10 May 2015

Fear of Crappy Emotions

**My writing on this blog is so sporadic.  But I'm so grateful for my little space here, and for the little community of women who share it with me.  Thanks.
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June B left a comment on my last blog post that called me out a bit.  She didn't mean to, I'm sure her question was genuine.  But she struck at something that surfaces in my therapy a lot.  And that is my undying devotion to the avoidance of what June referred to as "crappy emotions."

I do a lot of things to avoid uncomfortable circumstances which can result in uncomfortable feelings. Sometimes I refrain from sharing my thoughts with Pete, because I am worried he will get defensive or I won't be heard.  Sometimes I hide parts of my identity, things about who I am, because I fear disapproval.  There are so many social experiences I miss out on for fear of rejection.  Even just making a phone call to get a babysitter sometimes isn't worth the risk I take that the babysitter will turn me down.

A few weeks ago we were traveling as a family and Pete and I had a conversation where I shared some of my feelings and it didn't go well.  I didn't get the empathy and understanding I was looking for, which resulted in some resentments and frustration on my part.  I decided that it just wasn't worth it to share my feelings.  What was the point?  It would be better to just keep them inside rather than take the chance that they wouldn't elicit the response I wanted.

I was discussing this with my therapist and he said to me

"Just because it didn't go well, doesn't mean you did it wrong.

Things are gonna go badly sometimes.  Conversations are going to result in hurt feelings and disappointment sometimes.  But why not give it a chance? Give Pete the chance to hear you and understand you.  I believe in you, and I believe that when it doesn't go well, you are capable of coping and feeling and getting through the disappointment."

What are crappy emotions that they must be avoided anyway? They are just guests at the party. Part of life's experiences. And not only that, but sadness consistently brings me closer to compassion, and out of pain grows empathy.

June asked, Will I ever get to a point of long-term consistent contentment and happiness?

Here's what I think. I think the course of my life is going to include crappy emotions.  But it is going to include happiness as well.  With the help of God and wise friends (and a good therapist!) I can navigate my way through it all.  Fearing and avoiding crappy emotions is not only an impossible task, but a confining one.  It's a classic risk-reward paradigm.  If I'm never willing to share my feelings, exhibit my true self, and participate socially - I'll never have the reward of a vulnerable conversation with my husband, feel loved for who I really am, and enjoy creating and nurturing meaningful relationships.

June I hope for both of us that our periods of happiness will be lengthy, and that we can learn how to lay a foundation of peace that will sustain us through the crappy emotions we will inevitably face.