Today, I am on my soap box. I'll probably do that several times here as well. The long and the short of it is that people need to deal with their feelings, actually discharge their feelings, and stop acting-out and being reactive.
One way to look at my job as a psychotherapist is as an evolutionary agent of cultural change one person at a time. As we each heal and become integrated, whole, emotionally available and able to maintain intimate relations the world is a safer place; one person at a time. Just think how different the world will be when violence is never motivated by someone's feelings; instead each of us/everybody merely rages, sobs, trembles or laughs uproariously. On both a global scale and on the individual level this is easier said than done. As I am not actually a sociologist I will discuss the individual.
For those of you who were raised to be all of who you are and you were guided, supported and nurtured by healthy, emotionally available care-givers throughout your formative years; why are you reading this? I mean, theory would suggest that you feel willing/safe enough to express your emotions when you feel them. A vast majority of us, however, did not get out of childhood unscathed.
I will be addressing trauma, abuse, attachment disorders and PTSD in future blogs. For those of us who have a trauma history the healing is compounded, but to merely live in our culture that is not emotionally intelligent, savvy or vulnerable is hurtful.
Each of us comes into the world with a variance in how we feel and express emotions, but we all have them intact at birth. Emotions are one of the first and primary modes of communication we humans have. A baby cries when she needs something. Emotions are one way our bodies help us heal. Therefore, when our emotions are dismissed, denied, shamed or annihilated we are hurt by not being heard and we are hurt by not being able to heal. Compounding that, not being able to heal over time has negative and hurtful effects. Held, unexpressed feelings weigh us down energetically and age us physically.
When we are not able to safely express our emotions, in childhood, say, we come up with coping mechanisms to get us through painful situations and/or avoid our emotions. We learn through our experience that it is better to cope than do the natural healing process of expressing emotions. Some of these coping mechanisms become problems of their own (eg. addictions) and others are problematic because of their rigidity. A negative effect on our ability to be intimate and vulnerable is inherent in not being emotionally expressive or available.
What do we do about this? Aside from promoting cultural and world-wide change in how we all deal with our feelings, each of us can heal from our individual hurts.
With my clients, I talk about the conscious intent necessary to change our response to our emotions and emotional situations. From our childhood experiences we now automatically shut our feelings off or down one way or another. That was appropriate in the unsafe environment we grew up. However, we grew out of that world. We are no longer a child and we are not dependent on parents/care-givers that "taught" us to shut off our emotions. We are now in a world where we can choose to relate to people who are emotionally safe enough so we can be vulnerable, intimate and emotional with them. It takes a while before that becomes the new automatic way to respond to our emotions, but my clients get there eventually.
In a future blog, I will discuss more in depth what it takes to change our automatic coping mechanisms that shut our emotions down to the ability to be vulnerable by choice.