The basis of all integrity is accepting what’s happening in the present moment. Fighting reality, through denial, minimization, fantasy, or avoidance, puts everything we think and do on a wobbly foundation. To accept reality, we must allow ourselves to know everything we know and feel everything we feel—not ten minutes ago, not ten minutes from now, just right at this very moment. - Martha Beck
We will do anything not to experience our negative feelings. We replace sadness, shame, loss, feeling unacceptable by immersing ourselves in distracting behaviours. We eat-drink-work-avoid ourselves right out of our feelings. We stuff our feelings where we think they cannot touch us.
But they can. and they do. A feeling or an emotion stuffed down will eventually pop up, and it will not be pretty.
It causes physical harm.
It causes mental harm.
And when we are a stuffer, we will eventually let it loose on the people we want most in our lives. We will suffocate them, or scorch them or push them away. Like I said, it ain't gonna be pretty..
In Psychology Today we read that "According to recent psychological research (by David Barlow, Steven Hayes and others) one of the main causes of many psychological problems is the habit of emotional avoidance. This may seem surprising, because the attempt to avoid negative emotions appears to be a reasonable thing." ( Excellent article, I highly recommend reading it in full.)
We get medicated into oblivion for depression and anxiety, when what we are, is sad and feeling powerless. Those are very natural emotions which should be felt and processed. We are labelled with borderline personality disorder, when they really do not know what to make of our symptoms, and it really is just unresolved childhood grief and a lack of coping skills. We accept all sorts of even more limiting labels and we accept that medicating our way out of feelings is the only way.
When not feeling and processing and re-framing our feelings caused the turmoil inside us in the first place...
Burnout, fatigue syndromes, high blood pressure, sleeping disorders, addictions, psychosomatic illnesses and pains, decreased immunity and migraines are some of the obvious fall-outs of avoiding our feelings. As out brain chemistry changes after three months in helpless and hopelessness, we become more susceptible to cancer. We can literally kill ourselves with where we place our attention, our thoughts, our emotions.
Social support and health
What goes down, must come up.
Feelings packed away, will surface again.
That is just how it is.
Problem is how they come out.
It could be punishing, rejecting, mean.
It could be withdrawing, which is just manipulation or punishment...
Higher walls, less allowing of feelings.
It could be passive aggresiveness.
Or a full blown explosion of guts and gore.
All of these serves only only purpose - it alienates us.
So what is the solution? No short answer, I am afraid. But here is a starting point:
Actually feel the emotion you are trying to not feel.
And asking for help and support is not a bad idea, nor is it "weak", or any of those judgments you heap on yourself. It is wise and self-caring.
Feeling adult losses often get enmeshed in our excruciating childhood experiences, which sometimes make it a bit tricky to navigate without help. (If it is a childhood hurt, you are most likely going to need help and support and guidance to get there. And you will have over reactions out of proportion with what you are experiencing.)
But this I have learned from my wise friend Jenetta Barry (The Grief Coach) - honour your grief! I have seen her do it. I have tried it for myself. I am still here. And stronger and healthier for it.
So this is where I tell you more about my journey...
Maybe there is something in my story you can use to make your own life better. I really do hope that my random ramblings are of use to someone out there!