Personal Responsibility and the Twitchy Arm


Suppose you have a twitchy arm.

You may have had it all your life. Or, maybe something happened to you…and after that…well, your arm STARTED twitching. Most of the time rests comfortably, happily by your side. It accommodates your every command. It is your right hand man (!) as you work, or lovingly stroke the sweet, silky soft hair of your young child.  It lifts an open palm and waves at friends. It holds your Bible at church, and may even reach for the sky in praise.

But sometimes, the nerves go awry and the arm abruptly snaps outward, slamming into anything nearby. Ouch. It can really do some damage, too. Sometimes your arm hits people. It splits lips, blacks eyes, and doubles people over with pain. Sometimes it damages property. Sometimes it is embarrassing.  Sometimes, it’s kind of handy…it keeps the people around you on their toes. It makes them easier to get along with.

You feel bad about that, once in a while. But what can you do? It isn’t your fault. It just happens. People need to understand that this is just the way you are! You don’t MEAN to do damage…you don’t really want to hurt people or things. Your motives are good. You even apologize sometimes. Maybe even pay for the damages.  But how unfair is that?….It just isn’t your fault! Your arm has a mind of its own. You have no control. And, after all, you aren’t perfect…just forgiven.

It isn’t your FAULT. You are not to BLAME.


So give yourself (and others) some space.  Adjust your environment or put yourself where you do no harm. Seek treatment, or wear a straightjacket! It is a hassle. Not fair. But it is what it is. Not your fault, but still your responsibility.

Whatever the twitchy arm is for each of  us, don’t we owe it to ourselves and others to DO WHATEVER IS NECESSARY TO DEAL WITH OUR OWN TROUBLESOME ISSUES, rather than passively allowing them to inflict damage? Which elevates them to entitlements? We can’t be perfect… but we can take the initiative to take care of ourselves, with healthy self-love and acceptance, if possible. To get help. To admit and be honest about our problem. And if we are harming others, we need to commit to do whatever it takes to get right, so we can relieve others of the daunting task of tiptoeing around us, walking on eggshells, flinching, watching, and ducking that blasted twitchy arm. To be responsible for ourselves, rather than making others responsible for themselves AND us. And to remove ourselves from endangering others for a time, if necessary, while we get it together.

And if you have a friend with a twitchy arm? Be kind, but let them know it isn’t OK to make excuses. It’s your responsibility. It’s their responsibility.


Note:  I hear from DV counselors that abusers don’t generally improve much from anger management training (it’s not about anger, it’s about CONTROL).  Please comment if you know of an instance in which an abusive individual has made a documentable “to the marrow of the bones, restoration of trust” turnaround. If so, what do you believe made the dramatic change possible? 

I want to hear YOUR dialogue and beliefs about this, more than my own,  so I may not answer all comments. Not being rude, just inquisitive!!!

And/or….more generally, what is YOUR “twitchy arm?”  (If you care to share it!)


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20 thoughts on “Personal Responsibility and the Twitchy Arm

  1. robind333 March 9, 2013 at 7:37 pm Reply

    Twitching Arm….I really like that…LOL….Wonderful post!!! Many, many blessings to you….Robin

  2. Denise Hisey March 6, 2013 at 12:03 pm Reply

    Diane, this is a really great post! I love your twitchy arm anaology! 😉

    The way you explained not being at fault, yet being responsible is really fantastic! Well said!

    I would have to respectfully disagree with the DV counselors who say abusers need to focus on control. I don’t think anyone has the ability to simply control their impulses/defaults. My experience is I had to find out WHY I was packing around so much anger and fear. Then, I processed it, grieved it and healed from there. When I relied on my own self-control, I routinely failed. My anger had a life of its own, as did the PTSD. Until I understood what was behind the emotions and actions, they controlled me.

    Thanks again for such a great post!

    • ranthegauntlet March 6, 2013 at 5:41 pm Reply

      Thanks, Denise! I think the DV counselors are trying to say that there is a pattern of control of the victim in multiple ways, rather than just outbursts of anger, which is one part of the control. Often more systematic than simply exploding, or venting. But your point about self control not being enough to deal with deep seated anger/fear from trauma (I agree) makes me wonder what motivates abusers to need to control another person (probably trauma), and what would motivate them to want to find out why and do the work to heal (along with everyone around him!). Great comment. Made me think. Thanks always for your good feedback!! Loved your pictures from Alaska on your post! Diane

  3. joepote01 February 14, 2013 at 7:36 am Reply

    What a great analogy and what thought-provoking questions!

