Boundaries, Triggers, and Disassociation

by | Jan 31, 2023 | It's Complex...PTSD | 0 comments

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The Amazing White Male Privilege

I am going to post a blog about white male privilege on Thursday. Why? Because a person with no ill intent (see what I did there? I made excuses, diffused it) came up behind me, put their hands on my shoulders, and started massaging my shoulders.

I was triggered and then disassociating, sat frozen in my seat. That moment affected me for the rest of the evening. When I am triggered, which usually does result in disassociation, it throws me off balance.

My entire nervous system has revved up, ready to defend, run, fawn, or freeze (related to disassociation but different). I am in a state of shock.

Harm is Done

I know this person; they are not a random stranger. I have expressed my boundaries before. This person ignored me and my fundamental rights as a human being. Again.

I have also seen this person interact with other people, who are random strangers, primarily children, invading personal space.

To say the behavior is cringeworthy to observe is an understatement. I genuinely believe they mean no harm, but that doesn’t matter.

They are causing harm to me when they choose to ignore my boundaries. And I have seen the ‘deer in headlights’ looks on children’s faces when he ignores their boundaries. So there is harm, intentional or not.

triggered and then disassociating

Respecting Human Boundaries Tip: If a person stands with their arms outstretched, draw a circle around them using their head as the center point and their arms as a guide. Anything within the circle is their personal space. Don’t violate that space. That is like the demilitarized zone in South Korea. No person’s land.

Triggered and then Disassociating.

I do not like being touched except by my husband (who knows not to come up behind me like that) and my close friends, whom I will hug. But I would never come up behind them and put my hands on them. NEVER.

It frustrates me that anyone thinks this is okay to do that, especially to me. And because I disassociate, I am not even present for those moments when I could re-iterate my boundaries. Notice I wrote ‘re-iterate?’ Because I have explained this boundary. I have explained why. And yet, it is either forgotten or ignored. Most likely ignored (see, I did it again. Society has taught me well).

Later that night, I lamented that I could not stop being triggered and disassociating to express my boundary again. I essentially victim blamed myself. Yeah, that is a thing (again, society, great teacher). And then, when the response was that doing that is how that person ‘interacts with the world’ (excuses, excuses), I realized that it is, in part, an example of white male privilege.

Boundaries and Privilege

I would never come up behind another person, adult or child, and put my hands on them in any way. Perhaps it has to do with the abuse I endured growing up. Touching was not done with affection in mind. Touching was to cause pain. Okay, I am considering that.

Or that it is simply that I did not grow up believing I could do whatever I wanted because of my skin color (or lack thereof, as the case with us white people) and gender.

Oh, hell, it could be that I fucking respect people’s space. There is that too.

Nuggets of Wisdom

Most likely, it is a combination of respecting people’s space and how I grew up, both the abusive stuff and the nuggets of wisdom my mother would toss out occasionally.

Yes, my parents were fucked up people, but even the most fucked up people have nuggets of wisdom. So much of mine came from my mother before the mental breakdowns.

Here is the nugget of wisdom my mother passed down:

I have privilege because of the color of my skin. I can do whatever I want, but because of my gender, the world will tell me otherwise. Do not listen to those people. However, doing whatever I want does not include being an asshole and believing my shit doesn’t stink. I should use my privilege for good. When I rise, look behind me. Who can I extend my hand to?

Did my brothers get the same lesson? I don’t know. Even in raising white male children, we are not teaching white boys that lesson because the parents must be aware. And I don’t think many are.

So is it that we assume white men will know they are privileged? And use their privilege to help others? But if you raise a person without awareness, without knowledge, then how can it be expected that they will behave any differently?

Having people disrespect your boundaries sometimes comes from a place of privilege. Sometimes it is a more nefarious reason. If you think you may need some help, please seek therapy.

I recommend Online-Therapy.* Encouraging therapy is their first step in healing.

Check out some of my other writings about alcoholism and sobriety. “The Slow Descent to Sobriety” starts my December series about addiction and my journey with sobriety.  You can also check out my recent poetry,  What Happened to All of My Words??

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