Part 1: ♪♫ “Feelings…trying to forget my feelings…”♪♫, musings from a Virginia Beach Counselor
Try a little exercise: Ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now?”
Scribble your response on a scrap of paper somewhere.
What was your response?
Were you able to identify what’s going on with you emotionally?
Could you put a feeling word to it?
Or, did you respond with something like, “I feel hungry” or “I feel tired?”
Were you able to own it or did you say something along the lines of
“I think I feel…” or “I feel like I … know how to identify my emotions?”
I’ve found that most of us spend a great deal of time and exert a great deal of energy trying not to feel. As a result, most of the time, we have no idea what we’re feeling. We are literally unable to identify and label what’s going on with us emotionally. It sounds a little silly, but often times its very true.
In most cases we do this because somewhere down the line we were taught that there are good and bad, acceptable and unacceptable feelings. So, when we start to notice that those “bad and unacceptable” feelings are rearing their ugly heads we run in what we believe to be the opposite direction.
Sometimes the running is obvious. Addiction. Self-harm. Rage. Or, overly controlling behaviors.
Other times the running isn’t so obvious. Perfectionism. People pleasing (an all too often over-valued/celebrated personality trait in Christian circles, by the way). Depression. Anxiety. Food and body image struggles.
Ultimately, all this running serves as an attempt to medicate those
unwanted, BAD, and unacceptable feelings.
There is a quote I love. I don’t remember where it’s from, but it poses a question and answer I believe to be absolutely true. It says,“How do you create an addict child? You teach them not to feel their feelings…”
The reality is that mom and dad didn’t have a meeting before you were born and say, “Ok, so we’re in agreement? We’re going to teach Sally and Johnny not to feel, right?” Instead, it happened unintentionally when Sally came home crying from school because David called her four eyes and mom said, with absolutely good intentions, “Oh honey, don’t feel that way…” or when dad comforted little Johnny after he scraped his knee and said, “Chin up, son, big boys don’t cry.” And, it happened again, for example, when mom or dad blew up and everyone else learned to run to their rooms for cover. In each of these instances, what was communicated was that some emotion was not OK, was unsafe, couldn’t be trusted, was unacceptable, and therefore, BAD. The result was avoidance of emotion until they began to snowball and come out sideways.
I’d like to propose a new way of thinking…what if feelings were just feelings? What if they weren’t so terrifying? What if instead of going, “Crap, I’m feeling something again” (enter snowball of anxiety) your response was “How like me to have an emotion!”? What if feelings were just part of life and not something merely to be survived?