    My first thought was of my ADHD 11-yr-old stepson. Learning to deal with his ADHD has caused me to question a lot of prior assumptions on my part.

    We tend to take it for granted that we are each capable of controlling our own behavior…we even tend to consider this a fundamental part of being human…of being different from animals who simply follow instincts with no moral responsibility.

    And yet, for an ADHD child, behavior control is much much more difficult than for most of us. It is not impossible, but it is much more difficult. It is an area where an ADHD child frequently needs both help and grace…as well as accountability.

    Your post reminds me of some of our conversations at home, discussing how we are each responsible for our own behavior, even though behavior control is not equally difficult for all of us in all circumstances.

    Great post!

    • ranthegauntlet February 14, 2013 at 6:57 pm Reply

      Hello, Joe! Thanks for sharing about your stepson. I’m glad he has understanding people to support, accept, and teach. He’s really blessed! Another reader shared with me that acceptance is huge in managing PTSD as well. As I was writing I was thinking about those for whom self-control, or even ability to be honest, is more difficult – sometimes from upbringing and other issues. So I really appreciate you weighing in with that point of view. It is so hard with some situations to know to what degree a “difficult” person in one’s life is able to be in control of their actions or words. Definite learning curve with life experience and discernment in play. That includes, for me, being honest with myself, too! Blessings!

  4. Summer February 14, 2013 at 4:15 am Reply

    This is for you, for being kind to others and me,

    Sweet Valentine greetings, Summer

    • ranthegauntlet February 14, 2013 at 6:42 pm Reply

      Thank you, Summer! How cool. Happy Valentine’s day to you! Diane

  5. Lady Quixote February 13, 2013 at 7:02 pm Reply

    PS: My apologies for the typos! I usually proofread before posting, but I didn’t this time because my formerly “grumpy old man” had made dinner, and I didn’t want to keep him waiting while his yummy food got cold. See how lucky I am?!

  6. Lady Quixote February 13, 2013 at 6:34 pm Reply

    Hi Diane,
    I like this. Your twitchy arm analogy explains the problem very well.

    My perdsonal “twitchy arm” is the severe, chronic PTSD that I was diagnosed with 10 years ago. No, it’s not my fault that I have this. Yes, I am responsible to try to heal, or at least learn how to manage, to the best of my ability, my PTSD symptoms. I’ve been working hard, both in therapy, and by reading countless self-help books, to heal my brokenness. I get frustrated sometimes because my progress is so slow. But then I remember how far I’ve come from where I was when I was utterly broken. I refuse to give up until I’ve made it all the way — or Jesus calls me home, whichever comes first! My favorite therapist died last year. Yesterday I got the sad news that my new terrific therapist can no longer see me under the changes that were recently made in my insurance plan. But… I repeat… I am not giving up. Take THAT, PTSD.

    Regarding your question: “Please comment if you know of an instance in which an abusive individual has made a documentable “to the marrow of the bones, restoration of trust” turnaround. If so, what do you believe made the dramatic change possible?” — my answer so that one is contained in a post I left on one of my blogs a couple of weeks ago, called “Grumpy Old Man? Not Any Mmore!”

    Lady Q

    • ranthegauntlet February 13, 2013 at 8:55 pm Reply

      Lynda: I admire your strength and passion so much! Can I be like you when I grow up? I did read your excellent post, and the book you recommended is in my Amazon cart. The pictures are great, and yes, he’s cute (you decide which picture I’m referring to! :-D). Haha..snort..hahaha! I like Janet Evanovich, too. And it is so good to hear how you so effectively set healthy boundaries – calm but sure. The way it’s done!

      Is your blog set up for comments? (I can’t locate where, if so! – technical difficulties perhaps or maybe just your preference.). Question: How does it work for you and your BFH both dealing with PTSD? And is there such a thing as complete recovery (sounds like it). And did your BFH experience most of his recovery as a result of his treatment in 2005? Or ongoing? And what in therapy is helping you most? (feel free to respond to if you want to respond and do it privately).

      AND, I am SOOO happy to hear of your happiness, and the joy you and your BFH have in each other. And the happy resolution to what could have been an abusive marriage!! Good for BOTH of you!

