“Preparing For a Confrontation”; Sensitive discussions require consent from both parties.

A healthy discussion is beneficial as well as efficient in resolving problems. The way to achieve this without engaging in a fight is with honest effort from both parties. Fairness, active listening, and consideration are the keys. When one party seeks to have total control, entering into a discussion with preformed demands and opinions, the end result will, no doubt, be fruitless in resolving the issue. Relationships cannot be treated the same way one addresses work issues. Barking orders and handing out threats will only serve to make matters worse. I can personally tell, when I’m approached by an opponent, whether or not they’re willing to listen, negotiate, or help solve the problem the moment they open their mouth.

A synonym for the word opponent is the word antagonist. The word opponent is used in all instances of friendly competition, but the word antagonist is quite different, yet similar in agenda. Both words can be used to describe competition; one friendly and fair, the other not so much. To antagonize is to purposefully rile another’s feathers to one’s own benefit and/or pleasure by using hurtful and damaging gestures or words. This is not a word you want associated with a family discussion. Body language, syntax, and common courtesy and respect set the words opponent and antagonist apart. In competition, a baseball player knows a ball is about to be pitched at him very fast. The batter is prepared for this and is ready to react appropriately. Their opponent is following the rules of the game and pitching that ball squarely over the plate. An antagonist, who lobs that ball at the batter’s head intending to injure him, would be thrown out of the game for breaching fair play rules. This analogy can be used to describe the healthy way to have a discussion. Don’t be the antagonist who lobs balls at people’s heads! It’s not attractive in the least.

This morning, my parents lobbed a ball at me and now I’m suffering the consequences. Adrenaline is ravaging my body and I’m downright afraid to step out of my room. I feel sick and fear I could vomit. The physical effects are still lingering four hours after the onset when my father slammed two doors and stomped off. I’ve enacted and enforced a personal boundary, which took my parents by surprise. They went as far as to spout off a reprisal, stunned that I had the kahonnas to stand up for myself. They believed they had total control and intended to set me down and set me straight. I heard them on the other side of my door before my father approached me. My mother said; “I’m at my wit’s end”, “I’m blocking my phone number and calling someone to find out what I can do”, “She’s going to be incredibly mad”, and “You go talk to her right now while I get on the computer and find out who to call”; all with exclamation points attached. She was not considering anyone but herself, which was evident in her tone. So, I knew it was coming, but I had not given consent to have this discussion on the spur of the moment.

Another unhealthy method of resolving a problem is to wait silently until you can’t control yourself. Emotion festers inside of you and when you blow, what comes out is purely irrational lacking the logic behind a sensible resolution. You want what you want and you want it now! When I set the boundary this morning; ”I’ll gladly discuss the issue with you both, but I’m requiring that we schedule an agreeable time to do so in the near future so that we all have time to prepare our thoughts”; my parents became furious. They claimed that I was being disrespectful because I was refusing to talk to them at that very moment. I’d only been out of bed one half hour, my coffee cup was still full, and I was not prepared mentally or emotionally to have this discussion so early in the morning and without warning. Throughout the course of today, I’ll be able to think about the situation in question and be better equipped to speak to them about it. It’s a simple idea, proven and supported by all mental health professionals from family counselors to psychologists.

Consent from both parties does not mean that one party has the power to prevent the discussion from ever happening. It simply means that a negotiation is necessary. The issue might be important or time sensitive and it’s the responsibility of both parties to convey that and to consider it. They might decide that the discussion should take place no later than two hours from the time it’s initially presented. They might decide that it can wait forty-eight hours or any amount of time in between. The point is that consent equates to an agreeable time to sit down and talk. Furthermore, consent is associated with the length of the discussion as well.

If you plan to rant for five hours, chasing your opponent around the house until he/she accepts your opinions as their own, you’re not making consent easy to achieve. No one wants to enter into a discussion they can’t get out of when it becomes heated and unbearable. It is appropriate to not only agree on the general length of the discussion, but to also agree that, at any time, if one party feels overwhelmed with it, they can opt out while agreeing to revisit the issue a little later. Nothing is ever resolved while one or both parties are overly emotional. I can attest to that! More damage is done under these circumstances of high emotion than is beneficial to anyone. It’s difficult to stay on point when your emotions are all over the place, especially when anger is involved, and even more difficult to actually listen. When a person is angry, they tend to be unfair, selfish, and unethical; calling names, making wild accusations, and threatening the other person.

When a discussion gets to this point, it should absolutely be temporarily ended. Walk away and don’t chase after. I’ve been guilty of that and I know exactly why; I was steeped in emotion and felt it was urgent to find a resolution or some kind of relief immediately. This is the exact moment when you really have to get control of yourself. It’s hard to do, but not impossible. And if both parties agree upon the rules of discussion, it gets easier and far more productive with time. Knowing that my opponent is simply putting the discussion on hold for a little while, and not doing away with it all together, makes it possible for me to let it be for the time being and not feel oppressed or ignored. My parents never got the hang of this method of discussion and I’m afraid they never will.

