Feeling is in the body, not in the mind

Written by Amie on May 25, 2013 – 1:39 am -

I was completely numb emotionally; I believed that “saying” I was angry meant I was feeling my emotions

It has taken me years to trust feeling my emotions. When I first started down the path to healing depression, I had no idea that I was completely numb emotionally. When I say completely, I truly mean 1,000,000,000%. I was like a steel trap. But I didn’t know I was doing this. I didn’t realize that ignoring my body signals, overlooking stomach pains, and feeling like I want to smash my head against a wall wasn’t “normal”. I thought “saying” I was angry, or talking about someone who made me want to smash my head against the wall meant I was “feeling” my feelings. I thought that if I said I was angry that meant I was feeling my emotions. Boy, was I in for a big awakening! It all makes sense to me now. I understand why I ended up in severe depression mode. I understand why I used to beat myself up. I understand why I thought I was responsible for everyone else’s emotions. I never felt safe to feel my truth. I understand now that I learned from a very young age to shut off from my emotional body. I learned that I didn’t have time to feel anything, I was supposed to be good so that the dysfunction around me could continue on. (i.e. make it easier for those around me) And if I did express an emotion, it was quickly shut down by some chaotic event going on around me.

I was terrified to speak

I began learning how to feel my feelings a few years ago. Talk about baby steps! When my therapist asked me what I was feeling, I looked at her like she was from Mars! I had no clue! Not one answer came to me, for months! Many of our sessions were spent in silence because I was terrified to speak. I want to say that here because I want to reassure you if this is also true for you. It does get easier if you are gentle with yourself and have compassion for yourself. I had been numb for years, so I had to be patient with myself.  I’m going to jump a few years forward to now and say that even though I am much better at allowing myself to have feelings and with getting in touch with them, I am still working on this process. Learning to feel your emotions is a process, especially if you learned that having them wasn’t safe.

my stomach was in severe pain

I was tested this past week when someone close to me said some really mean things about me to someone I love deeply. This person was speaking from a very emotionally unconscious place, which helps me have compassion for them. Since I have grown and changed, it made their life different. I know now that when one or more people in a close knit group change, it may cause the other group members to get very angry. And that it did! So, even though I knew this person was coming from a place of deep emotional pain and certainly frustration that things are no longer the same, I was also deeply hurt that they would say hateful things about me. This is when I learned how far I have really come in my process of learning to feel. Within a few hours of hearing about what this person said about me, my stomach was in severe pain. I became sick. My head ached and I felt deeply deeply sad. I cried deeply for long periods of time. In years past, I may have mistaken these sensations for the flu or some other issue. This time, the truth really clicked. I am feeling a deep sense of loss, and my body is responding. Very deep hurts from my past were triggered by this event. Hurts that have been buried for many many years. The things this person said about me validated how I had felt all along in reference to how this person really feels about me. I had buried these feelings because it would have been too painful in the past to feel this truth. Since I feel safe enough to feel my emotions now, my body allowed these past hurts to bubble up to the surface to be healed. I didn’t have to do anything except notice the sensations in my body. I didn’t have to “figure anything out” so to speak. I just let myself feel what was happening in my body.

It isn’t a story in your head, it is a feeling in your body

This is truly what feeling emotions feels like. It isn’t a story in your head, it is a feeling in your body. I never knew this! I was always terrified to feel anything. I would clench my stomach, hold my breath, and try to distract myself from whatever was going on. After years of doing this, my body shut down from allowing me to feel. My body is amazing! It was protecting me from feelings that may have been too huge to handle when I was younger. My body only allowed so much to be noticed. Only what I could handle at the time. For this, I am incredibly grateful for my awesome body! Little by little, my body knows how much to allow me to feel. It has been very patient with me, letting me go as slow as need be. Lately I have been feeling more than ever before. After this last experience, I know for sure I am grieving on a very deep level. It is beyond sadness, it is grief. And it is so interesting because I really didn’t understand what grief felt like until my brother died 6 years ago. Honestly, I didn’t know what to call what I was feeling after he died. Since I am more aware now than I was then, I am able to look back and see that it was similar to what I am feeling now. A very hollow feeling in my stomach, nauseated, and a headache, with bouts of deep crying. It is difficult to describe the grief itself. But I instinctively know what it is. I also attended a grief ritual retreat a few months back. I wasn’t even looking for this type of retreat, but it “coincidentally” came across my path and I knew I needed to go.

Grief Ritual;  “stay out of my head”

It was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. Little did I know it would help me through this process I am dealing with currently. I could probably write a whole post about the retreat. It was amazing! Here is a link if you are interested: Sobonfu But I will save that one for another time. The really cool thing I discovered during this experience is that I got through this much quicker and with less suffering than I would have in the past. I firmly believe it is because I FELT it as it was happening. I didn’t try to make it go away, I didn’t try to ignore my body sensations, and I didn’t deny my truth. Talking about it helped as well, but just being with my body sensations helped tremendously. I am not saying it was easy work, because it certainly wasn’t. It was difficult at times, to be sure!  But, I felt empowered because I knew I was strong enough to handle it. It has helped me really acknowledge how shut down I was in the past. I knew I was shut down, but I didn’t know to what degree I was shut down. This experience has taught me to have even more compassion for myself and to be patient and gentle with my process. I was also able to “stay out of my head”. When we add commentary to the process of feeling emotions, it distracts us from actually feeling what is happening in our body. This is how emotions get stuck in the body, and may begin to cause physical symptoms. (Again, a whole other post on this! Physical issues are almost always related to unprocessed emotions).

