My Emotional Journey (Part 1)
When President Uchtdorf shared this story (about Jane, 4 paragraphs down) in General Conference, I could relate. Now, just at the outset, I was never physically or sexually abused in the home where I grew up. Emotional abuse was readily available. But to be fair—-I do not believe it was doled out maliciously. It was more of a product of one parent’s up bringing and probably generations of mistreatment of others coupled with alcohol abuse. I reacted similarly to Jane—I quit feeling to steel myself against the pain and hurt that seemed to happen all the time. It was a mostly unconscious decision. I say mostly because I can remember one instance where I made a choice to stop feeling—but only one. (A story for another post.)
Over the last 10 years, slowly, and piece by piece, I have been emotionally learning about myself, and recognizing how unconsciously I revert to ‘not feeling,’ when something unpleasant is happening. I have to choose to feel. I’ll explain that more in a moment.
As I came to the point of recognizing how I unconsciously ten to manage pain and sorrow, I heard these words in my mind, “Your choice to respond this way has been a blessing and has protected you so far. From here on, your choice to respond this way will interfere in your spiritual development.” Interesting. I wasn’t really sure what to do with that information—but as time went on, I was instructed there also.
I learned there were some behaviors that ‘clued me in’ that I had unconsciously chosen not to feel again—-‘tells,’ if you will. I’ll just share one. I wouldn’t control my eating. Intellectually I had an eating plan to drop weight. I knew what to do. But after three or four days of not doing it, I would wonder what was wrong with me. You know, getting up in the morning and saying ‘I am going to eat this way.’ Then at every turn, choosing not to do it and wondering why I couldn’t seem to get it together. Then I would finally recognize: Wait! I have been saying this, but not doing it for three days! I must be stuffing (my word for the process) my feelings. I must be sad. What am I sad about?? Then I would intellectually walk back to the point I quit controlling my food choices, revisit my experiences and emotions, and find the ‘trigger’ point where I experienced sadness or hurt. “Oh……………..I’m really sad about [this].” At that point, I would have to make time to go to my room, think about what happened and my feelings and allow myself time out to feel and cry about the incident.
Now, just for clarity’s sake, I am a very busy person with plenty of other people’s emotions to manage. I can be busy FOREVER if I choose—never taking any time to process my own emotions. This is how I have chosen to manage for the first 30 years or so, just too busy care-taking to think about myself and do my emotional work. Admirable? Maybe. Healthy? NOT! I have had to learn and recognize that my emotions are just as valid as anyone else and so am I. I need to give myself time and space too. Time to cry. Time to be non-fuctional (not in an unhealthy way but a ‘I-am-not-so-important-that-the-world-cannot-function-without-me’ kind of way). I and my emotions are important and deserve my time—just like I would take time to listen to a sad or hurt friend. So I take time out of my life to listen to myself. Crazy process, huh?
Since I have been practicing over the last five years or so, I actually have times now when the emotion wells up in the moment and I can cry in ‘real’ time instead of eating for three days before I recognize my feelings. All of this is background for tomorrow’s post, so stay tuned! To be continued…..
Please remember those families in Boston in your prayers.