FOUR WAYS TO KEEP FEELING LIKE SHIT
I haven't written a blog in awhile. I could say it's because I've been super busy with clients and just "hibernating" with all of my ideas, which is partially true, but really it's because I've been stuck. Now, I've had a good reason to be: my Dad has Alzheimer's and Type 1 Diabetes. He's been hospitalized multiple times since July with complications from both. He's now at the point where he's in assisted living and will never go home again. He just turned 68 last week. I've spent the last few months reeling from this, visiting him, talking to my stepmother and brothers, and processing, processing, processing. I've been through a different sort of grief before, but it doesn't necessarily make this any easier. However, from that prior experience, and from what I see with clients, I've learned a few things about how we keep ourselves emotionally stuck and how to start moving forward again:
We try to pretend we don't feel the way we feel
Sadness, hopelessness, frustration, nervousness - these are all really shitty feelings. It's no wonder we try to push them away - they hurt! But pretending we don't feel the way we feel often just leads to more feeling crappy. Or if we admit how we do feel, we think we should feel differently. I'll let you in on a little secret: when you're really stuck with a feeling, logic will not make you feel any differently. Instead of pushing a feeling away or telling yourself you should feel differently, try validating your feeling. For instance, I feel really sad about what's going on with my Dad. It's a terrible thing and a lot of times I just want the awful feelings to go away. But when I try to pretend, I just get irritable and uncomfortable. Admitting you feel bad won't immediately make you feel better, but it removes the burden of pretending and allows you to just be as you are.
We let our feelings define us
So, now you've admitted you're sad/anxious/angry, but then you think "I've always felt this way and I will feel this way forever. I am a sad/anxious/angry person." Woof. Now that's a difficult thing to overcome! And often it leads to trying to pretend you don't feel the way you feel. If your feeling defines who you are as a person and you don't like that feeling, then of course you're going to try to force it away. But what if your feeling was just temporary? They usually are. Remember the last time you smiled. Remember when you had a good day, hour, or even just a few minutes. I'll bet you'll find that this bad feeling is just a feeling, not the defining factor of your personality. Now, if you've felt consistently bad for more than two weeks, maybe it's time to see your doctor or find a therapist to talk through what you're experiencing.
We think we always have to put our best foot forward in order to connect
Part of the whole "pretending we don't feel the way we feel" thing is that we want to look ok to other people. We think that being happy and shiny all the time is what people want to see. But really, no one wants to be around a person who pretends to perfect all the time. It gets boring and stale, and you know what? People can see through the BS. Connection comes through genuine vulnerability (thank you, Brené Brown). It takes courage to share the real you. If you think a person is appropriate to share with, maybe "How are you?" can have a different answer than "Fine.", when you're really not fine. Now, oversharing is a thing, too. There's certainly a balance between never saying how you really feel and telling a person you just met your whole life story. A big piece of this puzzle is sharing without expecting the other person to take care of your feelings for you.
We overthink in an attempt to control
Now that I've given you all these things to think about when it comes to your feelings, I'm sure it's pretty annoying to hear, "Don't overthink it!" I know, I know, I'm the worst! But it's true - when we overthink every single interaction because we think we can control how we feel or how others feel about us, we can get big time stuck. The truth is, you can't control emotions. All of these points are about letting go, feeling the way you feel, and gathering the courage to share those feelings with others, without expecting a specific response. Maybe you'll find that some people aren't safe to share with, because they try to fix, or they don't respect your privacy, or they simply won't listen. That's ok. Try again with someone else. You have the choice to share with who you want to. You can trust yourself to think, feel, and take care of yourself.