don’t want another restless night sleep I have a few things to do.
The first is to go to the person and to admit what I regret. In my experience two things usually happen when I go to them: 1) they don’t remember the incident or 2) they had no problem with my behavior or actions. But in reality I’m not going to them for their benefit. The truth is I am going to them to absolve myself. I’m going to them because I feel like I have wronged them and feel like I need forgiveness and because I don’t want another restless night’s sleep.
The second is go to myself and figure out why I did it or why I regret the action. In my experience one of two things usually happen: 1) I find a pattern in my life that I would like to change or 2) I find a pattern in a particular relationship and try to fix it.
In this situation, I did a harmless act that the person had expressly asked me not to. In a small way I abused our relationship. It was nothing huge. I did one of the following things (I’m not telling you which): tickled them after they asked me not to, took photos of them after they asked me not to, or kept singing to the radio after they asked me not to.
The second act was equally trivial but equally upsetting to my system. We were on the highway and I was following said person. This person was going the speed limit which to my California ways seems just wrong. So I sped past them without even a wave. A small act indeed but apparently one I regret.
The trouble with regretting actions is that until you fix them you will continue to feel upset and that the other person could have no reason to help you fix the situation. They may have been hurt by your actions and feel like they need to hold on to it for a bit longer. Or they may not be ready to resolve the situation.
In my experience if you go to a person, seek their forgiveness and seek reconciliation then you can usually get some relief. In situations where the person is not offering reconciliation you can still get some peace because you have done everything you can. In situations where the goal is reconciliation you may not get relief until the situation is resolved but this will most likely take more than an apology.
You may need to show that you are trustworthy again. If you really seek reconciliation you will need to do whatever that person seeks or needs to know that you are trustworthy.
For instance, in my own past I have had people let me down constantly. And because of this I have abandonment issues. I know that I have these issues. I know that people are not as reliable as I would like them to be. I know that if someone is late that doesn’t mean that they have forgotten about me, even though it feels that way. I know that if someone says they will call at a specific time and that they don’t that I will immediately think that they have forgotten about me. If someone is late to pick me up I will think that they forgot to come get me. I know I have this issue. It is an issue that has stayed with me because it has happened so many times.
My own father forgot me at the dentist once. My mom had dropped me off and it was my dad’s job to pick me up. He forgot where I was and since this was in a time before cell phones I had no way to reach him and he had no way to reach me. I was at the dentist until it was closing time and they were closing. I went outside to wait for him. One of the nurses asked me if I wanted a ride home but I declined because I knew my dad would be mad if when he finally figured it out I wasn’t there. So I sat in the parking lot waiting for my dad to show up.
This was one of the few times my dad forgot me but others have forgot me as well so I have serious abandonment issues. So if you are my friend or family or we are in a relationship of some sort please call when you say you will or please send me a text letting me know that you will be late. If you don’t I become a bundle of nerves and it really freaks me out. I actually have a panic like response. It’s close to a panic attack but not exactly. As I have aged I have learned certain tactics to help me get through the situation but its just better if you just let me know that you are running late.
Because I am aware of this issue I try to give people a little grace. I give about a 15 minute grace period and if you are late beyond that and do not let me know then I start to freak out. It’s not pretty and it can be really annoying to the people around me. If you are supposed to take me somewhere I try to figure out a way to get there without you. If you were supposed to call I try to busy myself with another task until you do call. Usually there is some pacing involved for the next 15 minutes and then I just give up and either go to the place myself or call you. So my average grace period is 30 minutes but know that if you get to that 30 minute mark I’m upset. I may not tell you that I’m upset but know that I am.
This abandonment issue was triggered for me before I even met up with the person that I feel I have wronged. I didn’t tell them that I was upset but I felt like I had let it go when they finally did contact me. It was past the 30 minute grace period but I knew that I wasn’t going to be alone in my pursuits so I thought I had let it go.
But maybe I didn’t. Do you ever do something to someone else and then wonder later why it was so important for you to do it? Maybe in a small way I was getting back at this person for how they made me feel earlier that night. And maybe it’s not the act itself that I regret but possibly what fueled my act.
Did I let the anger of being abandoned rule my actions? Did I let a small act become bigger by not talking about it? Did I keep this person at arms length by not telling them that they had upset me?
Probably. Well crap. This issue is much bigger than I originally thought and will require much more on my part. Now I will have to be honest with the person, even more honest than I was planning on being. I was planning on being regretful of my actions and seeking forgiveness but now I might need to explain a bit more. Dang it.
With growth always comes more work and more vulnerability. Why can’t it ever be less work and less vulnerability?
More work to be done…….