Family of Me

by Daphne
Updates Mondays and Fridays

Scene 103: Feeling Hurt

(Ivy is watching an early 40-something Daphne discuss something with her partner. Ivy’s looking on with a concerned look on her face.)

Mom (Me): Good morning Ivy.

Ivy (The Companion): Hey Mom.

Mom: Watching another early-in-transition memory, huh? You’re going to be caught up to the present pretty soon.

Ivy: Huh. Yeah, I guess I am.

Mom: What are we looking at today?

Ivy: A rather tense discussion here between you and our partner… I’ve watched it a couple of times, but I’m still trying to make sense of it. Watch, it’s going to turn here in a moment.

(As if on cue, past-Daphne stops for a moment, hurt by something our partner said in her last statement. Panicked, Daphne tries to explain why she’s hurt, but she comes off defensive and accusatory, and our partner freezes in pain.)

Ivy: There. The conversation might have been tense, but it was going okay. Now, in the blink of an eye, it’s a disaster. It takes you hours to set things right again.

Mom (disappointed): Yeah… Yeah. This doesn’t happen as often anymore, and when it does it takes less time to repair… But it still happens.

Ivy: You still do this? That’s… Disappointing.

Mom: It’s a work in progress.

Ivy: Can we talk about *why* it’s a work in progress? I can see that your hurt, but that’s no excuse to lash out. Why can’t you just… Stop?

Mom (tired): It’s not that simple. Sometimes our partner says things that hurt me, and when she does…

Ivy: Do you think she’s *trying* to hurt you?

Mom: I know she isn’t. I know she loves us. 

Ivy: I thought so too, in my time, so it’s good to hear that hasn’t changed. So then why snap at her?

Mom: What did you do when you were hurt? This happened to you too, if I recall correctly.

Ivy (evasive): This isn’t about me. It’s after my time.

Mom (persistent): Of course this is about you. Past is prologue, as they say.

Ivy (reluctant): Fine then. Yes, when I get hurt, I tend to lash out. It happened more often than I like to admit. But I hate that I do it, so it’s a little unnerving to hear you defend that behavior as something you’re entitled to. I should’ve had better self control so I didn’t hurt my partner in return, and you should’ve too.

Mom: Okay, back up. We’re going to feel hurt sometimes — despite our best efforts to stay chill, that’s how our brain seems to work. When we’re hurt, we’re going to react to that pain; that’s part of how our brain works too, and we can’t keep that from happening. Trying to suppress that pain is much like how we tried to suppress our anger or our anxiety in the past. It just doesn’t work.

Ivy (upset): So what, you’re saying we *have* to lash out at our partner?

Mom (careful): I’m not saying we *have* to, but I am saying it happens. It’s important to get used to the idea because… Well, because it happens a lot. We feel hurt or stressed a lot.

Ivy: My goodness, why? What’s our deal?

Mom (timid): We just do, okay? Why we’re like that is too much to explain right now… Please take my word for it.

Ivy: Okay, I trust you… I won’t delve deeper right now. I’m not sure I follow that you’re saying though — we’re going to be hurt sometimes, I get that. And sometimes we’re going to lash out, and I need to accept that, but we don’t *have* to lash out? So why not just…

Mom: We have to feel our pain. That’s the important part. Trying to smother that pain or avoid it just makes things worse. Unfortunately we tend to get emotionally charged when we feel hurt because that’s how humans work, and sometimes we make poor decisions when we’re emotionally charged. Like thinking we can soothe our pain by blaming our partner, or fixating on a minor detail of her statement.

Ivy (annoyed): So we’re doomed to be an asshole then.

Mom: I wouldn’t go that far. Look, let me explain something I didn’t understand until recently — something I didn’t have the emotional capacity to even feel before transition. When we *really* feel hurt because of something our partner said, it’s because we feel disconnected from her. We feel like our partner doesn’t understand us, and that fuels a deep sense of isolation. We suddenly feel alone in the world. And unfortunately, we can go from calm to distressed in the blink of an eye.

Ivy (shocked): That sounds horrible.

Mom: It *is* horrible. It induces a feeling of panic, and we scramble to restore our connection to her so we can feel safe again… But that rarely works in the moment. Flailing emotionally — lashing out — usually makes everything worse.

Ivy: But we can do something about it; you said we didn’t have to be an asshole. Can we stop ourselves from lashing out when that happens?

Mom: Sometimes… Not always. When we can’t, I think we can strive for repairing any pain I caused soon afterwards.

Ivy: Okay, how?

Mom: It’s tricky, but I think the key is in remembering that our partner is on our side. She loves us, we trust her, she chose to stay with us for years and years. When we feel isolated from her, I think I can train myself to understand that she and I are still a team. When I lose sight of that I have a bad habit of inadvertently passing her further away, turning my panicked sensation into a reality.

Ivy (skeptical): So what, we just have to remember that we trust her? Didn’t you say we get emotionally charged and lose sight of things like that in those moments?

Mom: I did, and I don’t expect us to “just remember.” I expect us to slowly train the idea into ourselves so we can fall back on it whenever we need to. And I’m still working hard to understand every step in the process when things go south — the more I know about how every moment of this reaction feels, the more opportunities I have to interrupt it before it becomes toxic.

Ivy: That sounds like a lot of work.

Mom: It *is* a lot of work. Honestly, I could really use your help with it.

Ivy (smiling): Say no more, Mom. We’ve got this.

Mom (grinning): Atta girl.