Understanding, accepting and trusting your feelings

The following excerpt from Jonice Webb’s book Running on Empty : Overcoming Your Childhood Emotional Neglect may help you if you struggle with emotions.  I know in my own life a lot of problems were caused by not understanding nor fully accepting or trusting my own feelings.   An education in a Catholic school taught me certain emotions were really bad, such as anger.  Ideally in childhood we should be helped to understand and identify our emotions so we can use the information they give us and respond wisely, but if we were emotionally neglected we never got to build these skills.    I hope this excerpt may be of help to others who struggle with understanding and accepting their emotions.

If you were emotionally neglected, chances are you have difficulty with accepting and trusting your feelings.  Some emotionally neglected people are completely unaware of the existence of emotions.  Others push their emotions down because they have a deep seated notion that feelings are bad, will burden other people, or can make them a bad person.  Remember the following three rules:

1.  There is no bad emotion

Emotions themselves are not good or bad, right or wrong, moral or amoral.  Every human being has felt rage, jealousy, hate, destructivenss, and superiority, for example, at one time or another.  Most people have even had homicidal feelings  These feelings are not bad, and do not make us a bad person.  It’s what we do with them that matters.  Do not judge yourself for your feelings.  Judge yourself for your actions.

2.  Feelings do not always make rational sense, but they always exist for a good reason.

Emotions do not follow the principles of logic. They can seem inexplicable and unpredictable.  But every emoiton can be explained if you try hard enough. With every emotion our body is trying to send us a meassage, no matter how bizarre that might seem.  As an example, lets go back to David, the forty something businessman who had zero supervision as a child.  David once shared with me that he occasionally felt an unbearable disgust and repulsion when he saw a random person eating at a restaurant.  He was mystified by this feeling, and worried that it might mean he was crazy.  Eventually, through a lot of exploration of his Emotional Neglect, we figured out the reason : David’s limbic system, unbeknownst to him was equating eating, the taking in of food with nurturance.  David himself took no enjoyment from food.  He had great difficulty letting himself enjoy nutritional nurturance as well as emotional nurturance.  Unconsciously, he felt disgusted when he saw someone letting down their guard, and allowing themselves to enjoy taking in nurturance.  This is an example of a feeling that seems on the surface irrrational and meaningles, but was actualy quite meaningful, and existed for a very good reason.

3.  Emotions can be powerful but they can be managed

Emotions that are hidden tend to have a lot of power over us.  When we are aware of an emotion, we can then take charge of it.  David felt at the mercy of his intense feelings of disgust, and sometimes avoided going to restaurants in order to avoid that feeling.  Once he realised the source of the feeling and didn’t judge himself for having it, he was at a point of full awareness and acceptance.  He started to fight it off, and the feelings of disgust lost its potency.  Eventually it disappeared altogether.

The IAAA Steps

IAAA may sound like a retirement fund but it is not.  IAAA stand for Identify, Accept, Atrribute, Act.  These steps are a culmination of the three rules above.  They are the four steps to maximising the value of our emotions, and gaining energy and guidance from them.  First, Identify the feeling, then Accept it.  Do not judge it as bad or good.  Third, try to discern the reason you are having the feeling, or Attribute it to a cause; fourth, identifty whether there is an Action that the emotion calls for and, if so, take it appropriately.

Whar are you feeling right now?  Close your eyes and ask yourself that question.  If the answer is ‘overwhelmed” don’t despair.  The process of making friends with your emotions may seem complicated, or even insurmountable, but you can do it.  Yes, it will take time.  But if you keep working at it, you will start to notice small changes in yourself.  The changes may be subtle and may at first seem unimportant.  But each time you have an emotional realisation that’s new to you  its a sign that you are growing and learning.  If you find yorself struggling too much, or on the verge of giving up, look for a therapist to help you.  A skilled therapist will be able to help you to build these skills, so that you can become fully connected, present and alive.