      Thanks for commenting and blessings!! Diane

      • Lady Quixote February 14, 2013 at 2:48 am Reply

        Aww, thank you for the compliments — but I only told about one of the times when I was calm and sure; I failed to mention those other times when I wasn’t all that… 🙂

        I disabled comments on my blog a few weeks ago, when someone I don’t even know was posting hateful comments. That sort of thing is very triggering to my PTSD. Although I had my blog set to not allow comments to post until after I had moderated and approved them, I couldn’t handle even reading those ugly words in the first place. Maybe someday, when *I* grow up, I will be able to allow comments again. (For this reason, I have never even checked on amazon to see if anyone has posted a review on my novel. I just don’t want to know, if anyone has anything mean to say about my book. It was published 13 years ago, and I haven’t looked for any reviews in all this time. that’s pretty bad, I know! The publisher recently republished my novel as an ebook, and I’m afraid to go look at that site, too. I didn’t know the publisher was going to do that, I wish they had let me know so I could have made a few changes first. Oh, well.)

        My husband came out of the in-house PTSD program 8 years ago, a whole new man. Their program lasted 8 weeks. I wish so much that I could go there, too, but unfortunately they only take military veterans. I have looked, but have not been able to find a comparable and affordable PTSD treatment program for civilians. He also attends a weekly support group at a nearby VA clinic for veterans with PTSD, and he sees a trauma therapist there once a week. All of these things add up to a huge difference in his attitude and outlook on life. When he misses his group or therapist for 2 or 3 weeks in a row, I can really tell a difference.

        Going to church helps, too, when we can get there. But we both have trouble getting to church because of our PTSD. The church we first went to, when we were first married, began to sublty and not-so-subtly shun us after we apparently shared too much of our history. They couldn’t seem to understand how being ‘born again’ didn’t magically make all of our PTSD issues go away. Since then, my husband has gone on disability, and now it’s too easy to hide in the house and not risk going out into the big scary world. Also, we both have a lot of trouble sleeping at night, and as a result, we are usually too exhausted to get up on Sunday mornings, no matter how much we really want to do it. We have been told that not being able to sleep at night is part of our PTSD hyoer-vigilance. My worst traumas happened at night, so I suppose that explains why my body and mind can’t relax enough to sleep during those hours. But my husband’s combat traumas happened for him in daylight hours, so who knows how that relates?

        You ask if complete recovery from PTSD is possible. My goal is complete recovery, but whether that will ever come about in our lifetime, I don’t know. My husband is much more functional than I am these days. I went downhill very badly emotionally when my cousin drowned on June 3, 2011. Enough time has passed that I “should” be further along than I am, but… I’m just not. There are a lot of reasons why Elaine’s tragic death hit me so hard. For one, she was much younger than me, born the year after my eldest child — she was supposed to bury me, not the other way around. We talked on the phone several times during her last week of life, because she was going through some personal issues. We talked for nearly an hour the night before she drowned, and made plans to get together in about 3 weeks for what would have been her 39th birthday. She sent happy text messages to our cell phone the morning she died, telling us that she and a friend were on their way to the hot springs for the day. I was writing a long loving email to her full of plans for a future that will never be, around the time that she died. I still can’t quite get my head around it. Also, the circumstances of her death, with her friend nearby, drowning in water that wouldn’t come as high as her shoulders if she stood in the deepest part of the natural spring, it just never did add up. Although the state police investigated, and there was an autopsy of course, I guess we will never know exactly what happened. All I know is that she is gone, and I want my cousin back. She was my only blood relative living in this state. She worked as an RN in a large hospital in Albuquerque, so her untimely death was a terrible loss, that left a lot of people badly shaken. She was my poor sweet aunt’s only daughter. None of it makes any sense. My faith was shaken, too, although I still believe. Elaine is with the Lord in a far better place, where we will see her again someday. But Lord, why did she have to die so young?

        This seems to be one of the great difficulties with Post Traumatic Stress. The ups and downs and uncertainties of life, along with the accumulating losses of precious loved ones, which happens to everyone if we live long enough — compounded by the normal challenges that go along with the aging process, as our bodies, minds, and income, begin to go downhill — all of these situations seem to be a lot more difficult to navigate, when one is already grappling with PTSD.

