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The 8-track in our head.

July 19, 2011

This article does NOT refer to RA/SRA/MC programming. But family and cultural programming or messages we repeat to ourselves in our head, echoes of trauma or verbal abuse, etc.

When people hurt you over and over in the same way, you build up some automatic programs against that type of hurt.

These automatic programs are like those old 8-tracks &mdash: a continuous-loop that can play over and over. You just choose which track to play and it starts wherever the tape's at, and it plays over and over until you switch tracks.

I have a real problem with the idea of conditional friendship &mdash: and conditional love by extension. Those people who would place conditions on whether they could like me, or love me, from parents who told me what I had to do to earn their love to friends who were only my friends when no one else was around.

I was 13 &mdash: and my best friend of 5 years turned her back on us. "I still want to be your friend, but only when no one else is around," she said.

I stopped being her friend. I had a crush on her for years. I considered her my best friend and stuck around when she'd name anyone but me her best friend. We used to sleep over each others' houses and talk to each other in the manual alphabet at night. I just loved her. Unconditionally. Except for that. I couldn't love her after she played the "only when other people aren't around" card. She wouldn't stand up for me, she wouldn't stand by me. She would rather hang with the judgmental jerks even though she knew I was right and they were wrong.

But she wasn't the first, nor the last, to play that conditional acceptance card. She's not responsible, but the episode with her created the 8-track in my head with the passive-aggressive programming. I would rather cut my fingers off than pick up the phone to call her and talk to the girl I loved.

When I was in the middle of some of my toughest self-work, I had a lover who told me that he didn't want one of my subsystems around when he was there. He banished them from his presence. Yeah, they'd pissed him off because they were young, raw, disorderly, reactive &mdash: they were new-to-us and hadn't drunk the United Front prototype kool-aid yet. But his conditional acceptance drove the nails in the coffin of our relationship. We couldn't get over it. Those girls, wearing the mask of their subsystem veil, had been perfectly acceptable. But once they were distinct and clearly all their screwed-up splendor, reactive after being revealed, and didn't just fall into line with the usual Crisses behavior, they were second-class citizens.

Anything that happens that reminds us too much of that &mdash: it's ok when we do something sometimes, but not these other times, if we do it then we're not acceptable anymore &mdash: is a sure trigger to turn that 8-track tape to the stubborn pissed-off passive-aggressive channel.

It's like a certain type of cognitive dissonance changes the tracks in our brain. We don't LIKE that track. We don't like who we are, what we become, when that passive-aggressive fragment gets tacked onto our personality(s). It's an unthinking program, one that's been played less and less the better we've gotten, but that doesn't mean it can't get triggered. The stronger the cognitive dissonance in the right form, the more likely it is to get triggered. That plus our stubborn streak can lead to a world of pain for ourselves and others.

I don't want it to be triggered. But as I've said things that trigger it are in that conditional acceptance dissonance area.

My internal landscape is helpful because we actually found a representation of this 8-track in our head, that was plugged into our control panel. Someone tossed it in a bottom drawer. It might find its way back into our control panel. But we know better than to try destroying it in our internal landscape. It's a fragment, or perhaps 8 fragments. The same incident caused us to be quiet and observant in groups, to tend to like to be with very small groups of people or one person at a time, to be extremely leery of being part of any "in crowd" since they might choose to exclude me or cause people to feel that being my friend would exclude them from that crowd. [Edit 5/28/2017 &mdash: and there's more where that came from, which will be in our podcast episode on Conformity that airs tomorrow! ]

It's funny how looking at something in the internal landscape, remembering its functionality, considering its causes, can save you hours at the therapist's office — if only you know what to look for.

To the people who pulled that crap on me... I didn't deserve that. That's really cruel. It started in kindergarten or first grade. How dare you be such pricks. Why did you hurt me like that, so young? It makes me angry. There's an angry streak because of it...another track on the tape, perhaps?

Other Posts in July 2011

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But all love is conditional, no exceptions. The thing that pissed you off is that you didn't like the conditions and that is normal, that is how it is supposed to be.

She is not wrong and she is not evil, that was just her condition.

Most of the time, when you want to change someone to love them, you didn't love'em in the first place.