When anger is denied

Afer sharing a reblog of Twinkletoes post on Anger Turned Inward yesterday I have been thinking a fair bit about the subject.   Anger turned inward ties into issues of feeling unsafe expressing strong feelings, feeling powerless, frustrated, neglected and ignored when we really needed help and validation.  There is a deep despair and grief that we are left with when we are not responded to with empathy or helped to be effective with expressing our wants, needs and frustrations as children.  If we have no where to go with these feelings we often repress them or they fall to the level of our body.

If we were raised in a far older family we may have been left alone or ignored all the time. We may have been on the receiving end of bullying which is projected shame and may be due to the frustration of older siblings who were left alone to take care of us in the absence of parents or carried their own pain due to lack of emotional receptivity and nurture, we are then on the end of the projection of that siblings pain as well that gets dumped into us, and if we can’t express that to anyone its a set up for a host of later painful feelings of emotional isolation and depression

Some of us like my fellow blogger and I were sent to our rooms when angry.   I wasn’t locked in mine but I still felt alone there with my ‘big’ feelings I didnt quite know how to manage.  But I also know my Mum had those big feelings too and Dad didnt know how to cope so would go awol, laughing and joking about it (which on one level was better than exploding) however that was a set up for me for a passive aggressive emotional style.

In the passive agressive style we don’t feel safe enough to set boundaries or say no or even allow for the fact we have needs which may differ from others.  We may equate self assertion with abandonment, if we were on the receving end of a lot of aggression when young we may come to fear self assertion believing it can only happen in a way that hurts and we may either fear hurting others or losing their approval.  If we have known the deep pain of feeling abandoned we fear being the one who abandons others and so we can end up putting other’s needs first.

In my own family I didnt see healthy self assertion modelled a lot and being left alone I learned to try to be needless and wantless, after all there was no one there so I was better to lock it all away or deny it.  I think at a young age I learned to escape into books and TV.  I can still do this at times.  I remember in a past relationship if my ex called and a show was on I liked often I would not take his call.  That may or may not be okay, I am not sure but surely connection to a human should be more important than a show.

I have learned a lot through reading. I sometimes think readers of my blog may get a bit frustrated though as I am always blogging about something I have read.  Escape is not always a bad thing, only when it diverts us from dealing with life and complexities.  That said some complexities we may wish to side step, if we are an empathic intuitive.  We don’t always have to be emotionally available.

Anyway there are some good books out there to help with understanding the role anger plays in our lives and whether or not we have learned to express it in healthy way and listen to what it is telling us in functional ways or repress and deny it leading to depression and auto immune problems.  I have written blogs on the subject in the past but often they get buried way back due to the way my blog is set up and the fact that now, 4 years on I have a lot of posts.

For information of those who would like it though, some of the books on anger I have found especially helpful follow:

John Lee, The Anger Solution : The Proven Method for Achieving Calm and Developing Long Lasting Relationships.

This book is great as he explains very clearly the concept of age regression which is similar to an experience of an emotional flashback that can intensify the way we responde to incidents which trigger old experiences of pain, neglect or abuse.  He gives techniques for unpacking the past triggers.  Just understanding when we are age regressed helps us a lot in our emotional recovery.

Beverley Engel, Honour Your Anger : How Transforming Your Anger Style Can Change Your Life.

Dr Les Carter, The Anger Trap : Free Yourself from the Frustrations That Sabotage Your Life.

And for those whose passive aggressive anger style may come from a fear of abandonment due to displeasing others a very helpful book on learning to self assert honestly is :

Harriet B Braiker, The Disease To Please : Curing the People Pleasing Syndrome.

I am sure there are many other wonderful books out there.  There is no substitute for good therapy to work with the roots of anger and self assertion as these are such important issues when we are dealing with depression.   I hope some of this information may be of help to others.

Can you see me?

I wrote this quite a few weeks ago and it concerns how I was treated in my last relationship.  Often my grittier, real posts don’t see the light of day.  I feel guilt for stating a harsh truth, setting a boundary or being legitimately angry over harsh treatment.  My mother taught me she could not survive my anger and so boundaries were hard.  I am posting this today to get it ‘out’.

Can you see me?  Doesn’t really matter now As I see myself You will never live inside my skin and I will never live in yours But sometimes I will meet a fellow traveller on the road They will see my scars or show me theirs and we will In that one brief instant recognise each other There will be no need for fear or hiding There will only be an open embrace Not a defensive stare Or that heart breaking glare Of how dare you  Strange and dangerous creature!

