Lack of Oxygen to the Brain = Lack of Assertiveness

I have been realizing more and more lately that I have a hard time expressing myself verbally, especially when caught off guard.  When I know something’s coming, I’m able to prepare.  If it just HAPPENS, however, then my mouth becomes a fly catcher and the other person just walks off without knowing how inappropriate I found their behavior and how upset I am about it.  Like the guy at work who thought he could put his arm around me.  And when a woman I work with thought she would invite me to another girl’s night out, even thought the first one was horrifying.  I wasn’t able to immediately respond in these situations because I was caught off guard.  I ended up responding to both situations via email.  I wish I could live in a world where I communicated solely by the written word.  Email, letters, text, memo, whatever.  I need time to properly phrase what I’m thinking.  I need time to make sure the proper words are chosen.  I need time to make sure I am getting across exactly what I am wanting to portray.  Usually, when I just try to SPEAK, and I don’t have time to plan out every word, I end up sticking my foot in my mouth.  I have grown accustomed to the rubbery taste of the sole of my boot mixed with the lovely West Virginia dirt.

I was reading a post today on the blog Behind the Mask of Abuse.  She mentioned that her therapist had told her that people who are abused tend to go into fight/flight/freeze mode when they are placed in an uncomfortable position.  She said that the part of the brain that would normally be able to stand up and say, “Hey!  Back off!  What you’re doing is NOT ok!” is devoid of oxygen, making it almost impossible to assert oneself in a scary or uncomfortable position.

Wow, I was SO GLAD to hear this!  I know that I am thought of as weak because I don’t speak up for myself.  Not when something first happens.  I need time to process what’s going on, and how I will respond.  When that guy put his arm around me, my head just went blank.  I couldn’t even think of what to say or how to respond.  I just had to go with the situation.  Same thing when I was invited to Girl’s Night House of Horrors II.  Even though I KNEW that I didn’t want to attend, I didn’t know what to say.  My mind went blank.

Crazy Jay (who is slightly less crazy these days) sometimes gets upset that I let people walk over me like in the aforementioned situations.  He thinks I should jump to my feet and scream “INJUSTICE!!!!” like he would.  He just can’t understand why I need time to process.

A lot of times I feel like I’m stupid and incompetent and immature because I don’t know how to respond in stressful situations.  Now I know that it is just my brain kicking into fight or flight or freeze mode.  I freeze.  I think people who are used to being treated badly WOULD just freeze when they felt they were being threatened or imposed upon.  If you are used to being sexually/physically/emotionally abused, it would just seem like another normal day to have someone invading your space or pressing you in some way.

The post I referenced can be found here.  It is definitely worth reading.

Categories: Abuse, Anxiety, Borderline Personality Disorder, BPD, Child Abuse, Stress | Tags: , , | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “Lack of Oxygen to the Brain = Lack of Assertiveness

  1. it was such a relief for me when my therapist told me about it. i eased up on myself then. thank you kindly for the mention xo

  2. Hey, you!
    First of all, even folks who are not struggling with your set of circumstances often have issues with situations like that.
    My wonderful wife of 18+ years is rather similar, and often reacts one way in a given situation…and then proceeds to beat herself up about it later, when she’s had time to process the whole ordeal.

    Keep cutting yourself some slack: your friends (your real ones) won’t judge you harshly, as long as they know your tendencies. And if they do, call ’em on it…even if you need to do so by e-mail.

    Nothing that you haven’t heard before, I’m sure, but just wanted you to know that there’s folks out there who are fighting similar battles…

    And now, I have to go find Big John’s blog — it’s been too long since I “saw” you guys!

    All the best, always, to you both,

  3. themonsterslife

    That’s interesting. Although (as far as I am aware) I have never been a victim of abuse, I do the fight/flight/freeze manoeuvre when I feel overwhelmed, I always thought it was because I am an idiot, and totally incapable of controlling my emotions when stressed I didn’t have any idea it was a ‘thing’.

    I am a fighter, or a flighter… actually, often I’m both. I explode then run for the hills before someone tells me not to be such a tit, because I know my aggression in unnecessary and inappropriate. Like you though, I find it so much easier to just write, although sometimes I write my explosions out & send them…

    Thank you for alleviating some of the frustration I have at myself for not being a reasonable human being, and being a lunatic. Now if only I could find a way to button-it when it’s important, I might be on to a winner.

  4. Sam

    Is this lack of oxygen dangerous and can I improve cognition by avoiding these situations (will I get better over time)?

  5. The lack of oxygen kicks in during the “flight or fight” response. I know for a fact that one can get better and improve their response to scary situations. I would recommend reading Louise Hay’s book called You Can Heal Your Life. You can find it on Amazon, and it’s even available for Kindle.

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