I have been in therapy, seeing a psychologist, for years. I have a history of depression and anxiety. I have been trying cognitive behaviour therapies since I was 4 years old. In my late teens I started trying what my psychologist referred to as acceptance commitment therapy. A.C.T. was the most helpful method I have ever encountered. I began to allow myself to have emotions and have thoughts without trying to control and suppress my feelings. This really helped me to relax and be able to really sit with my feelings and experience them. By doing this I have been able to analyse the way I think and why I react to things in certain ways. Instead of trying not to be anxious I am able to find why I am feeling anxious. When I am sad I look at why. Sometimes the answer is that I have a chemical imbalance or a predisposition, but usually I find that something has triggered a thought in my head and then I spiral. It had helped me feel in control.
One of the things I have struggled with the most during this process is allowing myself to have negative emotions. I feel as though we are told from a very early age to suppress these feelings. Don’t cry. Don’t be afraid. Don’t worry. Don’t be angry. Don’t be jealous. Don’t be sad. In this way we don’t learn to look inward at why we feel this way or how we can make ourselves feel more comfortable emotionally. We only learn that we shouldn’t feel these things. We know we will be scolded for reacting negatively to a situation. Instead of learning how to have feelings appropriately.
The problem with suppressing these feelings is that when you can’t hold it in anymore you explode. So many people I know have encountered this, when everything just becomes far too much to handle, you find yourself experiencing all these feelings you have ignored all at once. Without acknowledging your feelings and dealing with them, you can become overwhelmed. Sure, some people never have this problem, but in my experience I have found many more who have.
In some ways I had to learn to “self soothe”, to sit with my fear or my anger or my sadness. I let myself cry it out. I let my emotions dissipate naturally and this occurred much faster than when I tried to force them away. So often I have been told to “move on” or “that’s enough” because “there’s no point getting worked up” or “we have been through this”, instead of letting go in my own time. My feelings make other people uncomfortable. I know this. I know that I am an extrovert and when I feel good I want to share it and when I feel bad I seek the acknowledgement of others. I want to be told that my feelings are valid, because even now I feel I need permission to feel.
I find myself getting more upset now when my feelings are met with disapproval. Once I accepted this new way of feelings it was harder to let other people dictate how I should have my emotions. I know it’s trendy to dismiss people, especially millennials, for having too many feelings. I know that it comes across as self indulgent to allow myself to stop and listen to my emotions. I know how much it bothers my family to hear me repeating myself out loud as I try to process the thoughts my brain keeps playing on repeat. I am sorry that my feelings are causing an inconvenience to those around me. However, the old way caused much more inconvenience to myself. It disrupted my life because these thoughts and feelings never really went away, I was just ignoring them until they became too loud. I didn’t want to feel anything until I couldn’t function at all because of all my built up fizz, bubbling to the surface, overflowing, drowning me.
We should all me allowed to feel things. I don’t expect anyone else to “fix” my negative feelings. I will find a way to resolve. First I need to know the cause. I need to sit with my body and my mind. I need to look within. I need to hold my feelings like a glowing crystal ball. I need to turn it over in my hands and take in every angle. I need to run my fingers along it, to feel the textures, the warmth or the cold, the smooth or the rough. I need to breathe in and out and take my time, and as I do the ball will get smaller and smaller, and it will become easier to hold. It won’t disappear but it will get smaller. The next time that ball expands and I have to deal with it again it won’t take as long, I will recognise it, remember the details, I can recall how it shrunk away and have faith that it will do so again.
My feelings are more familiar now. I can soothe myself. I tell myself my feelings are justified because I know why it is I am feeling them. I know myself better now. I trust myself. I still have to remind myself to take time to listen to my inner self. Ignoring my feelings means I am not being honest to myself. I have to remember that I am important. I’ve been told it’s a waste of time dwelling on feelings but life is full of feelings and ignoring the negative is only experiencing half of life.