Turing on switched off emotions!
In the movie Pretty Women Richard Gere’s character says,
“I am very angry at my father & it has cost me $15,000 in therapy to say that.”
Ok, so I picked that quote cos I kinda know what he is talking about. In 2009 I started seeing a therapist as I was struggling with depression and general confusion about life. I was also stuck in a pattern of disordered eating & frequently found myself abusing alcohol. Even-though I was only married 9 months, I sensed our fragile union was heading straight for the rocks. Losing my job a few months before our wedding the previous year had seen us off to a pressured start with both of us not having much luck securing new employment.
Adjusting to the loss of an executive job was shocking, to say the least. Losing the support of a workplace, the daily friendships & the perks that my job afforded, me like independence, a company car and expenses, shook me at my core. On top of all that I had a dysfunctional relationship with most of my family & friends. Now, with no job distracting me from the chaos all around me, I began to see my reality a lot clearer.
I did not know how to feel back then and I was certainly not capable of expressing many emotions in a healthy way, especially anger!In my daily life friends around me would feel anger or hurt as I relayed my latest setback. They would curse life for being tough on me and tell me they were sorry for my misfortune. Their emotional response confused me. I would come away from our encounters telling them that I was fine, grand (a typically Irish phrase) and ok. I learnt at these times that these emotional responses were the only ones that I held in my vocabulary. I was emotionally stunted &
Clearly in denial!
The truth was at that time in my life I saw anger as a bad emotion. I definitely refused to express this emotion. Preferring to repress it at all costs. Anger scared me & it meant punishment as a child. Still, at 28, the little girl inside me would do anything to avoid anger, or making people angry. I was terrified of most emotions at that time as I had not yet developed an emotional language or emotional intelligence.
Now several years later I am finally in a place where I can sit with anger and all the other uncomfortable emotions that I was not used to. I can say that after working on personal development, abstaining from alcohol and recovering from the eating disorder I have claimed back my emotions, including anger. This work has been at times harrowing, painstaking tiring but very worth it all the while.
When I became aware of my inability to express my emotions I mindfully began an investigative quest to recover the buried anger and emotions, or at the very least figure out why I had shut it down. The frightened child was the first key to starting that journey of healing.
Sitting here today, now a healthier version of my 28 year old self I am glad to say that I have far more emotional intelligence than I could have hoped for at this stage of life. The progress that I have made is utterly amazing to me. To think, that in three short years an individual could change the course of their life so radically fills me with hope.
Anger is an appropriate response to my situation!
When I began my journey of healing I soon realised that I had experienced a lot of trauma and abuse in my early years. It became obvious that this troubled past was interfering with the present and all these unresolved memories kept tripping me up.
When I first began to speak about memories as they happened in my past, I felt like I was telling someone else’s story. I was totally disconnected from this deeply wounded part of my self. Professionals said this was very common for people who survive abuse in their childhood. As humans we disassociate from the pain and trauma by storing it deep in our neural memory networks and also deep into our body’s cells. These past experiences, we know as memories, will then be retrieved at a later date when our body mind system, deems it safe to do so.
Therapists, Psychiatrists and Social workers all featured on my path to wholeness. Each professional in turn sat across from me, with various looks of empathy, shock, horror or kindness on their faces. As I relayed the memories that were surfacing for me in the daily flashbacks that I was experiencing, I took comfort in being heard. A lot of the time I simply sat across from them puzzled and void of emotion.
A very logical part of my brain knew that sexual molestation, sexual violence and predatory terror are unacceptable in any child’s life yet at the start of my healing journey I accepted these past experience as normal for me. Now that I was an adult, living an adult life I could no longer deny my earlier truth.
Back then at 28 I was numbed out to the painful childhood events in my life. The emotional part of me had long since been switched off, in response, as a coping mechanism. A self surviving skill that I employed, to cope with the pain that life was throwing at me. My mind body system had frozen all past trauma; to be processed at a later stage in life an it appeared that this time was my 28th year! Was I ready?
As I began evaluating my life around the time of my wedding, I was very clear that I did not want to carry on life with a lot of what I had experienced growing up. I began comparing to those around me and deciding what I wanted to do different in my life. I compared life to my parents and the previous generations in my family. Assessing their marriages and what they deemed to be of value to them. Clearly I was starting an inventory. The first conscious one in my 28 yrs! So, there it was & I began to take stock.
I can recall, it was not long before I realised I had a lot of work to do. A great deal of change would be needed to turn my life around. Allowing myself to feel emotions and individuate from an enmeshed family was indeed a starting point.
Could I make these changes without getting angry and upsetting people? Clearly not! Here was the birthplace of my awareness that I was a chronic people pleaser! This people pleasing part of me that I had just met would become one of my greatest challenges to overcome.
Could I change, did I dare to change and finally did I have the courage to please the person who mattered most?
Love, Light & Peace