feeling is in the body, not in the mind

I have come to a place of feeling grateful for this experience. Even though it was painful to realize certain things, I feel grateful because it showed me how much I have healed and how much I have grown.  I have released so much negative energy from my body, and it feels great! I am able to feel my feelings, and express my truth, even when others may not be happy about this truth. I know that if I want depression to stay in my past and not come back to my present, I have to live in my truth. I must feel my emotions. I live in the present, and I heal past experiences if and when they arise. I love my life and where I am today. I feel proud of myself for having the courage to change what wasn’t working for me. I try to come from a place of understanding that everyone does the best they can with the knowledge they have in each moment. I also realize that we are all on a different path and we all have a different timeline for healing. I respect everyone and their path. However, this does not mean I will stand by while someone says hateful things to me and about me. I can respectfully move away and allow them their process. This is how I love myself and how I take good care of myself. I allow myself to feel the sadness that flows through my body while I let go of someone because of their unhealthy behavior towards me.  Feeling is in the body, not in the mind.

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Posted in Awareness, Depression, healing from depression, Help with depression | 2 Comments »

Dysfunction runs deep

Written by Amie on May 20, 2013 – 3:00 am -

 I am not responsible for others’  feelings or their emotional pain

It is a really good feeling knowing I don’t have to respond to people who act in dysfunctional ways toward me. Setting boundaries feels very empowering. It was not easy doing this with people I have been interacting with for a good portion of my life. I can have compassion for them *and* I can ignore their pleas to engage in unhealthy behavior. I don’t have to respond even when they are accusing me of untrue things such as being full of anger and hate. In the past,  I may have felt the need to defend these lies, but today I know the truth, and that is all that matters to me. I have never felt more at peace than I do right now, which makes it a bit easier to ignore their words.  I don’t have to respond even when they are saying hateful and cruel things about me. It took me years of healing work to get to where I am today. It feels really good to be in this healthy place! I know how much I have grown, because I am able to hear words today that would have been so incredibly hurtful a few years back,without believing them and turning them against myself. I have learned that cruel, hateful words are not about me, they are about the person saying them. Today I am able to see that the person or people hurling these cruel words at me are in deep denial and deep emotional pain. And I am relieved to know for sure, that I am not responsible for their feelings or their pain. They are trying to say I am responsible. That’s okay if they want to say that. I know my truth and that’s all that matters. It feels so good to see through the “nonsense”. I see clearly how people “project” their own emotional pain onto those around them.

 emotional projection

I have been learning a lot about emotional projection. It took me awhile to really understand what it is. The Universe must have thought I needed an example to help me understand it better! Someone who claims to love me accused me of being filled with hate and anger. In so many words, they are saying that since I am not going along with the protocol so to speak (which means I am changing a pattern that was deeply set for years) and I am speaking my truth, it must be because I am filled with anger and hate. I find this fascinating. This person is completely convinced that I am acting dysfunctional, when in reality I am standing up for myself and I am saying “NO” to unhealthy behavior. This person is calling me disrespectful because I refuse to continue unhealthy behavior. I am saying, “no, I will no longer participate in the pretend everything is ‘normal’ game”. In reality, this person is angry and resentful at someone else but is  saying *I* am the angry and resentful one. Instead of dealing with his/her true feelings and the circumstances they are living with, they have chosen to blame me, saying it is *me* who is causing the problems. It fascinates me what the mind is capable of making us believe.

others may dig their heals in to hold on tight to what they know

Dysfunction runs deep. If one person in a close-knit group begins changing the group dynamic by growing emotionally and getting healthy, the whole group starts shifting. Some of the group members may also begin growing and healing, while others may dig their heels in to hold on tight to what they know. Even those members who know the group is unhealthy may still choose to stay with the way things “have always been”. Even tragedy may not change the way they do things. Keeping things the same may still win out even if one of the members snaps, goes into a  rage, and threatens another person in the group. The other members have learned to protect the “group leader” so to speak. It is the way it has always been done, so some people have a very difficult time changing what feels familiar. Some  may even blame the group members who are getting healthy rather than calling out the unhealthy behavior of another member.  I know from personal experience how hard it is to change and heal from dysfunctional behavior. I also know I couldn’t live in the dysfunction anymore, so for me, there was no choice but to face the truth. I couldn’t pretend that the way things were, felt good or healthy to me. They didn’t! In fact, they felt completely insane! In order to heal, I knew I had to break away at least for awhile until I was capable of being around the dysfunction while also being able to maintain my own well being.

 give yourself permission to set boundaries

My well being is my priority. Others have to take care of their own well being. (I am talking about adults here). I realized a few years ago that I was sort of the peacekeeper of this group. I was the one who took on the emotions of others so they could remain comfortable. I suffered. In a big big way. My well being was not my priority back then and my health paid the price. I was so deep in depression, I can’t begin to describe it. And since I am on the other side of it now, I can see how dysfunctional patterns become so ingrained in some people, that they will not even consider that maybe there is another way of being in the world. I have compassion for people who are suffering and for those who may not see another way of being. I can have compassion, but I can’t heal their wounds for them. It is up to each individual to heal their own wounds. I will not take on the poison words from people who choose to live in an unhealthy way. I will not tolerate behavior that feels hateful and that comes from a place of emotional unconsciousness. I am in a healthy place and I plan to stay here. If any of this scenario rings true for you, I hope this will encourage you to give yourself permission to set boundaries in your life so that you can heal and grow to be healthy and happy. Setting boundaries is such an important step to take on the journey to self-love.

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