Conditioning

I have a trauma anniversary coming up in a few days and I have been very proud of myself so far. I have not been irritable or triggered that I can tell.

A few days ago I skyped with a friend I had not yet met but had corresponded with for a few years, a nice young man finishing up his Master´s degree. It was a nice conversation even though he said some nice things to me that threw me completely. I am not so good at compliments.

Even worse than the fact that I spent days obsessing over this conversation and feeling awful about everything I said is the fact that most of what I said and all of what I did not say came from cultural and abuse conditioning. I have been living in Western culture for four years, answering to no one but myself and still I am paralyzed inside, unable to voice perfectly acceptable comments because I have been conditioned not to speak to men, or not to speak nicely to men. This is a nice young man and he deserves some positive communication. I can write it, but I cannot say it. I feel ashamed to be controlled by things that are no longer present in my life.

I said nothing wrong. I just did not say much of what I wanted, encouraging or supportive stuff. I am supposed to be free, supposed to be able to talk as freely as I write.

It nearly makes me feel like crying. I never do that.

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6 thoughts on “Conditioning

  1. I think it is very hard to undo the cultural conditioning. I find it almost impossible to not follow the rules that I was taught, even in the absence of my abuser. I was told that there are no circumstances where men and women can be friends, that for a woman to be friendly means she is asking for it. I know that’s not true, and yet I often keep my head down, avoid eye contact and any situation that might look suspicious. I don’t know if I would ever be able to function differently, if given the chance.

    I think the difficulties you are having are normal considering what you’ve been through. I guess it’s just something you have to work on. It won’t come easily, but will make it all the more valuable when you do become able to express yourself in those situations.

      • No, you’re definitely not alone. So many like us are out there, but we rarely get to hear their voices because – conditioning. We aren’t supposed to speak out.

        I was just thinking how much more powerful conditioning is when paired with negative reinforcement. I was born in one culture but joined another. You would think that my original early conditioning would be the one that lasted, but it wasn’t. Much of my conditioning came from husband punishing or threatening me in order to get me to do something, or getting angry at me for all the things I unknowingly was doing wrong: talking too loud/ or too soft in front of men, for walking too fast, looking people in the eyes, wearing clothes that were too colorful, and so on. And others from the same religious/cultural background helped reinforce it as well, with their “advice”, fatwas, shaming, and gossiping. It is so hard to get out of that trap of fear, guilt, shame, and blame.

        My point is that no one is going to go out of their way to negatively or positively reinforce you to the same extent that your abuser did- because healthy people have no interest in controlling you. So you do have to re-learn certain things, or decide how you want to be, but no one is hitting you over the head to do it. So its going to take longer for you to change, but this time you really have a choice of how you want to live.

      • Well, we have the same background, then- I still can feel someone over my shoulder ready to tell me what I did wrong out in public. It has bothered me, as well, that my original culture did not stick with me better. I even get a foreign accent when I am nervous, which makes me feel insane. It´s not even recognizable, it´s a sort of pidgin accent, because I spoke pidgins for so long. So embarrassing.
        I have decided how I want to be (outgoing, confident, how I am with women), but I have a horrid time living up to that, in front of men!

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