Finding Peace — Manuscript Post #8
The issues that caused me to seek therapy don’t ever go away. You will think that you can deal with your issues on your own and you don’t need help. However, you will experience things that trigger your issues. You won’t see it coming and you can’t prevent them. Until you effectively deal with your issues they will continue to affect you. You will wonder why seemingly random events upset you. It is because these events trigger your issues.
Here is an example from my experience.
Years before I went to therapy, I was at the dentist to have my teeth cleaned. I was doing my best to relax. The cleaning and the exam went well. The hygienist told me that I was doing well. She was looking at my dental records which showed that I had needed a lot of procedures over the recent years. She said “It’s too bad you didn’t care about your teeth all those years”. Wow! I was pissed off. She had no way of knowing what this triggered inside of me. Her statement caused me to relive a very negative experience.
When I was in high school, my dentist told my mother that I needed braces. This was standard advice for my age. The dentist told her I needed to have two upper teeth and two lower teeth pulled to make room to straighten the others. My mother was convinced this was all a conspiracy to make more money for the dentist. She complained bitterly about this at home and argued with the dentist at his office. The next time I was alone with the dentist, he showed me my file. He had written ‘bitch’ in red ink across the first page. He was pissed off. He proceeded to lecture me about how messed up my mother was. I was being punished for my mother’s behavior. The dentist made it clear he was going to take it out on me. I swore I would never go to any dentist ever again.
This happened when I was in high school. I made good on my vow and did not see a dentist for many years. I had completed college and had been working for several years when I finally had to go to a dentist. They were puzzled. They found many small cavities. They found that one of the teeth that should have been removed when I was in high school had now moved completely behind the other teeth around it. I remember this because the dentist called his assistant in to see this. He told the assistant that he had never seen this and might never see it again. The dentist recommended that I have four teeth pulled, my wisdom teeth removed, braces and all the cavities filled. Because I was older, the teeth that should have been removed earlier had matured. My wisdom teeth had moved to the point that they were impacted. Removing all of these teeth was made more complex and painful because it wasn’t handled when it should have been. It turns out that some of my teeth had curved roots. I remember the dentist saying to his assistant, as he was trying to remove one of these teeth, that he had given me all the pain killer he could. And he still had to get this tooth out. That was painful. Pain caused by my mother who would not deal with her responsibilities. Pain caused by my father who had simply left. Pain I had to deal with alone.
Now that I was an adult I found dealing with the dentist and all his associates extremely easy. I had my own dental insurance at work. I was paying the deductibles. The dentist treated me with respect, I paid up front. I got decade’s worth of dental issues resolved without drama. This only reinforced my perception that the drama I experienced as a child wasn’t necessary. It was created by my mother to serve her pathology.
I did finally get the dental care I needed, many years after I needed it. My teeth will never be as good as they could have been. The hygienist saw this and made her statement. She had no idea that her statement would cause me to relive all of this. She had no idea how much her statement upset me. The very mundane event of going to the dentist for a routine exam caused me to be upset. This is a good example of how my issues (and your issues) can be triggered at any time. You need to deal with your issues so that you aren’t always at risk of being upset by seemingly routine events.
This leads to two very important points. First, I have described what happened to me and I am very clear that my parents caused these events. My parents created the situation where I had to ‘explain’ to the hygienist why I had not gotten the dental care I needed. This is not acceptable. Children should not have to explain or apologize for their parents that didn’t handle their responsibilities. As much as I can see how my parents caused this problem for me, I have to realize that I must not repeat this for my children. My children never had to hear about money when they needed dental care. They left home with wisdom teeth removed and teeth straightened. They will not have to deal with the statement “It’s too bad you didn’t care about your teeth all those years.”
Second, I need to learn from this experience. I know how much the hygienist’s statement upset me. I need to understand that I can cause this same upset in others. I could make a statement that seems reasonable to me but is very hurtful. Here are some examples: “Too bad you didn’t care about finishing college”, “Too bad you didn’t care about staying married”. I wonder what good the hygienist thought would come from her statement. Did she think it was supportive in some way? The fact that I can see from my experience how much pain a statement like this can cause means I need to be careful with the statements I make to others. What I experienced was messed up. I am justified in being upset about what I experienced. It doesn’t give me the right to do the same to others.