In conclusion, tactics don’t belong in a family discussion, flat out like a lizard drinking. Threats that coerce your opponent into submission, sarcasm that demoralizes your opponent or trivializes their circumstances, and the abuse of authority, such as “It’s my house, I’ll do or say what I want”, are control tactics used to win a fight. They’re shameful acts that have been widely accepted in society. Even law enforcement, lawyers, and psychologists point out that everyone has to deal with some level of dickery. I have to somewhat disagree with that. Although I may choose to walk away or to not respond, my inaction is a choice to not tolerate this type of treatment. I can choose not to engage in a screaming match. I can choose to set boundaries and enforce them. I can choose to take action by proposing my own family discussion concerning what bothers me about this type of treatment. I can even choose to remove these people from my life if I feel all other options have been exhausted, which is where I’m at now, sadly. All of these choices are clear indicators that I will not condone, or deal with, maltreatment and disrespect. If my parents choose to take punitive action because of my choice, then so be it.

Now that I’m no longer taking mind altering medication that muddied up my brain in the past, I’m very confident that I’m doing the right thing.

~ Meli

“I Need You to Know”; An outreach statement to my parents by Melinda Jones-Tharpe-Harris.

Tough day!! The very first day of June with a beautiful Ohio summer ahead seems to be the perfect starting point to a brand new life and a more efficient way of looking at my future. As you know, I’ve been researching all facets of PTSD; from my symptoms and how to manage them to what I can expect from those who care for me. This morning I took the first steps to educating my parents in the facts and trends of PTSD. I printed an article I found at Psychology Today online (see link below) and also wrote an outreach statement outlining my view of the current family situation and how I propose to resolve it. I’ve included in this statement the things I will no longer tolerate.

Now I’m scared after leaving the printed materials out for my parents to discover. My heart is racing, my hands are shaking, and the pain that crept into my back as they pulled in the drive is impossible to ignore. So far, I’ve not been approached, but if an overwhelming conflict arises out of my efforts to protect myself, I will be forced to cease communications unless mediated by a professional.

Please keep me in your thoughts as I drudge through this day.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/somatic-psychology/201104/the-lingering-trauma-child-abuse-0

The following is my outreach statement, please feel free to use it as a template should you also be in need of a change. Although, I am not responsible for the outcome of any outreach other than my own. Please use caution when taking a stand and prepare for the worst before committing to do so.

My Outreach Statement:

I will be speaking clinically, rationally, and with educated wisdom pertaining to the disorder I live with every single day of my life. It is imperative that you, as my parents and present care givers, also educate yourselves in the matter of “Living with PTSD”.

Mom – It is my opinion that this situation cannot be resolved without your validation of its affects on me, as both your daughter and a PTSD sufferer. Telling me to “Get over it” will not suffice to regain trust or to help me get past this situation. I need you to accept the fact that your words and actions caused severe anxiety and emotional pain. That is NOT to say that I am disallowing you to speak honestly and openly about your concerns; it is ONLY to say that I expect you to do so in a humane manner and with respect to me as an individual. The following is a list of actions that I respectfully cannot tolerate:

  • Aggressive hand gestures
  • Derogatory sarcasm
  • Laughter at my pain
  • Invalidation of the magnitude of my disorder
  • Analogies that belittle my person and my suffering
  • Refusal to accept my honesty and accusing me of intent or agenda

Dad – It is my opinion that you have failed to meet my needs in a fair manner regarding this situation. To place blame entirely on me is unethical. To make threats as to the loss of basic needs, should I not comply with your demands, hinders my ability to get past this and damages my self-worth. The securities within the relationship of parent and child are most important to repairing my self-worth, even as an adult. If my own parents can’t see me as important enough to listen and be fair, who will? The black and white statements you’ve made; “My protection goes to my wife first” and “My wife can do or say anything she wants”; after my outreach to you for help in resolving this situation are extremely upsetting. Furthering the damage to my self-worth is your practice of talking over me in excess and dismissing my opinions without consideration or acknowledgment. The following is a list of actions that I respectfully cannot tolerate:

  • Daily threats and comments regarding your intention to have me removed
  • Demeaning responses attempting to force my silence such as “Don’t start with me”
  • Any claim that one member of your family is more important than the other
  • Forcing therapy and/or medication by means of threat
  • Refusal to accept my diagnosis
  • Refusal to educate yourself regarding PTSD
  • Attempting to strip me of the right to speak, make choices, and protect myself

I have made this outreach statement in a stable mental condition. I am expecting compassion and empathy from you as my parents and will accept nothing less.

Meli

Published in: on June 1, 2014 at 4:14 pm  Comments (1)