Good grief! What is it that I have to do now? I am proud of my husband, but why do I need to go through a week-long course for spouses? What am I going to learn? How to be a good spouse?
And on and on, my snarky thoughts continued as my amygdala tried to protect me.
I am nervous about attending this course for many reasons like:
- I am an introvert
- I have anxiety
- Post-pandemic large group interaction (I am using the term “post-pandemic” very loosely here)
All of those initiate my amygdala’s protection protocol, snark.
How does being snarky protect me? I make fun of things when I am most worried about how those things will turn out. Not only how those things will turn out, but how I will be perceived. And so I make fun of it.
To me, making fun of something is trying to tell others that you don’t care, even when you do. And as a master of something is showing the world that I don’t care.
And if I don’t care about something, my abusers can’t use it to hurt me. Nor can my abusers use what I care about against me. I no longer have those abusers in my life, but I still default to that reaction.
The amygdala is a protector. I remember learning about the fight, flight, or freeze response to physical danger. But there are more dangers than just physical ones.
In our modern world, we are less likely to be confronted by a tiger. Now it is more likely an angry person walking down the street. Are they a threat or not? Either way, our amygdala’s see those as dangers. And the amygdala will try to protect us to the best of its ability.
I react to situations that are anxiety-inducing as though they are threats to my life. Because growing up, they were. They were not physical threats, but the psychological abuse was a danger to my existence. And my amygdala came up with a strategy to counter that.
Snarky the Snark Dog
My brain is hardwired to see the world through psychological threats. My amygdala had to figure out a way to protect me from psychological danger. Fight, flight, freeze, or flee may help, but there needed to be an additional wall.
That wall needed to protect the fragility of my true self. And Snarky the Snark Dog was born. Snarky the Snark Dog was my amygdala’s response to the onslaught of verbal abuse I endured daily. It helped me to both rebel and shut down at the same time.
I would rebel by acting like I didn’t care about anything. Nothing was allowed to bother me even though everything bothered me. But I had to show my abuser that her words were not hitting their mark. I didn’t care. But I did.
It Starts with Snark
It started with being snarky as a way to deflect interest and attention away from the things that I was interested in. Remember, when an abuser knows what you care about, they use that against you. And so, my defense started with being snarky.
As I worked really hard to convince the rest of the world that I didn’t care, I was inadvertently teaching myself that nothing mattered. I think what we externalize gets internalized.
As I externalized that I didn’t care, internally, I was beginning to incorporate that same idea into myself. Even though I did care, I do care, but I have to act like I don’t. It definitely led to many, many confusing conversations with people I was in relationship with.
As I pushed my emotions down further and further, it only caused me more stress and more anxiety. I wanted to show that I didn’t care, even though I did, and I didn’t want to feel, even though I did. It was such a contradiction that I was struggling with.
My struggle continues. I am trying to remove those outer shields so that I can let the light within myself. I have been in the darkness way too long.
My brain did what it had to do to help keep me alive. I can’t complain about that. I am here today because my brain, my snarky amygdala, provided a way to protect me.
No More, Snarky Amygdala
I am eternally grateful that my brain was built the way it was. Whatever it looks like on the inside, it was made the way I needed it to be built. And my snarky amygdala is my favorite part.
But I don’t need it anymore. Those days are over. Are those days over? I mean, the barrage of emotional and verbal abuse is over. But the damage has been done.
And that is what the healing process is, repairing that damage. Or maybe it is diverting around the damage—either way, my brain figured out how to protect a little girl who simply wanted to be loved.
Except now, that is the only way my brain knows to react. That is, until I teach my brain how to protect me as I am now, and not as I once was.