I was having this really amazing conversation with a friend the other day and we started talking about why people have a hard time with emotions or real feelings. Specifically why feelings are “hard to swallow” or admit and face.
This struck a nerve for me, because I hid the “truth” about my feelings with booze, drugs, and food multiple times over in my short life. I hid them, not because I did not want to feel them, more because I did not feel I could safely show my feelings to anyone in my life. Being numb was more acceptable.
Over the course of my left I felt more often than not, I was in a place of shame around being emotional and having “feelings”. I was the emotional “have” in a family of “have not’s”.
My mom and sister were very compartmentalized in an emotional sense and my dad drank to hide his feelings. So I was the only person willing to feel for a long time. I did not see anyone else feeling the way I did around me, so I was not sure I was “normal”.
I felt every time I was upset, angry or sad, the emotions were over-exaggerated due to having no guide, no compass, no one to show me what feelings looked like. This over exaggerated feeling caused me to feel shame and remorse over and over again, just for being myself. I was afraid to feel, because someone would get mad at me or make fun of me. I was never able to really express myself.
Once I realized I too could prevent those feelings (much like my dad I assume), I did. I used alcohol and drugs from a very early age, to prevent myself from feeling, so those around me might find me more tolerable, more likeable, more acceptable.
This was never really the case though. I was never more hated or ignored by those around me. My emotional outbursts became worse when they did happen, because it was like toxic vapor seeping out of the cracks of my being, which the substance abuse only plugged for so long. I was explosive, and there was always a match near by for igniting.
10 years later, once I gave up preventing my feelings from “just being”, they came in waves and floods. These emotional outbursts were more than what I remembered being young, which were harder to swallow, due to being overwhelmed with feelings long ago lost inside. But these feelings were real. They were relevant and valid. They were my guide to who I was then and am now.
After lots of therapy and years without hiding what I feel, today I am on more of an even keel. I know what my feelings are when I am having them and can express them.
Looking back, I think in my childhood, it became a situation where my feelings were a demand on others those around me. I demanded them to feel and pay attention to what I was feeling and I had the expectations of them to respond. But the truth for them was they couldn’t, with where they were in their lives it was not an available option. This fact did not make them bad people, just not on the same emotional wavelength.
Today what I know is, (As my friend Juanita put it so eloquently) I do not have to subscribe to any one else’s “channel” including what media and society say I should be, think, or feel. I can choose to be the calm in the chaos of what others believe and find my own place among the reality that is my feelings.
I do not have to demand others listen to how I feel, for today I listen to myself. I value my own feelings and derive my own worth based on what I know of myself, without letting anyone else step in the way of “my truth”.