        But the good news for my BFH (best-friend-hubby) and me is that, since both of us have PTSD, we understand each other totally. We don’t have the unhealthy co-dependent dynamic going on, with one of us being “together” and the other one being “messed up.” He is my equal, and I am his. We are each other’s support group. I don’t have to look up to him as the ‘well person’ while he looks down at me as the ‘big mess;’ or vice versa. We are both strong and wise in many ways, and we are both weak and messed up in other ways. I love him as-is, and he loves me the same way. Another good thing is that our trauma triggers are different. So when one of us is ‘losing it,’ the other is nearly always still OK. We take turns, in other words, being functional. And, when we’re not functional, we have learned to put the FUN in dysFUNctional.

        Even our rescue dog has PTSD! She was abused and abandoned as a pup, rescued by a no-kill organization, who kept her through 6 months while she was adopted and taken back many times, until we finally found her, and committed to keep her no matter what. She has issues. She has nightmares and cries in her sleep like a child. It’s pitiful. We hug and pet and soothe her, and she wakes up from her nightmare and then looks at us and MOANS and GROANS, like she’s trying to tell us all about it. Poor baby. We dare not even slightly raise our voices at each other, because our dog immediately becomes a nervous wreck when eiither of us does that. So, in that way, our fur-baby is very good for our marriage. Plus, nothing says LOVE like a cold wet nose waking you up in the morning. Or in the afternoon, as the case may be, with our days and nights so mixed up.

        Sorry if this is way more information than you wanted!

      • Lady Quixote February 14, 2013 at 4:10 am Reply

        SORRY, I forgot to answer your most important question: What in therapy is helping me the most?

        The thing that is helping me the most, and I believe it is the same thing that has helped my husband the most, is a particular attitude, which I have unfortunately found to be rare among therapists and psychiatrists and society as a whole, although that seems to be changing. I hope it is changing! I have given this attitude the acronym CARE. As in: Treat PTSD with CARE: Compassion, Acceptance, Respect, and Encouragement.

        Compassion: no less than one would have for a person dealing with a broken back, or cancer. Just because an injury is invisible does not mean it isn’t “real,” or that it does not HURT. A LOT.

        Acceptance: Acceptance to me means leaving the judging up to God, for He alone really knows what is in another person’s heart. Accept that you really cannot imagine what life is like for the other person, because you are not in their head and you have never been in their shoes. Accept the person as he or she is. I’m not talking about taking abuse off of them, not at all! But even when you have to firmly set boundaries, try to do so with an attitude of acceptance. Accept that they are probably doing the best they can at this moment with what they have, and that if you were in their shoes you would probably behave no better than they are. This doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t get better, it just means accepting that they are probably doing the best they can with what they have, right now.

        Acceptance also means to believe them, even if their trauma story is hard to believe. Unless they are telling you something that cannot be true, such as that they are the Queen of England in disguise! It’s like the standard of believing in a person’s innocence until they are proven guilty. With two severely mentally ill parents, I have lived through some very awful trauma. The therapists who treated me like I was surely making my trauma story up, did me more harm than good. I wish my trauma story weren’t true! But God knows, and I know, that it is true. I’m not one of those who “recovered memories,” either, I find that very suspect. My trauma was something that I never could forget, no matter how hard I tried to put it all out of my mind and being me. But — it is a normal human tendency to not want to believe the worst things. The first thing that most people say when they receive very bad news is, “NO! It can’t be!” We don’t want to believe that the holocaust really happened, and yet there has been enough proof of it presented that only the most delusional among us have been forced to acknowledge that yes, it did happen. An entire regime systematically murdered millions of people, while the rest of their society looked the other way. And many other horrors have happened in the world, and continues to happen. We prefer not to think about it, we don’t want to believe it. I can’t even bear to watch those SPCA commercials about poor abused and neglected animals. I don’t want to think about poor animals being made to suffer, let along helpless children, or innocent men and women being murdered, hacked to pieces for the reason that they were born on the wrong side of town or their skin or their religion or their name is wrong. I don’t want to see, hear, think about, or believe in, any of these horrible realities! I’d rather go read a novel, or bake cookies, or get my hair done, or go shopping. ….But when someone has lived through hell, and when they tell their story to friends, family, therapists, or in a support group, and they are met with silence and looks of disbelief, that hurts almost as bad as the trauma hurt. Not being believed is a very lonely, crazy-making place to be. Having a therapist who believes my story, who is wise enough to hear and understand and believe my truth, is a huge help.

