Sometimes recovery is about putting words to what we’re feeling.
Wrangling what we’re feeling with language.
Hypothesizing, in words, what this huge, overwhelming THING we’re feeling MIGHT be, or be about.
Sometimes the most useful thing we CAN do is put words to what we’re experiencing— even if we have to start with basic, imprecise words.
We often can’t manage an experience UNTL we can talk about it.
Until we put words to it, around it, our emotional experience often remains this bright, pulsing, hot, heavy MASS that we can’t imagine truly dealing with.
Then there are those times when we have PLENTY of words— but they seem empty.
We know what we “should” be feeling.
We know what we’re THINKING, anyway.
But we don’t feel particularly connected to the actual feeling. The actual emotion.
We might sense the emotion is there…but it’s like it’s behind frosted glass.
We can kind of make out its shape its contour…but it remains undefined.
Trauma can bully us to either side of that divide— emotion without language, or language without emotion.
We either feel EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE AHHHH…or nothing at all.
Recovery is about using our words AND feeling our feelings.
Not having to choose between the two.
Recovery is about really feeling that we have CHOICES when it comes to describing our emotional experience or attaching emotions to our cognitive experiences— not letting our default settings take over because we’re overwhelmed.
Sometimes when we’re overwhelmed it can help to be able to say something— anything.
Sometimes when we’re shut down it can help to feel something— anything.
Lots of people don’t understand that self-harm is often our attempt to feel or contain ANYTHING when we’re overwhelmed.
When we go back to relationships we KNOW are hurtful to us, sometimes that’s our attempt to really FEEL something— even if it’s painful.
Sometimes when we engage with people who we KNOW are bad for us, it’s because we know HOW to talk to them— and we might be in a place where we just don’t have words for any of the OTHER stuff we’re feeling.
Words, sentences, language, can reconnect us to our humanity when we’re overwhelmed.
Emotion, feelings, can reconnect us to ourselves when we’re flat and shut down.
We need both.
Just like the world needs prose AND poetry; literature AND visual art; music theory AND music.
There’s a reason why I believe poetry and literature tend to be healing for trauma survivors: they allow us to integrate the structure and support of language and the flow and creativity of art.
In recovery we absolutely NEED structure— and we absolutely need flow.
We need the words; and we need the feelings.
We need the boundaries; and we need that within us that pushes and tests those boundaries.
When you’re overwhelmed, ask yourself: do I need words right now?
Or do I need to tap into my feelings?
If you can think to ask— you’ll likely give yourself a useful answer.