Numbing: Because it’s Safer in the Short Term

I had my weekly therapy appointment yesterday and we started to address/ readdress an issue I have had for a long time.  I have written about it many times.  I box my emotions.  I have trouble, to the point of emotional constipation, with expressing my emotions.  It is difficult for me to legitimize my feelings.  I cannot allow myself to feel without explaining or reasoning it away.  I cannot honestly remember feeling just because I felt the way I did, except of course in times of trauma.  In most other times feeling was almost always accompanied by “you shouldn’t feel this way because…”  It was how I coped, how I survived, and now these ways of living are maladaptive for me.

Allowing myself to feel now, is scary.  I’m scared of being overwhelmed.  My therapist says that if I continue to keep my emotions boxed up they’ll come back to “bite me in the ass.”  And I know this is true but I am afraid to feel the negative emotions.

Another part of the reason why it is difficult for me to legitimize my emotions is because I feel like it’s my fault.  It is my fault I couldn’t express what I needed/ wanted.  It is my fault for not being able to ask.  It is my fault for whatever Mom gave me not being enough of what I wanted or needed.  I wanted to feel like I mattered.  Most of all I wanted and continue to want to feel like it was okay for me to feel the way I did.

I related this one story to my therapist yesterday.  I think I was about 7 or so, maybe older, maybe younger.  I went into the kitchen where Mom was sitting at the kitchen table and I knelt down next to her. In doing so I smacked my chin on the table.  Mom said something like, “Are you okay?  That must’ve hurt!”  I remember shaking my head and trying so so so incredibly hard not to cry.  Somehow along the way growing up I learned that crying was a bad thing, at least for me.  And yet, I saw my sister cry and get her boo boos kissed.  She stayed home sick from school whereas I puked my guts out in the middle of the kindergarten lobby.  She, I felt, milked her “injuries,” whereas I sucked it up, stuffed it down, swallowed my hurt, and carried on.  And she got the attention, love, and respect, I felt/ feel I lacked.  I did not/ do not feel appreciated for the extraordinary efforts I made to do what my parents wanted or what I thought they wanted.  (Perception is reality, as my therapist points out.)

I remember many times when Dad would look at us/ me and just because we weren’t smiling  at the moment (we weren’t frowning either) he’d say, “What’s the matter grumpy?” And he’d make these infuriating mocking frowny faces.  It’s not like we were upset or anything.  We just had these neutral expressions of the kind everyone has.  Just thinking about it pisses me off and I remember how much, especially when my sister and I were little, it confused me.  Having your emotions and expressions questioned like that is enough to set anyone on edge.

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