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.