Sorry, if I get a chance to use a bad 70s song as a title, I’m going for it. Don’t try to stop me! 🙂 I have been doing a lot of thought/work on feelings as part of therapy lately. So feelings, both mine & others are on my mind a lot lately.
Recently, ABC News ran a story about a study done with recovering alcoholics. The study indicated they may be less likely to read emotions. I don’t know how valid it is, but it does give me something to think about.
Any time I’ve tried to express any emotion with my mother, brother or SIL that goes beyond the happy family myth, I was shut down, shamed and scapegoated. But not with the more positive emotions. As Spock would say “fascinating”.
It would happen with my father too, but after he got into AA and was working on his amends steps, he became much more open and willing to let other people have their feelings. This hasn’t happened with my mother, brother & SIL. Since I was discouraged from expressing my feelings while growing up, it can be difficult for me to do so, even now.
Even when my insurance company is paying good money for a trained professional to listen, I still have trouble expressing my feelings. My therapist is working with me on this. He’ll ask me what I feel and I honestly don’t know. I’ll say neutral because I don’t know what else to say. He’s given me a long list of emotions as part of helping me learn about feelings/emotions. I do appreciate he’s trying to work with me. He may be quiet when I say neutral or I don’t know. But he doesn’t get frustrated or annoyed (or at least is good at hiding it if he does) with me when I run into this problem. A few other therapists would get annoyed or frustrated and it would manifest in their voices/facial expressions. Which would only make me feel worse, which is why I ended therapy with them. If I want someone to make me feel bad about myself, my family of origin can do that for free! 🙂
But since I don’t always feel/express them, sometimes they get bottled up and I react with sadness or anger that is out of proportion to the situation. Or I overeat. That came up in therapy. I’m trying to figure out if I eat for comfort or if I eat to sort of “stuff” down the feelings. Or maybe both. I do know a lot of the scapegoating came at the dinner table, so I’m sure that’s a factor in all of this.
Tuesday, I have to say, I had a day where I felt my feelings and dealt with them. It may sound trivial, but it’s a huge step for me. I got up early to go to the gym. But due to 2 different traffic detours, I got into the city too late to workout, there wasn’t enough time to work out, shower & get ready for work. I was so angry and frustrated, I wanted to eat pancakes and bacon or a bacon cheese sandwich. While there’s nothing wrong with indulging in that once in awhile, I can’t eat like that everytime I get angry, frustrated, sad or lonely. I try to stick to yogurt or oatmeal, or maybe a bagel once as a treat during the week. And I like to save the bagel for Friday because I think it encourages better choices during the rest of the week.
I stopped and asked myself what I was feeling. I was feeling angry at the traffic, angry at myself for not being more consistent in my workout. I was feeling disappointed I didn’t get to work out. Working out helps improve my attitude and tolerance for life’s little frustrations. I realisitically assessed the situation. There was no point in being angry at traffic, because I can’t change it. There was no point in being angry at myself because I didn’t know there were going to be delays. I could only plan better for the next day, as one of the detours is ongoing. And being frustrated about the consistency, well, what would being inconsistent on food change for the better? In fact, it would only make it worse and make me feel worse about myself. So, I did a little train of thought transfer from the crazy train to the serenity shuttle. I did have a little time before work. I used that to do some errands I had to do rather than squeezing them into lunch, which can be difficult if it’s a hectic day. I then bought oatmeal with raisins and cinammon. I felt a lot better because rather than trying to “stuff” these feelings down, only to have them pop up at a bad time, I felt them and I resolved them. I felt calmer and happier after I did. I didn’t have that anger/resentment stew going during the day, just waiting for some injustice (whether real or mistakenly perceived) to cause the boil over.
As for follow up, I woke earlier on Wednesday to compensate for the detour & got my work out in. Thursday, my therapy appointment is early in the am, so I can’t make it to the gym before work. But I did go at lunch since it wasn’t too hectic that day. I had a hard time asking for the time (I need to coordinate with 2 other folks in my dept). They are obliging, but I have a hard time asking. I already take a longer lunch on Tuesdays to make it to an AlAnon meeting. I felt like I was imposing, but often I work through lunch or only take enough time to get something to eat. I’m trying to feel worthy and/or permitted to ask for time when I need it. Friday my allergies were really bad and I was tired and not breathing all that well, so I took a rest day.
I’m also realizing that some of the hardest feelings for me to acknowledge are ones like fear , vulnerabilty and loneliness. I think that’s part of the conditioning against feelings in my family. I don’t want to be perceived as “weak” so I tend to mask those feelings, even from myself sometimes.