[POD] #5: Untether it!
“When something painful touches your body, you tend to pull away instinctively. You even do this with unpleasant smells and tastes. The fact is, your psyche does the same thing. If something disturbing touches it, its tendency is to withdraw, pull back and to protect itself. It does this with insecurity, jealousy, and any of the other vibrations we’ve been discussing. In essence, you “close,” which is simply an attempt to put a shield around your inner energy.” Michael Singer’s The Untethered Soul.
Here’s the prompt: Are there subjects about which the people who know you would say you are psychologically sensitive? Things people avoid bringing up around you? Are there even smells, words, sounds or objects that bring up very painful memories for you?
How intense is the pain? What do you do to avoid triggering it? What would it feel like if you could be free of it? Would you be willing to allow it to come up and burn itself out?
I had to go to a friend for this one, despite the fact it has been glaring me in the face for weeks. Most people avoid the emotional stuff with me because I don’t express emotions. It is not that I won’t talk about topics that evoke emotions; I just do not talk about the emotions behind the events. I can not think of an event in my life I haven’t processed and can talk about now. However, ask me about emotions and I would rather change the subject.
If I find myself having to express emotions, it messes with me. If I know it is coming, I am anxious. I bite my nails down to the quick. I chew the skin around my nails to the point it hurts. If emotions come out, or I find myself feeling too vulnerable where the feelings cone to the surface – even if not expressed – I will binge eat anything and everything I can get my hands on trying to find comfort.
Sitting here watching the ripple of the water at the creek that runs through our town, listening sounds of nature, I pause to think about why expressing emotions is so hard, why my response is so intense. I know that avoiding emotional expression tends to go along with my Enneogram type 5 personality. I can speak much easier what I think than what I feel.
I have also written about my childhood and that I was not supported emotionally as a child, but I know it goes deeper. I can only blame my childhood so long, I’m not only an adult I have adult children – I know better. If being an adult wasn’t a good enough reason for me to untether my suppressed emotions, I am trained and licensed in mental health, so I know how damaging unexpressed emotions can be. So why do I still suppress them?
I can only think of one person that I have been truly emotionally vulnerable with before and that would be my husband. I immediately think of a time before our marriage where he was there to comfort me in a place that was hurtful to him. I had broken up with him a few months before, but he had remained involved with my daughter as the only dad she really knew. I was seeing someone else.
Suddenly without notice the relationship with my boyfriend came to an end. I was served with papers regarding custody of my daughter. I was eighteen at the time, and understood very little about legal issues. The papers were actually standard child custody and support orders, and filed on my behalf, but I thought my daughter’ dad was trying to take her away. The papers stated that I could not cohabit – and well my boyfriend lived with us. So I told him that he had to go. The timing couldn’t have been worse, he moved out on my birthday. I was heartbroken. I was also left disillusioned because I had not known him long enough to really know about his faults.
My now husband, came to bring my daughter home. He saw me a complete mess. You know, the ugly cry – with red puffy eyes and mascara streaks. Coupled with the “I could care less about life or anything else” attitude that makes being a single parent a hazard. He stuck around and helped get my daughter to bed. And then he tried to comfort me in my sorrow. Even now, writing about that night, it is not the sorrow from the end of that relationship that makes tears come to my eyes – it is the look on my husband’s face, the deep sorrow in his eyes. He was broken my brokenness for another. He was trying to care for me, and although he never backed away, he was hurt by my feelings. The look on his face is etched on my heart, because I know I caused him pain.
Maybe at that point in time, I made an unconscious promise to myself that I would never cause anyone to feel that much pain again. I don’t know. When my father died, that is the only other time, I have allowed myself to feel so broken. I was consumed by my grief. It was a dangerous level of emotion where I did thinks that were uncharacteristic of my true self.
Suppressed sadness often turns into anger. And I was an angry person for a long time. I could go from happy go-lucky lady to a rip-roaring witch in under 60 seconds. I could tear someone apart with a single sentence. And as loud and as bolstering is happy Jackie, the angry Jackie is 10 times louder. I know that I have torn down my husband and my children in my anger, and made a conscious choice to stop it.
The pain I feel by my untethered emotions is intense. At times it hurts physically, from the top of my head to the bottom of my soles. My soul aches as I try to suppress emotions that I feel might hurt others. I realize that somewhere there is a safe outlet of release. A place of safety and security that can handle all that is pent-up within me. Writing is helpful. Prayer is powerful – I know God can handle those emotions, but I have to take time to quiet myself and allow them to surface and be shared without interruption to get there. When I am able, there is a deep sense of freedom and a release of the heavy weight that burdens my soul.
This post is prompted by Tara-Nicholle Nelson’s 30 Day Writing Challenge for Conscious Leaders.