“It could be so much worse”; words used to diminish your experience

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

Diminishing my feelings

A few years ago in therapy I uncovered a conditioned belief that was ingrained very deep inside me. It came with the message, “be thankful, you don’t have it nearly as bad as many other people have it, it could be so much worse.”  This message felt so real to me that I also began to use it against myself. I would remind myself, “this isn’t that bad, you shouldn’t feel so bad because you know there are other people who have it way worse than you do.” It took me a long time to dissect the shame and guilt wrapped up in this little package of words that was used by others in my life to try to diminish my feelings and experiences. I believe these words were said with a goal in mind. (maybe on a subconscious level, maybe not). The goal in my opinion, was to allow the person saying these words to remain in denial. If only I would just stay quiet, if I would just swallow my thoughts and feelings about any given situation, if only I would just pretend that everything is “normal”, then the people around me could remain in denial. If I spoke the truth about the dysfunctional behavior, others might be forced to face the truth of certain situations.

how do you define “worse” in this situation?

This phrase has popped up again a couple of times in the last few months. I thought I would write about my experience because I’m thinking there are others who are familiar with these words and are in the process of figuring out why they trigger a feeling of shame or maybe anger. I want to validate your feelings of confusion around this.  If someone tries to diminish your experiences and emotions by telling you, “it could be so much worse”, please know they are trying to avoid facing something in themselves. These words are used when someone is trying to avoid feeling their own truth, when someone is denying what is true in their life. These words are used to project a person’s discomfort onto the person speaking the truth, in hopes of lessening their own inner feelings of truth. Your feelings are valid, you have a right to feel as you feel, no matter how bad other people have it. There are always going to be people who have things worse than you do, or I do,etc.  Also, how do you define “worse” in this situation? That could be another discussion by itself!  The fact that someone else may “have it worse” doesn’t change your feelings! You have a right to your feelings no matter what someone else’s situation is. (and feeling your feelings and talking about them does not mean you don’t have compassion for others and their experiences).

guess what happens when a person keeps “shutting up”? 

It took me so long to understand what was really going on when I was told to “be thankful, it could be worse”. I internalized shame and guilt when I heard these words. I felt ashamed that I could be “so selfish” as to think *my* feelings should matter. Who was I to think I could have any issues at all when there were so many others whose issues were way worse than mine! I am so grateful I figured this out and unraveled the insanity of this brilliant little phrase used to manipulate and control. I was able to step back to see the big picture. By diminishing my experience, it shut me up. When I shut up, others around me could stay in denial. If I shut up, we could keep playing the pretend game of “everything is so great! our situation is normal! I didn’t do or say anything hurtful.” And guess what happens when a person keeps “shutting up”? Depression. In a big way. By being told numerous times that my experiences and feelings were nothing compared to others, I internalized the message, “I don’t matter, my voice does not matter. If I keep everything inside, it will make others happy”. And so I learned to not “rock the boat”.

until I started rocking the boat

That is, until I started rocking the boat. And really, “rocking the boat” to me just means I started speaking up and saying what is true for me. I think of this as a positive thing, but not everyone agrees. Some are not yet willing to own their words and actions, and that’s okay, I understand. But that doesn’t mean I am going to stop saying what’s true for me. And it doesn’t mean I will go back to pretending all is well. It is interesting that if a person is not ready to hear the truth, they instead decide to blame the people who are speaking their truth. The message being sent is something along the lines of, “if you speak up and tell the truth, you are a bad person. You are a trouble maker, why can’t you just “forgive”, *you* are ruining relationships, it is your fault we are divided.” This is unfortunate, and sad.

All I really want

Because I remember very vividly what it feels like to protect myself at all costs, I understand being in denial and I understand not wanting to feel the pain of my experiences and truths. Because of this, I really can’t be angry with people who are not ready to face their pain (even though it could mean an end to their suffering). Being vulnerable and taking ownership of your experiences is not easy work. It can be very difficult, in fact. But it is part of being a healthy human being. Feeling the pain of things we are faced with in life is part of the process while on the path to finding the truth of who we really are. It is part of the process of taking back the power we give away when we suppress our emotions so that someone else can remain in denial. All I really want from others is for them to show up in an authentic way and to be vulnerable enough to own their experiences.

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Posted in Awareness, Depression, healing from depression, Help with depression, Self-love | 3 Comments »

Depression,loneliness,authenticity,and vulnerability

Written by Amie on February 19, 2012 – 3:53 pm -

naming the feeling of loneliness

I received an e-mail yesterday from someone asking me about loneliness. She told me she feels lonely even when she is surrounded by people who care about her. I told her I can totally relate to the feeling, and I also told her what a gift it is that she recognizes this part of herself. I remember so many times that I felt this way. It took me a very long time to figure out what was really behind the feeling of loneliness. Honestly, I didn’t know it was loneliness I was feeling. I knew the feeling felt really big inside me, but I wasn’t sure how to name it. At that time in my life, I had the habit of turning these feelings against myself. In other words, I had this big feeling inside me that I bundled all together with all of the “bad” feelings I was having, and called it depression.  I would tell myself there must be something *wrong with me* for feeling bad even when I had people in my life who loved me. How could I be around people who say they care about me and still feel depressed? The answer eluded me for quite awhile. Maybe the real situation was that I didn’t want to acknowledge my truth. If I were to actually name this feeling I was having (loneliness), I believed I would then have to act on it right away.  That isn’t true. The first step is always to acknowledge the feeling, and then allow yourself to feel it. Once you allow yourself to feel your emotions, a part of you will open up to new possibilities, and action will follow if that is what needs to happen.