        Respect: This is the BIGGIE, as far as I am concerned. Our society as a whole stigmatizes those of us who have been given any kind of a ‘crazy label.’ My doctor who diagnosed my PTSD helped me immeasurably when he said, “You are Not Crazy! PTSD is a normal reaction to overwhelming trauma, just as bleeding is a normal reaction to being stabbed!” Wow. Just, WOW! I had thought that I was crazy. I had thought that I had somehow been born inherently and fundamentally defective and unworthy of common courtesy, human kindness, love, and respect. I got that idea from the long-term abusive situation I was in. Over and over again I was called CRAZY, and told flat out that I was worthless. I was taught to be ashamed of being me, taught to hate myself. I was taught that I didn’t even have the right to be here, taking up space on the planet. I didn’t deserve the food it took for me to stay alive! Nothing hurts worse than hating yourself! But when my therapist treated me from the outset with an attitude of respect, rather than talking down to me or behaving like I am ‘less than’ in any way, that was, that is, SO healing! (That’s what my husband and I do for each other, too. We accentuate the positive, respecting and appreciating each other’s fine qualities, while overlooking the bad ones, unless it is something we need to lovingly draw a boundary line across. It’s a fine balancing act, indeed!) When the Vietnam Veterans came back from Vietnam, they were cursed, they were called baby killers, they were sometimes spit on. There was no hero welcome, no parade, no respect for them. My husband joined the Marines because he wanted to follow his dad’s and his grandfather’s footsteps in doing his manly duty by serving his country, and to make the world a better and safer place. He was willing to lay down his 19-year-old life, to be a hero! But he learned to be ashamed, to hate himself for what he did. In the Topeka, Kansas VA PTSD program, he was given RESPECT, and taught to be PROUD of who he is and what he has done.

        Encouragement: This is a big one, too. Well, they all are big. Encouragement meas that we are not hopeless, no one is hopeless. Where there is life, there is always hope. With God, all things are possible. I have been treated in the past as though I were hopeless. I have been told that PTSD is incurable. I have actually gone to a therapist for help, poured out my whole life story to him during our first and only meeting, and then have him sit there and tell me that I could not be helped, and basically tell me in so many words to give him a check for his hourly fee and then get out of his office! If I weren’t a lady, when I wrote out my check I would have said aloud what I was thinking: that now I know what it’s like to pay to get screwed. It took all my strength not to go right out and kill myself! But I got MAD, instead. What a JERK! I kept looking until I found a doctor who told me that he can of course help me, and he did, he saved my life. And after that, I wrote a review telling the world to watch out for the jerk therapist.

        No one is hopeless. No one is unworthy. Not in the eyes of our Creator, who has created every human being in His image. I am a precious child of God my Father, no less than anyone else. I have PTSD, yes, but it is not incurable, it is not without hope. I am alive today, because God did not give up on me. When the time was right, He sent me to the right people who knew how to help me, and then He brought my best-friend-hubby and me together. Thank You, Lord!

        Aside from the CARE attitude, I would say that the PTSD Workbook is helping me the most. (WHEW! OK, I’m done now!)

      • Lady Quixote February 14, 2013 at 6:33 pm Reply

        Thank you for your thoughtfulness, Diane! I will leave it up to you, whether to publish my lengthy comments or not. I’m trying to be braver about sharing personal things. I tell myself that if something I share can help even one other person, I shouldn’t worry about whether it may make me look like an idiot in the process. My ego isn’t all that important. But the problem is, I’m not always the best judge of what may or may not be good and helpful to share, you know? Guess I’m just too close to it, to really see it clearly. Also, I don’t share nearly so much on my own blogs. But I’m working on that… 🙂

        • ranthegauntlet February 14, 2013 at 7:06 pm Reply

          I just read through your comments again. REALLY good stuff. Have you thought of posting it on your blog? Then I can reblog? Just a thought. If not, I will publish, because what you have to say is worth hearing (reading). Let me know!

  7. Judy February 13, 2013 at 5:01 pm Reply

    What a good picture of our instincts to strike out. I don’t have much experience with physically abusive behaviors, but have been know to have a twitchy tongue. Genuine heart change, in my opinion and experience, is only by the grace and power of God. I repent; he cleans up my heart. Repeat. Again. Great post – thanks!

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