In my last blog I talked about the relationship between trust and anxiety. In this post I would like to talk about our relationship with our emotions. What is our relationship with our emotions and how did we learn to relate to our emotions the way we do. I may have mentioned this before, but when I was ten years old I made a decision that "men don't cry". I figured this out because the men in my family didn't cry and appeared to be very brave. I wanted to be strong and "manly", and I needed to fit in and belong.. There were no outward signs of sadness shown by the adult men unless my one uncle was drinking and he shed tears of grief related to the loss of his mother. As kids we thought it was funny when that happened. It just didn't seem to fit in our world. To us it would be like seeing a 300 pound man in a mini skirt. When my uncle was not drinking he showed no signs of sadness or weakness. So what did I do with the sadness I never allowed myself to experience. For me it was expressed as anger, aggression, and frequently as laughter in many forms. The messages that we get from our parents, and other adults in our lives overtime become internalized. We develop beliefs about what we should feel, most often we internalize the beliefs that those people who are important to us hold. Most of the time we also internalize their values. Not only did the men in my Italian family not show sadness, they did not show fear or vulnerability in any form. So what is it that you "don't want to feel"? Sometimes we don't want to experience an emotion because it is painful or uncomfortable, sometimes we don't want to feel an emotion because we believe we shouldn't have that feeling, and sometimes it is a combination of both. Ultimately we learn not to trust ourselves. When we experience what I will call "symptomatic anxiety", it is because we are most likely trying not to feel some emotion that is present within us and of which we lack conscious awareness. Anxiety is a natural experience that is not problematic unless it is "tampered with or not allowed to be experienced". Symptomatic anxiety can be a valuable tool that we can use to help us identify what we are trying to hide within ourselves. Unfortunately when we have a feeling that is not acceptable to us we are likely simultaneously experiencing shame. Who wants to admit to feeling shame? There are many ways of dealing with emotions that we don't want to feel. What if we started valuing our emotions and begin to understanding that they may be trying to tell us something. Maybe they may even being trying to protect us in some way or let us know what we need? This would be a big shift and a tough pill to swallow for many of us, but we are always at a fork in the road and are capable of learning new and better ways of doing things.
Anxiety and Being at War with Our Emotions
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