Knowing that our anxiety and emotions make perfect sense is so important… one of the worst things about emotional confusion, invalidation, shaming by a parent or caregiver and gaslighting as a child is that we come to doubt or be very confused about our emotional responses. At that young age we need a parent or caregiver to help us mediate and make sense of our emotions and if they never got this themselves, then its a big problem for us and the confusion may take many years to unwind or may sadly never resolve.
I was moved to write this post today after someone invalidated me this morning. I got the anger surge or at the least the inner feeling in my body of ‘no that is not right’ and then it became a cascade and I was reminded by my more adult part to pick up my book Calming The Emotional Storm and read the segment of validation our own emotions.. I then seemed to remember I did share this information in my blog some years back (and when I find that I will link to it below.)
Often we react against our emotions. As a child we may have been shamed or ridiculed for fear or anger or sadness and so, as John Bradshaw as points out, over time those feelings become bound in shame, as soon as we start to feel them we may have a critical inner voice jump in and try to shout us down or mock or derail us in similar ways.
Instead when we get flooded with a difficult or painful feeling such as anger, fear, sadness or disappointment we can learn to do is this :
Notice how we are feeling and what we are feeling
eg I feel fear
Validate the feeling
“It is okay for me to feel fear right now.”
Find a way to accept and embrace that feeling and the shame or uncomfortability (not reject it.)
“I am feeling fear. It is uncomfortable and I do not like it but it is what it is”
Acknowledge there is a reason, that the feeling makes sense.
“I am feeling fear for a reason.”
Bring understanding to the feeling.
“It is understandable I am feeling fear right now, since X happened and that is a trigger for me.” (acknowledging a flash back)
Do not shame yourself for the feeling.
“I am feeling fear right now but that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with me as a person.”
Bring further understanding to the roots of the feeling.
“It makes sense that I have a problem with fear considering the frightening situations I lived with as a child and how overpowered I was in that situation”
This process helps to counteract the tendency of our inner critic to label feelings and responses as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and judge ourselves harshly and so make things even worse for us.
Many of us did not learn how to be kind with ourselves growing up.. If we did not have help with understanding and regulating our feelings that may take a lot of work in adulthood. Pain may be the necessary fuel to get this process underway.. The last thing we need is more shame when really we are doing our very best to cope, grow and learn, especially if we were raised in situations of emotional neglect, dysregulation or invalidation.