I am always so grateful when those who have suffered as children are able to vent their very real feelings. The post I wrote last night about strong feelings was really provoked by Summer sharing hers in her own post. Reading it made me realise how important it is, in terms of recovery from abuse and neglect that we can recognise and own our feelings. It often appears to me that in society at large people are often mocked, shamed, rejected, diminished or invalidated, either that or we are given some reason why we had to go through them and how it was all a learning experience and we should just shift our focus to something else and be grateful.
And it is true that there is a certain point in our recovery where its best if we shift our energy into positive channels, but I often think if we are continuing to dwell on past pain there may have been a reason, in terms of us not having fully processed or been able to resolve the hurt.
My own mother has often said to me “for God’s sake haven’t you let that go yet?” and the reason I haven’t let it go is that it hasn’t let go of me yet and I haven’t been apologised to. The other night my mother had to apologise to me for behaving badly, I knew she was stressed about other things and had enough empathy and emotional insight to know it wasn’t all about me, and she admitted as much when she phoned me later to apologise. I forgave her but I had still had a major panic attack after the episode and my head was full of thoughts of what a ‘loser’ I was. This incident showed me how deeply I have been effected by being left all alone with big feelings and having so little help to deal with them. I think it is one of the major reasons I turned to alcohol and drugs in my late teens along with all the insecurity I was carrying about.
I am becoming more and more aware too that my parents also must have struggled with strong feelings. My Mum could fly into a frenzy or a rage at times and I am aware of that in the mornings when my anxiety can some times be high and I feel an urge to push, push, push which isn’t about reality or the present, but instead about past trauma energy I carry. This is when I need to sit quietly with my breath or ask myself if there really is any hurry or emergency. I am also aware more and more now of the anxiety that underlay that in my Mum, my Dad on the other hand would detach and remove himself to get out of the line of fire but that left the rest of us alone a lot of the time. I notice this same tendency to take himself away in older brother and his niece was talking the other day about her own tendency to disengage. To me it all speaks of a fear of and difficulty in dealing with feelings.
Children by their very nature experience strong feelings. For a baby who as yet lacks the power of a functioning ego/mind or words for feelings, feelings just exist as very strong body sensation and it is believed that some babies feel more intensity of feelings. I ask myself is it that they are born this way or is it that some babies have stronger feelings because their parents struggle to contain them and reflect them back due to their own issues with strong feelings. So much of how we react and respond to others comes our of our own history stored in our body/mind.
Intensity of feeling and emotional hypersensitivity is a big issue in so called ‘borderline’ conditions and I can see it in bi polar conditions as I have had two sister’s diagnosed with this in the past. And the intensity of these feelings are real. Also if we have lost contact with strong feelings due to addictions or minimisation or invalidation in the course of our healing as our true feelings begin to unpack and unthaw they are going to be intense at first. We may most likely shame ourselves for having them or be shamed by others. This is one of the problem of some 12 step groups which don’t have an intelligent, aware mediator. I have personally been shut down at an Al Anon meeting and it was really wrong and very damaging. I didn’t go back and my breast cancer developed over that time. One of the women in the group was very sanctimonious and obviously had never fully dealt with her strong feelings towards her own alcoholic parent.
Add to this that our feelings and emotions are so much connected to our true spirit or spiritual self. To me a spiritual awakening isn’t a lofty thing that isn’t of this world, its about coming home to our bodies and knowing that who we are and what we feel makes perfect sense. There is a degree of containment in this process for lacking containment we can tend to lash out or act out our wounded feelings but even this may be necessary at first. This is why so many of us need a good therapist, support people and others who will provide this containment, empathy and validation for us and help us strengthen the trust in what we deep down know to be real and true.
When our spirits feel fully awake and alive we are at home in ourselves. We trust how we feel. We act on how we feel. We find our voice and our truth. We can speak up for ourselves. We have better boundaries. We have more compassion for others and we are more able to protect ourselves from abuse. All of this may not be possible if we don’t learn to take strong feelings seriously and incorporate then into our person and understand where they come from.
The capacity to understand and self soothe also means that in taking our feelings seriously we don’t have to magnify them by negative thoughts of ourselves and others and make our feelings and suffering worse. We have permission to feel angry and upset and express those feelings, but not in a way that damages others for once we have learned to understand and contain our feelings and take them seriously we can use them kindly and skilfully, but with a far greater power and determination. We can also take a deep breath. We can ground. We no longer feel so scattered, because we have learned to embrace within the circumference of ourselves all that our spirit feels, knows, has experienced, hates and loves and we can use this knowledge wisely.