There is a reason why people become nervous. It’s not to irritate those around them, regardless of others’ views.
It’s generally an appropriate response to some hideous experience, or, more likely, a consistent and extensive series of hideous experiences. After enough hideous experiences (or enough hideousness in one experience), it’s irrational not to be nervous.
It’s important to distinguish between what’s irrational and what’s not useful. Very little human behavior is truly irrational, but there’s a lot that’s not useful. (One popular term is “dysfunctional”, but that’s a cranky, judgmental-sounding word, so I won’t use it.)
CRPS, along with many central nervous system disorders, triggers more than its share of non-useful responses… However, I find that recognizing that the response has a cause, that it’s not crazy or irrational, that there is a reason for it, goes a long way towards making those twitchy responses more manageable.
Here’s my strategy:
Identify the nonuseful response: when do people react badly to me? What was I doing at the time? How did I sound, how did I feel? I zero in on the non-useful response by exploring what was going on outwards and inwards when it happened.
Internal inquiry: I look at what’s going on inside me when those events occur, when similar events occur, and what I remember from before I started the inquiry. This gives me insight into what, in me, contributes to the negative reactions in others.
Get perspective: discuss it with friends, check my assumptions, try to find out if I’m overreacting (gee, that never happens!), look for an outside point of view on specific incidents. I do this after the internal inquiry, so I have time to brace myself for unpleasant truths. Sometimes it’s other people; sometimes it’s me. Quite often it’s both, but I only control one end of that.
Identify the underlying problem: this is when it starts getting easy. Having faced the unpleasant reality that the world can’t read my mind and might not think well of me when I behave less-than-brilliantly, now I just have to notice what the fear or the need was that triggered my unuseful reaction in the first place. There’s usually a fairly easy way to address that, sometimes simply by crediting it.
Monitor and reprogram myself: when similar situations arise, I pay attention to the present moment, and react appropriately to that, keeping half an eye on my old reactions so they stay out of the way. It doesn’t take long to reset to the usual defaults of consideration and common courtesy. I’m lucky that way.
With care under way, survival taken care of (more or less), and my relationships whittled down to the ones that work, I can further reduce the mess in my life by managing my own CRPS- and chronic stress-rattled reactions better. The time will pass anyway, so I might as well be better for it.
I’m not going to become something different just by changing a few responses (for the better, I hope.) I’m still me, and anything that changes is optional to that.
The past few years have been… How shall I put this… Rich with opportunities to relearn how to manage myself, as the storms of neurochemistry, medications, medical neglect, institutional harrowing in so very many ways, stripped relationships, the loss of everything (and I do mean every thing), have marched through and torn up all that I thought was my life.
I find great calm in one simple fact. When everything has been ripped away, when life and purpose and capacity and identity are nothing but rubble flung in shapeless heaps as far as the eye can see, when there is simply nothing left… As I stand there, too far gone for tears, too empty to complain, too lost to move… and wonder, “Who, or what, am I now?”
I’m the one standing there, doing the asking.
I love the unkillable certainty of that.
Have you noticed how freeing it is to let go of your ideas of who you are?
Among other things, it makes re-learning how to manage reactions a whole lot simpler.