Help! I'm Conflicted With What To Do With My Emotions!

Self

How can denying yourself the right to feel actually be damaging to your relationships and self?

I know exactly when it’s happening. My body starts to tighten, my heart immediately starts to beat faster and louder. I can sense an eruption slowly increasing through my chest, entering my throat. I swallow a deep pressure in an attempt to prevent any real reaction to be exposed, afraid of what it will cause. I instantly, (as if the swallow ignites a domino effect), remind myself, “you’re being ridiculous, don’t cry.”

My inner-talk becomes overwhelmingly loud and dominate. It inherently dismisses my [“stupid”] emotional reaction as it tries to make logic of my  [“irrational”] natural responses. This results in a conflict within myself that seems too difficult to even attempt to understand. I retract, shallow again, and listen to the loud voice that continues to tell me, “stop being so sensitive.” 

I have personally experienced this cycle of questioning whether or not my emotions are irrational or logical, way too many times and many of my clients report experiencing similar sensations and patterns. Can you relate?

By avoiding my emotions and bodily reactions, I literally became emotionally-handicapped and I didn’t even know it! My avoidance and lack of self-awareness was restricting my ability to emotionally function. While this behavior was embedded into my daily routine and comfort zone, it wasn’t until years later that I began to see it for what it really was... damaging. It slowly became obvious to me that I was resorting to erratic behavior instead of facing what was really happening inside of me. Why? It was all in fear of exposing my emotions to others and getting rejected. I would blow up with aggression when I become intoxicated for reasons completely out of left field; I would settle for unhealthy and neglectful relationships in desperate hopes of feeling understood or complete. I was missing the core foundation of what was coming deep within myself. I continued to feel more and more misunderstood and ashamed, and it wasn't until I began to practice self-awareness that I finally realized how disconnected and out of touch I was with my own self.

I realized I didn't understand my behavior; instead, I just blamed others for not understanding me. I didn’t understand my emotions; instead, I just allowed my own mind to bully me out of experiencing them sober. I felt weak, uncomfortable with vulnerability and stuck with avoidance in any way I could find an escape.

When we are children, we are often told we shouldn’t cry. We should stop acting like a baby, even when we are too young to process and identify the emotions we are having to convey to our parents what we need effectively. We may have gotten into trouble for misbehaving, all because we lacked the tools to communicate our pain in words. Maybe we came from an abusive or neglectful childhood that enabled us to feel safe being ourselves, so instead we learned to mask our emotions, fear them... and even deny them as a part of us because we interpret the message as, "crying and exposing emotion= BAD." 

When we are adolescents and teenagers, we are often told by grown-ups that our emotional responses are “not that big of a deal,” and that we shouldn’t "take things so personally.” We may fall in love for the first time and get our hearts broken or have a close friend completely betray our friendship. These “things” may seem little to the average adult, who is too busy to create the space for us to feel heard at that age. Unfortuantely, not feeling heard when we are experiencing these emotional things, reinforce our inability to feel safe and trust others. This, only strengthens the message we received as children that there must be something wrong with us if we cry or feel sadness. Thus reinforcing the conflict, "are my emotions irrational or logical?"

We then get into adult relationships in hopes of experiencing movie-inspired love and true intimacy, but fall completely on our asses over and over again when we realize it doesn't exist.  We try to imitate intimacy and connection, without knowing ourselves well enough to even let our guards down. We unconsciously protect our emotions in fear of how our feelings will be interpreted to our partner, so we revert the other way and typically behave in ways that push them away instead because it's easier. 

Well... no wonder our partner doesn’t understand us. We don’t understand US.

So, are our emotions irrational or logical? Emotions are labeled as “irrational” to our logical minds, (and to give our minds some credit, there is some truth to that). Our emotions don’t always make practical sense or innately follow societal norms. “Irrational" is the opposite of “logical" and when our brains cannot make sense of why we are feeling a certain way, we end up with uncomfortable confusion in an internal conflict that feels self-defeating. How can you get around this conflict and find a balance that is actually a win-win for both parts?

Start with Acceptance.

By logically accepting that you indeed, cannot “make sense” of your emotions, your brain is satisfied. Similarly, you can validate yourself emotionally by acknowledge what you feel and experience is real even though it may not make sense. By emotionally accepting that this is indeed natural, normal and most importantly, a part of you, your emotional processes feels freed.

Acceptance can actually become very empowering. It can reinforce our strengths and abilities as human beings and as a result, help us become more in touch with ourselves. When we mask our feelings and natural responses as adults, we run the risk of never being understood by anyone or ever experiencing true intimacy.

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So go ahead.... Give yourselves the permission to be [emotional] humans and see what happens. I dare you!

This article was originally published at Modern Love Counseling . Reprinted with permission from the author.

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