We have this overriding fear of feeling our negative feelings.
We will do anything not to feel them! We will stuff them down relentlessly with distractions. We will build thick walls to keep out the possibility of being hurt again out. We will deny their existence. We will prevent hurt at all costs by over-controlling every minute detail we possible can. We will self medicate with work, alcohol, chocolate, sleeping pills and the whole range of mood altering legal and illegal substances out there.
Just so we do not feel.
Doctors prescribe anxiety medications instead of finding the root cause of the anxiety. They dull our senses with anti-depressants when we actually need to feel in order to truthfully grieve and process our feelings – in order to authentically heal.
Not feeling our feelings is hurtful to us physically, mentally and relationship-wise. Yet it is the absolute last thing we wish to experience or share. We just. Do. Not. Want to be vulnerable.
“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
High blood pressure, sleeplessness, acid reflux, psychosomatic illnesses, migraines, lower immunity and adrenal burnout are some of the effects of suppressing our emotions, or of not having healthy ways in which to view life and the feelings that arise because of our world view. There is enough evidence out there, if we want to be convinced that we are actually harming ourselves with this refusal to feel feelings we perceive as negative:
Here is a good article from Psychology Today – well worth the read, as well as a couple of others:
We are over medicated and we easily buy the labels doled out to us, when doctors and psychiatrists run out of options. We accept and proudly wear the labels that we are depressed, have anxiety disorder, have OCD (No jokes, a lack of emotion is a symptom of OCD!), are diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (seriously, what is that???). We get confused between all the side effects we suffer from the one thing that causes the other thing that the next medication is supposed to fix.
And all along we were just supposed to legitimately feel our feelings, process them and accept them. Sad is sad, people. Anger is often justified. Hurt is a very real thing. And all of these feelings have a role to play as we grow ourselves up and learn to have better coping skills.
The reason we shut down our feelings and build our walls is very obvious. We have decided that we will just not feel that hurt and sorrow again. The only problem is that it is a very effective way to shut people and relationships and connection and intimacy out of our lives. And that is such an undeniable human need, that this strategy just will not work. And in the end, all we ever achieve is exactly the opposite of what we need – we push away the very people we want and need most in our lives.
Unfortunately we very often manage to find one co-dependent relationship that we to latch onto, and this “completing of each other”, to the extent of shutting out the rest of the world, prevents us from forming meaningful mutually supportive relationships with other people. This relationship addiction to another is as limiting, as controlling, as habit forming and as addictive as crack cocaine. And just as bad for us in the end.
So between shutting out people and forming co-dependent relationships on the other hand, how do we find balance?
How do we not get enmeshed in that one relationship, that one friendship, the job we give-give to until we are depleted?
Baby steps Sweetheart.
There is just one way to experience feelings, and that is not by going around, but by going through it. Or in my friend Jenetta’s words: “Honour your grief”
One thing at a time.
We will get through it.
Our relationships with our fathers will have a significant influence on how we see men. It will determine whether we think they are trustworthy. It will influence whether we will be fearful of being abandoned by men. Through our father’s eyes we look at ourselves – this is how we imagine men will see us. Do we measure up? Or are we always going to over-compensate to make up for us not feeling worthy. And how much bad treatment will we take simply because we fear being abandoned?
If we are lucky enough to be treated by our dads like Princess Cheesecake, the One and Only, but with respect for our separateness, our entire view of ourselves changes. We expect more for ourselves, and we are faster to dismiss relationships that are toxic for us.
Wanting our father’s approval is a very normal desire for a little girl of any age. I remember how my father ridiculed people with normal fear, so at the age of six I decided I was not scared of his pack of ferocious Alsations. They did not eat me, so there must be some truth to the notion that dogs smell fear and will attack. But that experience of trying to impress my father meant that I could not connect to feeling fear. I did not know that I had fear of abandonment triggers, as I simply could not connect to any feelings of fear!
Leoni decided that she would have to be her two sisters’ caretaker. Her dad told her as the oldest they were her responsibility to make sure they were not bullied. So she built herself a bulletproof, tough attitude. ”It was very hard to make friends, as I did not let anyone see the real me. I was longing for a relationship in which I was accepted. I did not realise that my relationships kept failing because my bulletproof attitude meant I was pushing them out of my life. I had to learn all over how to let people see the real, soft me inside.”
Sandra’s dad died when she was very young. He was her hero. They had fun. He was one hundred percent on her side. She tried to recreate that relationship all her life. Problem was that …