It isn’t my fault that you cannot see me but still it can cut Especially when you misunderstand You label me agoraphobic not knowing I have known trauma And also that as an intuitive empath I absorb more and feel things more deeply being susceptible to energies that fall off your back

You say I am too sensitive not knowing the cuts or hole of misattention that kept my boundaries open or stopped them from forming at all  You can never know that due to never having been shown empathy for struggling in this way its a long process to learn who I really am and what I feel inside and to put up the barrier or stop your misguided perceptions from stealing in and wounding me takes pain suffering learning and time

For so long I hoped that you would see me But really what I now understand is that all along you only saw your projection And when I failed to affirm your limited view of things I was then a threat that had to be amputated or exiled Or an infection you had to take distance from telling me how sick I made you  But then maybe just maybe you were sensitive too and due to the fact I was in so much pain I could not understand

Now do you not see me?  That is okay!  There are those around who see me, know me, get me.  There are those too who actually think I am kind of special and great  They let me be goofy They don’t cast water on my ideas and they don’t try to reign me in due to their own fears of being out of or losing control All in all it really is okay If you don’t see me Just as long as I see myse

 

In the absence of love

I just reread one of my poems Girl Behind Glass about how when we seek for love outside from caregivers who will mirror and help us to access our true self and find nothing but emptiness or are ignored how we then have no choice but to turn back within often in sheer desperation.

As I was reading the poem it also occurred to me that in the absence of this real honest to goodness present love we actually use the solution of denial and lying to ourselves about what we did not receive, saying that we really did or if we didn’t it was probably our own fault or else there is something wrong with our perception.  This terrible denial solution leads us to turn against our inner world and to suffer from a profound inner schism.

I have just remembered while writing this the double bind theory of schizophrenia proposed by Gregory Bateson some years ago.  In this theory the child accurately perceives that a parent feels a certain way but when they offer that perception to the parent, the parent denies it which leaves the child questioning his or her own perception.  Its like looking in a distorted mirror and being returned a distorted reflection.  I tried to write a post about this a few years ago on WordPress called the Inverted Mirror.  I was never sure how well expressed my struggle to explain this confusing dilemma of perceptual distortion was though, an ongoing inner conundrum for me with my own self doubt formed by years and years of never being fully validated or learning how to self validate well.

I am thinking a lot about this today because I am seeing how much I also engage in a form of denial or just push aside perceptions and insights I can have into people.  My therapist notices it all of the time.  No sooner do I cut to the heart of something when an inner voice comes into to offer the opposite point of view or point out how ‘here I go again mixing things up”.  It truly is awful.

In the past it had been extremely difficult for me to be consistently able to stand by my own point of view and examining this dilemma I think it comes out of having to make choices to spend time with those who are not real or nurturing or wholey loving and honest due to there just being no one much like that around when I was growing up and even later in life.   It is becoming clearer and clearer to me how deeply alone I was growing up and well into late adolescence and early adulthood when multiple traumas hit.

The deep sense of aloneness and emotional hunger forced me to look in all the wrong places for connection as I grew and then turn increasingly to addiction to numb my true feelings about it.  Even well into sobriety trusting my inner feelings, being able to connect to them, feel, name and honour them without fear or shame has been a huge challenge for me.

It could be a breakthrough at the moment to finally be seeing all of this.  It hurts though to finally have to face the depth of emptiness I have felt rather than run or blame myself for it as I have done while on some level also feeling liberating.   I guess from here on in in my journey of recovery it’s all about taking on board the truth that from now on in if I really want to recover I need to be my own best friend instead of giving myself away or putting my own thoughts, needs, feelings and perceptions down.  I see how I can devalue myself because I don’t feel the same as a lot of other people out there who operate on a more superficial level.  Trying to fit into their world only hurts me as it fails to nourish me at the same time.

