Shrugging Off Feelings

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Shrugging Off Feelings

I was thinking about Art Therapy last night before going to bed….Probably not the best idea as I was tossing and turning for quite a while.  I was thinking about something that the Art Therapist keeps pointing out to me…Which is that whenever I start to feel anything in AT, I shrug my shoulders and magically, the feeling is gone.  He says he can see the feeling start on my face and then I push it away by shrugging my shoulders.  Last session, he jokingly said that perhaps he should ban shoulder shrugs in his office….So, I guess I do it all the time.

Since he has been pointing out the behavior, I definitely see it.  There are a couple of reasons that I shrug off my feelings.  The first is that I have such a hard time with feelings…They are very confusing to me, I never know quite what I am feeling beyond “this  is a bad feeling”/”this is a good feeling.”  And feelings touch places in my core that I don’t like to go to.  Feelings are connected to the parts of me that I keep wrapped up tight and protected.  Some parts are just places I don’t want to go, some are places I just don’t know how to get to.  I worry that if I touch those places, I will just lose it.  I guess that means that I am also somewhat afraid of my feelings….I hadn’t realized that before.

The other issue which is huge is that I don’t want to cry in front of the AT.  This is not a new realization to me…I have struggled with the same issue with every therapist I have had.  In general, I am not a huge cryer.  I learned a long, long time ago that it was best to suck up my tears and pretend I don’t have feelings.  Crying made me vulnerable and that was the last thing I needed to be when I was growing up. Not crying was a survival technique. I also was not supported in expressing my feelings by crying.  My mother never understood my tears and would always brush them off telling me that I was just hungry or tired.  My father didn’t do emotions, so there was no support from him at all.  Crying got me nothing and nowhere, so I stopped crying.

In therapy in the past, I have shed tears. Unfortunately, there are times when I cannot stop them from coming out of my eyes.  I have never ever really broken down and cried or sobbed during therapy.  I just can’t do it.  Or…I don’t know how to do it.  Plus, I get furious with myself for letting tears slip out, so sometimes that over-rides the feeling that was making me cry.

The result of this is that when something in therapy makes me feel like I want to cry, I either quite literally shrug it off (if the feeling is not too intense) or I go into an emotional lock down until the feeling of wanting to cry has passed and I can safely proceed.  If I can remove myself from the feeling, I can talk about and do art about something.  If the feeling is intense…I just can’t do it.

So anyway, I was tossing and turning last night thinking about how I shrug off my feelings and therapy and the fact that ultmateley it is probably not productive to do so….But I don’t quite know how to do it differently.  Definitely not good pre-sleep brain fodder.

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