Friday, November 16, 2012

Buried feelings

I had the first session with the new therapist last night and I noticed an interesting thing.

When I talked about my parents and my childhood, my throat sometimes squeezed and my voice wouldn't come out. It's like I knew there was an emotion under there somewhere, but I couldn't really feel it or express it or even identify it.

It felt like wading through murky waters and tripping over something without knowing what it is.

Did I feel anything back then, when I was 4, or 6, or 8? Or was I already burying everything? Are these grief, anger, pain that I felt or normally would have felt if I hadn't emotionally detached from myself?

My therapist encouraged me to express my feelings freely and I just couldn't. I tried going back to the words that I had trouble pronouncing, but it was already gone. I did have several thoughts, though (these are always easier) on why I can't express my emotions:

"I can't be weak. When you express hurt and pain and anger, you're weak. If you cry, you're very weak and you're admitting someone can hurt you and thus has power over you." (my therapist said the opposite is true - you exorcise your parents' power over you when you acknowledge what you needed from them but never got. I like the sound of this, but can't make the leap to applying it)

"I can't be needy. If I'm needy, I'm boring and inconvenient, not only to my parents, but to everyone else too." (my therapist said the need of a child to be loved is a very real and legitimate need. I like the sound of this, but can't make the leap to applying it)

"I can't be emotional. This is not me. I'm not one of those emotional people." (not necessarily true, as I have no idea who I really am, and most likely a result of projection, but still the word "emotional" sounds dirty to me)

These are the things I said in session. Later, I tried more to release my feelings, and I started feeling increasingly anxious.

Then I had one of the worst anxiety nightmares ever in which all the possible catastrophes I could imagine happened (from war and destruction and the bombing of our neighborhood to being late to pick up my kid at preschool and having to buy her neeew shooooes before the next paycheck and crying about it and being gossiped about because of it).

It's like I'm deadly afraid of expressing my real feelings about my parents and my childhood, so I'm stuck at "numb." There's a scab on my heart and I wonder what's underneath, but am afraid to pick at it. Perhaps for good reason. Perhaps not.

If I express my buried feelings,

it will be real. it can't be undone. they hurt me and were bad parents and I had a bad childhood.

I will have really betrayed them. really disobeyed them. horrible punishment will ensue.

I somehow know, feel it, that this was the ultimate betrayal when I was a child. To show to them or anyone else that they were less than perfect parents. I showed it by crying, being emotional, being sad, being hurt, being angry in reaction to their actions. I distinctly remember being told I'd be given something to cry for if I don't stop and feel it in my bones that this really wasn't just an empty threat.

Crying and feeling the proper reaction to their treatment is the ultimate treason and that's probably why I still can't do it.

But I might if I start thinking about it as the ultimate rebellion as well.


  1. Little One, This is your first session and I'm really "wow-ed" by your ability to clearly identify WHAT you're feeling and making the connections to where they originated, the over-arching themes of growing up under a Narc Regime.
    IMO, we "thaw out" a little at a time. You're re-visiting YEARS of your life. Please take your time, work at your own pace. I can well remember being unable to cry for years. I knew if I could cry I'd feel better but I this. Until I could. What a shock. No, I didn't drown and the tears were not as I feared, ie, uncontrollable. But they were surprising.
    Sounds like a really intense session. A little at a time, OK?

    1. TW, thank you for the support and the sweet comment and calling me Little One (that made me tear up a little. ok, a lot). Thanks for giving me hope for the future, too.

  2. PA, this is really a beautiful post and really resonates with me a lot. I have had (and still have) similar feelings. And I do think you are having feelings, maybe just not in the way you expect or want.

    I agree with TW. You have to do this a little at a time. If you ripped off the scab completely, you may very well go into shock. Anything like this takes a bit of time. Like submerging yourself into a pool of cold water. You might want to just jump in all at once and get it over with. But it probably is better to let your body get accustomed to it a little at at time.

    Hang in there. I see someone who is doing a LOT of hard work.

    1. Thank you, jessie. You're right, I have to make peace with the fact that this will take time and effort. Thank you for the support. Hugs.

  3. This post resonates with me also. (Where's DH?? I need him to read this!)

    "It's like I'm deadly afraid of expressing my real feelings about my parents and my childhood, so I'm stuck at "numb.""

    You're describing DH. Perfectly.

    Dear PA, you are not alone.

    1. Thank you. I'm also "Transcending Indifference," hopefully :)

      I only realized this fear today. I thought it was something else. But it's fear.

      Hugs to you and yours.

  4. Hi PA!
    I have a friend who says this all the time, "The journey from the head to the heart or the heart to the head is the longest journey we can undertake." To which I always reply, "Best to do it one step at a time, then." You've taken a step. You asked yourself to take a step and you did it. Leaps be damned, that one step is what you needed and you did it and I'm as proud of you as I could be.

    I know about the defense mechanisms that you're detailing here, and I've lived through the responses, too: the anxiety, the fear, the dreams, the sense of impending doom that occured when I had to set those defenses aside and take just... one... more... step. You're going to be okay, you really are. You're not alone and you can do it, PA.

    This is my favorite MLK Jr. quote for very good reasons, most of which you've described in this lovely post of yours:
    "Take the first step in faith; you don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step."

    Yay for you and your steppin' self.


    1. Vanci, thank you. You gave me faith that I'm on the right track.


  5. Man, I still only cry when I'm sure no one can see me. It took me years of therapy to even get to that point.

    You're doing awesome.

  6. Nine years of therapy for me and crying is still a challenge however, feeling is reattached. I feel my own feelings and I know why I feel what I feel. My counselor would watch my mouth open and close and no sound would come out unless I practiced what I would say. I discovered that using cough drops at a session did ease some of the tightness in my throat so I could talk more. Now, I hardly need them. Sometimes you may feel like you are taking baby steps, that is OK. Sometimes you feel like why can't I do this, that is OK. You will get there one step at a time. You are not alone with trying to reconnect with your emotions. I always liked the quote "Yard by yard, life is hard. Inch by inch, life's a cinch." -Anonymous An inch at a time is still progress. Centimeters may be smaller but still get you beyond where you were before. Hugs.

  7. Thank you for this. I do not think of myself as weak or any of the things you mentioned. (Tho I have had severe adverse reactions almost consistent when I was emotional to anyone, teachers, "friends", colleagues, family members, religious leaders, doesn't matter. To all of them I took things to seriously, should get over it and whatever not people say when they are too much into their view of self to be honest about it.)

    But yes the punishment. And it was no empty threat. Bunny boiling would have followed. Thank you for this realisation. Now I need to work on understanding on an emotional level that I kept my favourite teddy safe all these years, they will not burn it anymore.


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