One of the symptoms of childhood emotional neglect due to therapist Jonice Webb is poor awareness and understanding of our emotions as well as a tendency to feel much guilt and shame as well as feeling that there is something deeply wrong with us for being ourselves or feeling what we do.  Lack of consistent and honest mirroring in childhood of emotions left as with a deep void inside which we cannot know because our ego (or conscious centre of self) was not able to form well and relate to its inner contents completely or in a healthy nurturing way.  This leave us with two other symptoms : feelings of emptiness as well as suicidal thoughts and feelings at times.

If we lack a reference point to connect to the true self our true self grieves deeply within us and longs for a pain to be known which we sadly see as some sign of our deepest flaw and inadequacy, rather than something we are powerless over when unconscious of it as well as a result of things done or not done to us or for us in childhood.

How we escape from this dilemma is first of all becoming aware of the fact that we suffer in the ways that we do.  The tendency to blame ourselves and feel shame for things that were far beyond our control doesn’t allow us to fully heal until we can embrace and know the underlying causes.  We long and ache and suffer while blaming and shaming ourselves for so doing, until one day enlightenment dawns often after an exceedingly long and drawn out battle.  And on the journey the void within needs both a witness and a container to help us make sense of it.

Facing the abandonment depression alone (our deepest core psychological emptiness or abyss) is challenging in the extreme and is accompanied by what therapist James Masterton has called the Six Horsemen of the Psychic Apocalypse and we need all the help we can on the path of dealing with these : depression, panic, rage, guilt, helplessness (hopelessness) and emptiness.  Its no easy journey to live with the consequences of being unheld, unloved and unmirrored in childhood and the last thing I am seeing we need to do on such a journey is blame ourselves for something over which we were at an earlier time completely powerless over.  If we continue to do so we will just never break free and find our true inner locus of power and perception.

Suicide Prevention Month :

I was 20 years old when my older sister made an attempt on her life.  To be honest there was so much trauma going on the memories of finding her body were obliterated by my psyche and later I took to addiction due to the distress caused that I could not share with anyone.  That was in 1982.  My other sister attempted suicide in 2013 and at the hospital she was blown up like a balloon from the effects of the drugs which was so distressing to witness.  I was asked to take a bag of her things home from hospital and it had about three medications including anti psychotics and anti anxiety meds and when I googled them some of the side effects were anxiety and suicidal thoughts.  I was fucking angry.

Later at the hospital I was asked by the doctor “do you know why your sister is on anti convulsive meds”  I hit the roof and nearly screamed the place down.  “You want to know why because they have been overmedicating her ever since she had a hysterectomy a few years ago and playing Russian Roulette with her meds.”  I then told her of my family history of addiction and how I was in AA.  I thought the men in white coats would come for me but a few nurses took me to another room while I cried and they really listened.  Later the doctor came in and said “we have taken her off that medication.”  It was still a long way back for my sister and for my mother who found her it was terrible.   My other sister who had attempted suicide years before was at that stage in a care home and she died never knowing about the attempt my sister took on her own life.

It pays to remember that witnesses to suicide are also traumatised for the rest of their life and may struggle to understand.  They need a lot of support afterwards and may be similarly forgotten.  Of course there were complex issues as to why my sister wanted to end her life and I fully understand them having witnessed a lot of the difficult treatment she received in the family from those who could not relate to her emotionally and had their own defences.

I am writing this to raise awareness.  I have suffered from strong feelings of wishing to end my own life, most especially after my last relationship which was quite emotionally damaging left me with profound feelings of low self worth.  I have always tried to reach out when I feel that way in past years and be honest about how I feel.   But this is just not possible for many.  We need to be aware that modern life is full of stress, dissociation, dislocation and emotional isolation.  We are urged to put on a front a lot of the time and can feel scared and afraid when we cannot cope in ways others seem to be able to.

Reasons people choose suicide are complex so let us stay open and not believe we have the answers for those who are feeling confusion and profound despair.  Let us be present for what people are really feeling and be present and open our hearts and really listen when we can.  We just don’t know how much a caring ear or smile or work of kindness may help someone who is silently contemplating if it may not just be better to end it all.  I recently had a call on a day I was in such a state and the man really listened.  He said to me his father had tried to take his life and if I ever needed to talk I should give him a call.  His kindness to me on that day meant a lot to me.  Life is full of inner struggle so let us show as much compassion and sensitivity to others as we can.

