This morning, instead of having time to blog, I am finishing up two agendas because I might be up on group to read them today. Here they are:
- How Am I Responding To My Feelings The Way They Were Responded To?
- What beliefs do I have that prevent my feelings from being expressed?
I respond to emotions with:
- Restricting (both emotional expression and food)
- Historically, emotional eating
- Invalidating my feelings
- Ignoring source of feelings
- Completely deny having feelings
- Isolating when I am crying
The main way I re-enact how my feelings were responded to as a child, is by ignoring their existence. My parents didn’t acknowledge my feelings. It was like I was in an emotional vacuum. The times that my mother did respond to my feelings, it was totally mis-attuned and she would tell me that I was either tired or hungry. And so she would tell me to eat something.
This food-response to feelings certainly was part of what created my emotional eating habits. If I was upset, then food would make it better. I was basically trained on that. Right now, I do not emotionally eat. Just the same way I emotionally restrict, I also restrict-food. Only, restricting food is better because not only do I get to shut down emotions, but I get to lose weight too. It is a win-win situation.
My mother’s response to feelings also served to completely invalidate what I was feeling and never actually look at why I was having intense feelings. This left me at a loss to manage those feelings on my own. Eventually, I learned that my feelings are not valid and that it didn’t matter what I felt or how badly I was hurting, feelings were not important. The source of my pain was inconsequential. It didn’t matter why I was hurting, it just mattered that my feelings needed to be stopped.
I continue this pattern even now. I will avoid and distract from feelings and refuse to look at what is causing them. It just seems easier than dealing with the pain. And if I don’t want the feelings then why bother to figure out why I am feeling them. If I am really pushed and really upset, I will regress to, “I don’t have feelings.” I just shut down completely. I don’t do it too often anymore, but it is a fall-back response when I am emotionally flooded and/or in too much emotional pain (I mean severe, intense emotional pain.)
I also deal with emotions by withdrawing physically (especially to cry). When I was young, my parents would lock me in my bedroom when I was having intense emotions. I used to rage and rage while in my room and then just melt into a crying mess of defeat and worthlessness. As an adult, I repeat the pattern of the physical isolation when I need to cry. As a matter of fact, I retreat to my bedroom, close the door and shut down. As an adult, I don’t rage. But I certainly crash into feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness.
I also have come to have the belief that my emotions are too much for people, too big for people to deal with. If my parents weren’t able to support me emotionally and had to lock me in my room when I was emotional, then my emotions were so big that they needed to be contained. I could barely make sense of what I was feeling and how to manage the feelings (I was only a preschooler and didn’t have good modeling from my parents) so the fact that I had to be shut away when I felt emotions taught me that emotions must be shut away.
When I did approach my parents with intense emotions, my dad was unresponsive. He was always emotionally unresponsive and unavailable and when he did demonstrate emotions, it was to rage. He would rage against us kids, he would rage against nothing in particular. He never would rage at my mother. With my mother, my father just expressed a cold seething, but with me and my sister it was a terrifying rage and being hit with his belt.
My mother was too self-absorbed to pay attention to my emotions. Anything else was more important than me and what I was feeling, be it her job, the soap operas she was addicted to or my sister. If she did notice my feelings she always invalidated and dismissed them. I never remember her letting me crawl on her lap to cry or to talk about what I was feeling. And if I ever did try to talk to her, there was correction and shaming on her part that was I was feeling wasn’t right. But really, I was left to my own devices and as a self-sufficient kind of child, there was no real “need” for my parents to be involved in my emotional affairs.
Really, the messages I got were that emotions are bad, especially Sad and Angry. Emotions would get me punished. Emotions were too much for anyone, including myself, to handle and that what I was feeling wasn’t really what I was feeling. As a young child, there was no way to make sense of any of this and thus began the development of some of my core beliefs.
As an adult, I still am emotionally withdrawn. I feel very vulnerable and expect rejection when I try to share emotions with people, so I don’t. And if people ask how to support me with my feelings, I often have no idea what to say. I am afraid to feel sad and I am afraid to feel angry and I am sure if I express those emotions at/with people, it will push them away and I will be all alone again to try to manage what I am feeling with no idea of how to do it.