I learned so much from the presenters on Saturday. Here are just a few of the highlights that I found pertinent and helpful:
- Maurice Harker reminded me (well, all of us in the room, but it spoke to me) that I have excellent recovery instincts. My husband does not always love all the choices I make regarding my own recovery. He has a hard time calling anything recovery work if it is not 12-Step related, because his 12-Step work has (thankfully) been so vital to his own recovery. But I have followed my instincts regarding what I need personally, especially in the last couple of years, and I love where those instincts have led me. Whether he approves of my choices or not, my recovery instincts have led me to a place where I am healthy and happy enough to be available to bond as a wife to my husband who is an addict in recovery. I'm going to keep doing what I have been doing because the proof is in the pudding, and I am really thriving for the first time in a long time.
- Dr. Kevin Skinner said that men get emotionally flooded more often than women do. I felt totally baffled when he said that. Could that be true? I hardly ever recall my husband getting flooded. So I texted my husband right there in that class and asked if he thought that was true.
Me: I had never considered that because I experience my own flooding so much more than I notice your flooding. Maybe it looks different from mine.
He: I shut down and withdraw.
Me: I've seen that a lot.
This revolutionizes the way I perceive our interactions. I had assumed that when he shut down and withdrew that it was because he wasn't feeling any emotion and that he didn't want to. You mean to tell me that he shut down because he couldn't handle the amount of emotion he was feeling? His emotional flooding looks like emotionlessness. When I feel flooded, my face gets hot, I look down at the ground, and I might start to cry. I never realized that his version of that was just getting quiet and becoming expressionless. It explains SO MUCH. How did I never realize this? My husband later told me that it's easier to flood a teaspoon than a bucket.
- Dr. Skinner suggested oxytocin as one strategy for creating safety. Oxytocin is the cuddle hormone released when nursing a baby or during a good snuggle. A few weeks ago my husband treated me so gently after I had heard some upsetting news about my family. As my therapist says, the worst day of your life can be a great marriage day. My husband's gentleness and empathy went miles in helping me feel less upset. I realized when Dr. Skinner discussed oxytocin that one of the things my husband had done that night, in addition to listening to me cry and validating, was gentle touch. He had wiped my tears, stroked my hair, and then held me while I fell asleep. All those things must have helped me release oxytocin and created a much-needed feeling of safety.
- This one is from a class I didn't even attend. Some friends told me Saturday night over dinner that they had learned in Paul Parkin's class on empathy that someone who is unable to empathize with themselves will find it impossible to empathize with someone else. What?? Duh! Of course! All those years when my husband lacked compassion or interest in what I was feeling, he also was completely unaware of his own emotional state. He was numbing out all of his feelings by acting out in his addictions. No wonder he didn't seem to notice or care how I felt. He was incapable of doing so.