You are in love with a projection of a perfect being that loves YOU unconditionaly and you want the actual person to fit into that projection and when they don't, you get pissed, but when you are not projecting you don't get pissed.

Then you love the person, even if she makes lot of mistakes, doesn't do exactly what you want her to do.

THAT is love. You try to change yourself or adapt, to fill the gaps that the limitations of your beloved create.

Of course that if there is too many problems, you'll get tired, but the interaction between the two of you will show that stress and if love is great enough, both of you will start doing something to minimize the problems and limitations.

That's how I think about it.

Comment by zeb on September 10, 2011, at 12:57 AM

Thank you for your comment Zeb. It's very thoughtful and I appreciate you taking the time for your honest response.

I think that my use of "conditional friendship" in this article is a little different than the antonym of "unconditional love."

Someone who would "only be my friend when other people weren't around" is a friend only under certain conditions. What she was saying is "I like you, and I want to spend some time with you, but I will have to shun you and pretend you don't exist -- or at worst pretend to hate you, talk bad about you, curse you and actively vilify you -- when my other friends are around."

We all put conditions on our friendship and our relationships. There is, and should be, a point at which someone has unearned our trust and thus our active participation in a relationship with them. The idea of unconditional love is not that we will tolerate all behavior from our beloved, but that we will love them no matter what -- even if we have to testify against them in court and have them thrown in jail. A mother of a serial killer may still love their child even while they understand that they have to be jailed or even sentenced to death for their crimes. She can love them in spite of what they have done; it's her child, after all.

That type of love can carry on past divorce, separation, being beaten, being raped, being abused, being tortured and tormented. It's the great burden of the child who is abused by close family -- the child usually still loves their family members and relies on them for a variety of basic needs, including emotional. The goal of most child welfare agencies is to remediate the family so the child can return, and only to seek other permanent placements for a child when absolutely necessary. It's a basic recognition that there's a connection there that can't be taken lightly -- that disturbing it should only occur in the intractable cases.

That is a very very different issue than the "conditional friendship" idea. "I am only your friend under these conditions" is similar to conditional love -- which is NOT the polar opposite of unconditional love -- which I think of as "I will only love you under these conditions." The difference is how in-your-face these conditions are, how they undermine the security of the relationship, how they undermine trust, discourage intimacy and surrender in the relationship. I think of conditional love as the person who "loves you" until they find out that you're not a multi-millionaire after all, or until they find out that you're sterile and cannot mother/father children. How true is this love? There's an on-off switch for that love that can be flicked at will -- that's not the opposite of unconditional love, that's more like an illness of perception. The love was never real in the first place. I feel that way with conditional friendship -- someone who can flick the switch on the basic tenets of being humane to one's friends is not a friend. Not a real friend anyway. It's a cut below "fair-weather-friend" in my book (the friend who only calls when they need something or when things are going in a certain way in their life).

Anyway, the blog post is about my baggage with that "I can only like you if other people aren't present" shit. If my "friend" cares more about their appearance to others than about me, they're not a good friend. Other people stuck with me, publicly, and left the other group of friends who had vilified me. That's true friendship. That's seeing the value of a friend and following through with one's actions and behavior, and that's how I decided to choose/keep my friends.

I stopped talking to the conditional friend, period. She crossed the line. I still had love for her (that part is the unconditional part), and was sorely hurt and disappointed in her. Most of my hurt and disappointment was a correction in my perspective because I thought I meant more to her than that. For her to say she was certain of my innocence but not to defend it was a serious down-grade on the friendship I thought we had in the first place, and it was NOT that she was a shy and reserved person; she was quite vehemently outspoken and able to stand her ground for things she believed in. This was not a personality issue; this was a face-saving issue and she wanted to be "in the in crowd."

I still carry the hurt, the disappointment, in my once-best-friend. And I still carry love for her, honestly hoping that she's doing well and simply wanting to know whether she is OK. If she asked me to "friend" her on Facebook, I would, because it would allow me to just keep tabs on whether she's ok or not. I'd have a phone conversation with her, etc. I'd accept an apology. I might purge and cry and all that rot. I never turned my love for her into hatred. But I did relegate her to a persona-non-grata presence in my mind.

Comment by Crisses on September 10, 2011, at 07:57 AM

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