I was dying inside, I felt so empty

It took me awhile to figure out, or acknowledge that I truly was feeling lonely. It also took me awhile to see the patterns I had set up in my life to support this loneliness. I am not being judgmental here, just stating what is true. Somewhere along the path in my life I learned that I needed to protect my sensitive spirit from people who had the potential to hurt me. When our true selves are not nurtured and supported starting from a young age, we learn other ways to be in the world as a way of protecting ourselves. I thought if I could keep myself from being vulnerable with another person, I was protecting  myself. I only allowed myself to go to a certain level of connection with people, and then I would put up my walls of protection. Nobody could get past those walls. It appeared as though I was sharing myself with others, but I wasn’t. Not by a long shot. I appeared strong and I appeared as though I had it all together. But I didn’t. I was dying inside. I felt so empty.

it has taken me almost 6 years to get to where I am today

With the help of a therapist, I finally came to see how lonely I was really feeling. I found a therapist who (after going through many therapists that I could never open up to) I felt safe with. It took awhile, but she was finally able to help me make a crack in my wall of protection. It was a slow, often painful process. My mind was like a steel trap. It did not want to budge. It has taken me almost 6 years to get to where I am today. That seems like a long time when there are promises out there telling us you can pop a pill to get relief without having to do the work of looking inside yourself. (I am not saying medication should never be taken, I tried that route myself) However, to put things into perspective, I remind myself that it took me much longer than 6 years to get to the breaking point of depression, so I knew it wouldn’t happen overnight. I had to rediscover the authentic person behind the wall of protection, and that takes work.

most people feel lonely because it is not “small talk” they are really wanting and needing

And…back to the issue of loneliness….I can see now that people who have a wall up around them are most likely feeling lonely most of the time. Most people feel lonely because it is not “small talk” they are really wanting and needing. Most of us settle for this because it is the norm. But on a deeper level, we want to feel connected to each other, we want to know what is really alive in the person we are talking with. We want to feel authenticity with each other. It is so sad that most people have been trained to ignore the real stuff, and go straight to the small talk. My first real connection with someone was my therapist. I know that may sound weird, but I don’t care! lol She was coming from a conscious healthy place, and I felt it.  I felt her authenticity, and I wanted more. From there I met a wonderful friend (at a book store!) who is so authentic with me. At first, it was scary because I didn’t trust that she could be real. I didn’t trust that she wouldn’t hurt me. But I hung in there, and I now call her my soul sister. I am also a part of a women’s spiritual growth group with like minded conscious women who are also seeking authenticity and truth. Another person who I relate to on a soul level is a friend I met years ago at a health food store! She is someone that I know connects with me at a very deep and authentic level.

the more I love myself, the more I bring people into my life that will mirror that love back to me

I feel so grateful for all of the people in my life right now who are real with me. I notice that the more I love myself, the more I bring people into my life that will mirror that love back to me. My kids have done this for me since the day they were born. Talk about authentic! To this day, they call me out on my old patterns. So, I guess what I am trying to say here is that if you are feeling depressed, ask yourself if you are lonely. Be as honest as you can be with yourself. Just admitting it but not putting pressure on yourself to do anything about it will help. Just allow yourself to feel the truth of what is there in your body. I would say to myself, “I am feeling really lonely right now”. Then I would tune in to what my body was feeling in that moment. Tightness in my stomach, almost always. Just stay with the feelings in your body. You don’t have to solve anything….just feel…..

 it’s time to fall in love..with yourself

The more you allow yourself to feel what is true for you, the more you will begin to crack open your wall of protection. What I am also saying here is that if you don’t have at least one person in your life you can be 100% real with, it is time to find one. Finding one will lead to finding another. I promise you there are people out there wanting the same thing you do. Authenticity. Vulnerability is a part of the process. People who are willing to be vulnerable, willing to show their human side, will attract others who want the same thing. People are lonely because they are guarded. We shut down our truth; our human side. The act of pretending to be happy, the act of going through the motions of being human, doesn’t cut it for very long. Many people are okay with living their lives like this. I am not one of those people anymore. If I would have continued down the pretending path for much longer, I most likely wouldn’t be here today. That is the truth. I need to be real, I need to be who I was born to be, I need people in my life who are willing to be real with me. I refuse to pretend. One more thing….actually a very important point…..once you start truly loving yourself unconditionally, you won’t feel lonely anymore. When you love yourself, you will stop looking for someone else to make you feel any certain way. Nobody can ever make you feel unconditional love for yourself. You need your love in order to be happy. You can start loving yourself right this minute by asking yourself what you honestly need right now. Being honest about it will start your path to self-love. We all crave authenticity and love and deep connection….so you really can’t truly feel these things unless you are madly in love with yourself!!! So, maybe it’s time to fall in love..with yourself! xo

And in the spirit of love….I have to put this song in here yet again…I just love it so much! 🙂

 

 

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Posted in Connection, Depression, Healing & personal growth, healing from depression, Nurture yourself, Self-love | 5 Comments »
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