“Current research shows that you prefer thinking rather than feeling. You are avoiding emotion.”
I read the line again.
It still said the same thing.
It got worse:
“In fact, in our own research in New York we have found that people who score higher on factors related to worry have negative views of their emotions.”
I thought, obviously these are generalisations about people who worry. And, also obviously, this is one generalisation that doesn’t apply to me. Of course I don’t avoid emotions! I am emotive and sensitive. People confide in me and tell me I understand their emotions and how they feel. I don’t have a negative view!
Obvious, obvious, obvious.
As with most things that are obvious, it doesn’t mean they’re true.
The more I thought about it, and the more I reflected on the things I had been worrying about, the more I began to see the truth in it. It is as though by gnawing on a worry, I turn a pain into a series of What Ifs – the wordy thoughts create a temporary barrier between me and the raw, blood and guts emotion.
No – more than that – I often feel stupid about feeling the way I do.
“Week six” happened months ago, when I challenged myself to worry less. It worked, and I marked this goal as done not as a sign of completion, but to acknowledge to myself that I had and can continue making progress. Recently I clicked the “I want to do this again” option to try to move it back onto my main list. It, and week six especially, have been heavy on my mind this week.
I don’t know what the trigger was. Perhaps lack of sleep or a chain of subtle and hazy events, but I ended up more worried than I had been in a long time. I wrote in my journal that the feeling of worrying was worrying in itself. The sensation made me anxious: “I feel insecure and I know it is unattractive and annoying, which makes me more insecure. Worry is a drain on your being. It drains your heart and your courage.” As if the pen had a memory of its own, I started writing about what I learnt months ago about emotional avoidance.
My last entry started with:
I want to accept myself not for who I could be, but for who I am right now.
Rather than accepting how I was feeling, I was worried about it. I thought I was “an insecure mess.” I felt weird and isolated. Throughout November and December, I decided I was going to brush up on my emotional literacy skills. I read about uncomfortable emotions (anger, sorrow, jealousy, fear) and what often causes them to arise. Emotions tell you about your needs. They don’t always make sense because they come from a non-rational part of our mind, the part of our mind dispersed throughout our bodies: the nervous system.
There aren’t “negative” emotions per say. They can be painful, undesirable and disruptive but we have such emotions because we need them. It is how a person interprets an emotion that colours their life. Our culture values happiness and freedom and individuality perhaps above all else. It certainly interprets some emotions as unacceptable, maybe because they seem to go against these core values: we don’t feel free if we’re weighted down by heavy emotions, and loneliness can make us question everything.
When I last saw my boyfriend, I realised that happiness (at least in part) means being able to be yourself. You have to be willing to feel uncomfortable to be yourself, to accept your own vulnerability and risk or allow others to see and accept it too.
If your emotions tell you about your needs, and worrying creates a barrier between you and your emotions, then it follows that worrying creates a barrier between you and your needs. I have created that barrier for many reasons over my life (who ever is reading this – you probably have too in your own way), and these reasons have seemed so fast and strong that they’ve often seemed like rules. How you break rules is you make it so they don’t apply anymore…
To be continued.