Are there some situations from long ago that still challenge you today? -Debbie Corso, Healing from Borderline Personality Disorder: My Journey Out of Hell Through Dialectical Behavior Therapy, pg. 226
The original post for the quote above can also be found here.
Since leaving the chaos of my last relationship, I have been able to pinpoint triggers with greater ease. It was difficult to identify triggers because everything was setting but having a generally calm life opens up the possibility of exploration.
I read the above question yesterday and immediately thought about a particular trigger that I didn’t realize was cutting my soul so deep until that moment. I am triggered by people (mostly intimate partners) who say that they/things are the way they are and will not change.
From very early on, in friendships and intimate relationships, I was told to change who I was because people were
unhappy with me. Friends and boyfriends would leave when I failed to do so. I put a lot of effort into being the person they wanted me to be which sometimes meant compromising my own values. I was miserable. It was especially frustrating (and that’s a nice way of putting it) when I expressed the need for a change in their behaviour and they refused. I was always seen as the problem and if I wanted peace in the friendship or relationship then I needed to change.
B, my current partner, has said this triggering statement to me twice in the past 9 months of our relationship. One incident was in relation to his driving. He has no patience for most drivers and will make comments in the car and do other things to get out his frustration (some of which I feel are aggressive and include confronting the other driver in some way, ie: slowing down beside the offending car to look at them). While he was engaging in this behaviour I was trying to ignore it but this process actually was building up my anxiety. When he uses this behaviour I begin to feel embarrassed and nervous about his driving which leads to an overall feeling of being unsafe. I eventually told him to stop what he was doing and leave the issue alone. I expressed that I didn’t like him driving the way he does and that I wanted it to change. B said that he wouldn’t change his driving, that there was nothing wrong it, and that was that. I became very overcome with anger and confusion. Because of my past I immediately prepared myself to fight which included many swear words and criticisms (I didn’t handle it well at first). I was upset because I felt like he was telling me that I had to accept feeling anxious and embarrassed. I felt like he was telling me that my feelings didn’t matter. I felt like I was going to have to compromise my need to feel safe so I could drive with him. I was not happy.
I have explained to B why I don’t like hearing phrases like, “I won’t change,” and I do believe he understands. I probably shouldn’t, but I will throw it back onto him when he tells me I shouldn’t get so angry. “That’s who I am so just accept it.” I am though working on changing my behaviour as it will improve my life. People need to change and do change in order to grow. B’s driving is not like it used to be and I do feel better driving with him.
The original incident happened a long time ago and I know my current partner wouldn’t actually require me to do the things that were required of me in the past, but, sometimes your past can seep into your present and I am working on developing the skills to learn how to cope with it. As the picture quote says, can’t change others but I can change myself. I can lead by example.