Now? But, ‘who’.
By the tender age of five we are already masters in the art of deception when it comes to disguising, distorting and denying our true feelings, by the time we reach adulthood we are Honorary Fellows having graduated from the University of Hard Knocks, all too aware that daring to display our honest emotions is the quickest and most painful way to ensure we are disapproved of, that we are unacceptable and must adjust what we are feeling to make other people feel comfortable.
Heartbreakingly in many relationships; whether it’s parent and child, marriage or friendship there’s that unwritten and unspoken rule which dictates that there’s a time frame around how long we are ‘allowed’ to be deeply sad, angry or disappointed.
We are aware that we will receive support initially, we will be given TLC by way of a hug, a listening ear, somebody may cook you a meal, offer to care for your children while you rest or kindly say they will foot the bill for you to ‘see someone’ i.e. a counsellor or psychotherapist.
…then the time frame looms like a dark spectre of doom, a haunting, bleak awareness that kindness and patience is soon to be reached and breached if you don’t ‘snap out of it’.
Your heart aches and the fear rises with you because it’s at this time you need patience, kindness and support the most but you’re aware that if you continue beyond the allotted time allowed then the exact opposite of support is going to happen inevitably resulting in unkind words, criticism, judgements and even threats from those who say they love us.
This is a clear example of other people projecting their fears onto us and how we allow it to happen but when we do this there are no winners because we are complicit in allowing the cycle of societal and familial emotional illiteracy to continue, ensuring yet another generation suffers the pain of unexpressed emotional angst, spiritual disconnect and the total exhaustion of inauthenticity.
But when we learn to break that cycle we become happier, healthier individuals and this has a ripple effect extending out to our families, the wider community and even in the work place which is important and rather lovely as we each spend so much of our time there.
So how do we break this cycle once and for all?
The answer, just like everything I teach is deliciously simple; we must to honest, open and brave!
Honest – about how we are truly feeling, to take ownership of that pain, hurt and disappointment, to make it valid, normal, natural and inevitable.
Open – to learning that all emotions have value, and none need to be feared, avoided and demonised.
Brave – when we are willing to brave the harsh words and criticism we know are on their way when we decide to honour what we are feeling instead of plunging it down to join all the rest of the toxic, sludgy unresolved energy belonging to every feeling we were not allowed to feel.
Everybody is simply waiting for somebody to teach them a better way of being in this life so when we are brave and explain to the one who has run out of patience with us that there is nothing to fear, when we tell them it’s not permanent and it doesn’t equate to us becoming another mental health statistic with all the stigma that may evoke, they too begin to learn, teaching those we love that there is nothing to fear from the emotions we have been taught to demonise and avoid is the most loving thing we can do for them, to do otherwise it to perpetuate the cycle of familial dysfunction.
Often, we must face that which we most fear in order to resolve that fear and when we do it’s never as scary as we anticipate it will be, you are more resilient that you realise, and other people are simply afraid of what they don’t understand, they are not bad or mean people, that which shows up as badness and meanness within them is simply fear.
Freedom to Feel – Breaking the Cycle of Emotional Illiteracy; Sadness isn’t an Illness.
In the three previous chapters of this e-book we explored how the fear of permanence and of how the responses of other people to our difficult emotions are barriers to our freedom to feel and allow ourselves to give expression to what and how we are feeling in the moment.
In this chapter we will explore the fourth barrier – that of fearing we are or are about to become a mental health statistic when we are experiencing emotional trauma – the fear that there may be something wrong with us, that we may be in need of treatment and how that impacts on our fear of what other people may be thinking about us if they find out.
…but it’s not ‘mental, it’s emotional.
Our heads and minds don’t ache for the life we dream of instead of the one we are stuck with; our hearts and souls do.
Our heads and minds don’t ache because of unresolved emotional pain resulting from traumatic childhoods and past experiences; are hearts and souls do.
What we are really experiencing when we find ourselves in a state of despondency, fear, shame, blame and overwhelm is emotional health not mental health.
The fear that we may be going mad, losing the plot in some way is an old, worn out and useless script replaying from the past when we were raised on stories of Mrs such-a-body down the road who ended up in a lunatic asylum because she didn’t stop crying for a month.
This teaches us two things; that crying is bad, wrong and unacceptable and that there is a time limit assigned to how long we can cry for before we are thought of as ‘fragile’ at best and ‘not quite right in the head’ at worse, heartbreakingly this even applies when we have something very real to be sad about, when sorrow is the only inevitable outcome of whatever we have experienced.
Breaking this cycle of emotional illiteracy begins with re framing our understanding