Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Emotions: A tough cookie to crack

Emotions are a thing of the past it seems. Some people go overboard with these deadly creatures, but on the average they are ignored or not considered by many people. As the self-help type, I have been working through getting more in touch with my emotions, and I have come to the conclusion that it's a difficult task.

It is common to feel certain emotions, such as happiness, but others, like guilt or sadness can be difficult to identify. The most common reason for this is being raised in a way in which emotions are not discussed or even repressed. This is the often the case, as American households seem to raise their kids on more of the "Go to college, become a doctor, makes lots of money" mindset rather than the "tell me how you feel" portion of things. America in general in more concerned with money than inner happiness. Even with emotionally supportive parents, negative experiences in childhood or young life can lead to a lifelong abusive relationship with one's emotions.

For me, I have mostly uncovered the reasons that I am so out of touch with my feelings. I was raised with love, but the household as a whole was not teeming with it. As a young child, while my parents were at work during the days, my older brother and I would be home together after school. A young boy and a young girl are two very separate entities. Taking after my older sibling, we would get into physical fights daily. We would say horrible things to each other and do anything to make the other cry. I'm sure this has had a negative impact upon both of us, as the 'winner' would be the one not crying at the end. Since I was the younger sibling, and a girl at that, I was almost always the 'loser'. This was reinforcement at a young age to not show emotion, and to feel ashamed when I did.

As I got a little older, but still elementary school age, I was sexually abused by an older boy who was one of my best friends at the time. I don't have many memories of this night, but afterwards I remember sitting in my room and just staring at the wall for long periods of time. Finally, my dad asked me if something was wrong. I told him a largely edited version of the story and he did not react at all how I expected. I don't want to say he didn't care, but I think he felt uncomfortable with the situation and would have rather ignored it. That was the last I ever talked about it with a family member, and at that time I was left feeling guilty. This was subconscious reinforcement that my feelings were not worthy and were better off ignored.

Time passed, fast forward to adolescence. At the end of tenth grade, I began smoking pot daily. I personally believe there is no shame in smoking pot, but when it is done so often it is often some form of coping. As if reality is too much, and things are better off on higher ground, so to speak. I developed some close relationships in this time, despite all the drug use. That summer, I went off to Philadelphia to do lab research at the University of Pennsylvania. When I got back at the end of the summer, one of my closest friends had started hanging out at a new kids house, and they had been doing heroin. At that time, I was comfortable with any kind of drug use, and although I never tried the drug, I was confident that only the 'other people' could experience the negative effects. In a nutshell, my close girlfriend overdosed and died shortly afterwards; One fall night when me and the rest of the crew members were having a little get-together.

Since at that time I had a strong addicts personality going for me, naturally to cope with the death I just did more drugs. I went from smoking pot to trying mostly anything which popped on the scene. Only recently did I realize what a unhealthy mourning and coping method this was. To this day, I don't know what to thing of the events of that Sunday morning, and I still don't really believe she is dead. Instead of facing the terrible guilt I felt, I just tried to ignore it. These are the events of my life which have gotten me to the point of being heavily out of touch with my feelings. Although I'm not sociopath status, I definitely am not one with my inner self.

As a note, it might seem like I blame people for these things that have happened. This is not the case though. I can't say that I cast any blame on anyone else. My brother and I were just young and dumb, the boy was a little misguided himself, and my friend got too caught up in the fun of it all. These events may have negatively effected my current mindset, but not one of them had any cruel intentions in mind.

So how did I go from a hollow druggie to someone writing about my struggles to uncover my inner emotions? How about DUI, rehab, sobriety, self-inspection, and knowledge. Yeah, it's been a fun four months.

How do you know if you're repressing your emotions? For some people it's obvious, but depending upon how out of touch you are it can be difficult to tell. Some symptoms of repressed emotions include fatigue, unclear depression, pretending something doesn't bother you when it does, not talking about your feelings ever or very rarely, a lack of ambition, 'I don't give a fuck' attitude, and blowing up over minor incidents. If this sounds like you, you have some work to do. I can speak from personal experience when I say that it is impossible to truly be happy and content with yourself and your life if you don't take time for yourself and your mental health.

So now that I've discussed the problem, the important part becomes working towards a solution. Much lies in the way you view yourself. If you filter every experience in a negative way, you won't feel good about yourself and are more inclined to repress your feelings. I have been working towards becoming a realist, seeing things how they truly are rather than spinning them in the favor of my mindset. Learning to feel good about yourself has to be the first step, it's a difficult one, but everything else will be skewed if it doesn't happen.

Another way that I've helped to feel myself is by letting my emotions run their course without interruption. If someone nearby is in a bad mood, that shouldn't put me in a bad mood. I had to learn to be my own person and not let other people's emotions dominate my own. You really have no control over your emotions. When you feel a certain way, it's unhealthy and unfair to yourself to try to feel another way. Even if you think you've throughly repressed the emotion, it finds it's way of releasing itself. If I feel like crying, I'm going to cry. If I don't feel like being brought down by someone else's negative mood, I'm going to do something about it. Feeling your emotions regardless of what is happening around you is also not the easiest thing, but once you're aware of it, you can change things. Awareness is key with learning to feel yourself.

This is just some general advice for trying to get in touch with your soul. I believe it is different for each person. Identify the things which made you this way to begin with, try to work through these things and be able to not only admit, but talk in length about them. I do not have a fool-proof formula for every person to get in touch with their feelings, much of it lies in the way you feel you should react and to what length you want to face yourself. Any progress is still progress. But if you're going to take any of my advice, please believe I am much happier and better off now that I think about the things that have hurt me, and am working towards being one with my heart and mind.

For more on identifying, learning to feel, and general information on emotions, please visit...


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