Have you ever had moments where you knew you were feeling things, and maybe even acknowledge that you are upset, but feel overwhelmed and not sure where you are? Or maybe you immediately begin to minimize what is going on so you don’t have to feel? Well, you are not alone, and no you aren’t losing it.
What Am I Feeling? It’s no accident that identifying your feelings quickly may be difficult. If you grew up in a family that didn’t honor your feelings by talking about them openly and lovingly, then you probably found ways to stuff them somewhere and forget them. You realized very quickly that it might not be a good idea to own and express them, or if you were even allowed to have them. Emotionally immature adults can quickly give children the vibe that there is no room for their tears or their anger.
So, over time, you became disconnected from your emotional experience, and may find it hard to day to not just identify what’s going on for you, but to then also believe you deserve to have those feelings. Kids need healthy mirroring by adults to help them identify and validate what is going on emotionally, to create self-trust and therefore better self-esteem. If you didn’t get that, it hurt your self-trust over the years. Pile on with the later, probably just-as-unhealthy relationships you’ve experienced as an adult, and all of the disowning just becomes reinforced. The more folks we put around us who cannot validate our reality, the less we believe it.
Why Does What I Feel Make Sense? For some of us it may be a no brainer that we would feel very angry if we had someone betray us, or if our car was stolen. However, just as we discussed, for many people who have learned to disown their feelings, and for whom crazy just became so minimized and thus normalized over time, they may not know what or how to feel. In order to find ourselves again and reconnect with our emotional reality, we need to first stop and notice. See what comes up inside, and what feeling might be the strongest and the loudest if there are more than one. Then, it might be good to bounce off a healthy person by telling them what happened and witness their reaction. If your friend exclaims “Wow you must be so pissed right now. I sure would be!”, then you would get immediate validation of how mad you feel. If we do this enough, we can slowly internalize what is appropriate and emotionally congruent to the situation. When we don’t have the luxury of asking someone, we can imagine how anyone in our situation might feel, and why. This can further validate that we aren’t crazy, and what we think and feel isn’t either.
Finally, after we have done the emotional work of honoring where we are, we then need to decide what we need to do to take care of ourselves. Initially we may want to focus on THEM and what THEY need to do to be different. Now, there’s nothing wrong with this hurt and anger. But ultimately, we are in charge of our choices, and the only way to feel empowered is to keep it about us. Do we need to set a boundary? What do we need to grieve to acceptance? What choices do we have moving forward? This can be the hardest part of the work, and I encourage you to get great support and coaching around it.
So, the next time you feel befuddled and don’t know why, try to check in with yourself and validate that you make sense. Take all the time and support you need to get there because this is a process and some pieces of it we just can’t rush. Nor do we want to, because as you begin to experience how you are honoring and expressing your feelings in healthy ways, you will savor the little victories, and finally find some peace.