It’s hard to wrangle feelings until we put words to them.
And it’s hard to put words to feelings until we’re willing to feel them.
I know. Given what we feel sometimes, that can seem like an OVERWHELMING proposition.
People who cheerfully tell us “healing starts with FEELING!” don’t know what they’re asking.
Many people reading this have felt overwhelmed by their feelings for years.
A disproportionate number of people who struggle with trauma-based disorders are highly sensitive people.
Part of this could be because HSP’s are more vulnerable to trauma and post traumatic reactions in the first place; and part of this might be because trauma itself sensitizes and scrambles our ability to regulate— to turn the volume up or down— on how we feel.
Either way: trauma survivors OFTEN feel our feelings turned WAY up.
Trauma survivors very often feel STEAMROLLED by our emotions.
We feel as if EVERYTHING effects us— a LOT.
I can personally tell you that, for years, I actually avoided listening to certain pieces of beautiful or meaningful music— music that I loved— because I knew that listening to them would RUIN me for the rest of the day.
Many survivors decide that the ONLY way we can keep our emotions KIND OF regulated is to cut them off entirely.
(Dissociation might be thought of as the ultimate expression of this impulse— though we rarely “decide” to cope via dissociation. That “decision” is usually made FOR us by our nervous system.)
Learning how to manage our feelings can be a long term project. By any measure, it’s a huge, often intimidating project.
Lots of us have been coping— more or less successfully— for years by stuffing, denying, disowning, and ignoring our feelings.
We’ve often NOT put words to them, because we don’t even want to KNOW about them.
Putting words to them— naming them, getting real about what they are and what they’re all about— would make them real…and we DON’T want them to be real.
Here’s the thing, though: our feelings ARE real.
And they’re there— whether we want them to be or not, whether we acknowledge them or not.
Whatever we think about our feelings, they ARE affecting our decisions.
They’re affecting our very physiology.
And if we’ve spent years denying and disowning our feelings, chances are they’re affecting us in ways we don’t choose— and probably don’t like.
At a certain point— we can’t afford to stay on autopilot when it comes to our feelings anymore.
No matter how scary it is— we have to face them.
We have to name them.
We have to create a relationship with our emotional life that doesn’t run on denial and fear.
The truth is, our feelings exist to help us survive. They’re our friends.
Yes, they can seem overwhelming at times. Yes, when we’ve survived trauma, feeling ANYTHING often feels like being hit by a truck.
But the fist step to reeling our feelings in, is to put words to them.
To start developing our emotional vocabulary.
To get to know these forces of nature within us— that have always been with us, since the day we were born.
We start to understand them.
We start to feel less afraid of them— little bit by little bit.
Our emotions DON’T have to remain mysterious— and they DON’T have to rule or ruin our lives or behavioral decisions.
It all starts with getting curious about and compassionate toward our feelings— which, as it turns out, is also a process of getting curious about and compassionate toward OURSELVES.