I hurt

I had a very strong experience today of really feeling the amount of hurt my body has carried in the past that I have swallowed down.  I shared a few posts back how my brother’s birthday came and went and I didn’t call as I am so hurt about his refusal to help my dead sister’s son and family which would have allowed them to return to live close to us just before my sister died. I truly believe she died from being exiled and also from a broken heart.  I was aware that his refusal to help bought up the deep pain of being separated from my nephews who were like brothers to me growing up due to being closer in age to me.  It was a wound that really damaged me and one I could not express but covered over for years in addiction. It was a far earlier wound that my inner child was making known.

Anyway last night at dinner the subject of his birthday came up and I was not honest about why I did not call. I have found that speaking my truth in the past lead to being sidelined and I am deeply disappointed in myself to say I was not honest.  My sister asked if I forgot and I just said nothing much.  Later on that night I realised I had not been honest and that was due to fear.  I realised I had let myself down and lost an opportunity to share my hurt and pain.  It may or may not have been validated but really their response is none of my business and this has brought up a big issue with me that I have that I don’t speak my pain out due to not being heard or received before and so my body ends up all twisted up with my gut in knots.  I shared with Kat, my therapist last week how I also feel like I have stampede of wild horses in my chest when real feelings come up and meet the wall of fear over how they will be received.

I wanted to call my Mum and share my honest feelings but I did not want to bring her down and so I swallowed the feelings in and just spent the day at the library and having a cup of coffee.  I could have called my therapist but I did not.

The deeper issue I always struggle with is whether to say anything or remain silent. You may not see this side of me come across in my blog as I present myself as someone who says you must speak up, but we do teach what we most need to learn.  The one good thing is that today I became aware of how much my inner child longs to be heard and how invisible she felt and how little of a voice or a sense of power she had growing up.  This part of me really cried out to me today and I heard her and comforted her.  That was one good thing.

Trauma and silence

The following is partly verbatim extract from the video of Diane Langberg’s talk on trauma I reblogged earlier, and partly some of my own thoughts interspersed.  We so badly need to speak about our trauma and be understood, heard and validated.  The paradox is that so much of trauma is hard to articulate at first, our body carries a hidden burden that often is so difficult to give form and substance to, but it is so important that we try.

Trauma silences human beings partly because there are no words to really describe what that was a like.  It brings emotional darkness, isolation because you feel like nobody cares or even if they did they wouldn’t understand,  it makes time stand still because we get so lost in what happened we cannot see ahead we have lost hope

Trauma heals through : talking :  tears:  time.

When somebody does not talk when all of that is shut down they are broken emotionally (and deeply wounded in a wordless space).  People often will not talk because the pain is so great they cannot find the words. Or they talk over and over again not touching the real deep place.  To remain silent is to fail to honour the event, the memory.  (It is so hard to find the words…. words are often so inadequate when it comes to trauma. After a major trauma in the beginning often there are no words.  (Can we ever really explain what trauma is as it goes into the body?  The body knows!)   Dance it! Draw it!

To recover from trauma we must find a way to live in the truth and not pretend.  Minimising trauma, saying it didn’t hurt, should not hurt or leave lasting effects is wrong.  That is silencing.

Talking says I am here I am alive and for people with trauma that is a huge step.  Most of all letting someone talk or being there for them shows you have ‘care for their broken heart’.

Most especially sometimes what really helps is to sit in silence with the person.  Join with them in the darkness.  Let them know by your presence they are not alone in it.

Most important is gaining power over trauma by learning to tell the story. At first trauma will come out in fragments that slowly have to be pieced together.  Telling and being listened to restores the interpersonal bridge broken in and through trauma.  It CONNNECTS us to others and to our trauma.  When we are believed our trauma is validated.

Thank you so much Broken Blue Sky for sharing Diane’s video with me.  She speaks of things I did with my sister who died and never got free of her deepest traumas, but how could she.  I often just sat with her and held her hand.  How often I have wished someone was there to do that with me.  🙂