Collingwood Nick wrote:
Part of the problem is that the mind switches into autopilot when it's presented with a 'threatening' situation. I find that sometimes just being aware of what it's doing, is enough to bring me back to conscious control.
That's very familiar. I used to get beaten heavily by my parents and from earliest childhood on learned that you can't defend yourself against violence (like a bullying victim becomes convinced that he/she has no defense against bullies). After almost 50 years I still have difficulties when someone shots at me or attacks me. Funnily enough, I am a pretty good fighter when it comes to defending others. The Janitor got attacked by a couple of drunks last Tuesday and I rushed down to help him. To my own surprise I was absolutely calm, cool and collected, able to think logically (and to overwhelm the attackers and keep them pinned down till the police came) and not a bit afraid at all.
The next step will be to try and do the same when I get attacked. I am thinking of asking a few colleagues to do some training with me during lunch break the next weeks.
oops, sorry, that was a bit long and off-topic. My point is: permanent violence - physical or verbal - creates a kind of conditioning and the first and most important step is to recognize it as such. Then you can work on gradually overcoming it. It takes some time but it is manageable.
(edit: in case you wondered how the story ends: I talked the matter out with my parents for almost a decade. It took that long because they weren't ready/mature yet to talk about their own problems. Now we're at rather good tearms. My dad even said he admires how I always manage to solve my probs alone. LOL a classical case of "practize makes perfect" - I never dared to ask him for help when I was younger. Now we're rather good buddies, though