The Feels


“How do I feel the feelings… you know, so I can stop feeling them.”

File that under Questions You Never Thought You’d Ask Until You Started Therapy. I’ve been reading a bunch of books on codependence and self-differentiation and one of the recurring themes in the recent chapters has been the idea of leaning into one’s feelings instead of trying to avoid them or suppress them.

Easier said than done.

It’s no secret that I’m a “bottler”. I bottle things up. I pride myself on being low-reactive in emotional situations, as a way to demonstrate control. And in a lot of situations it has actually served me quite well: it’s good to not have big emotional reactions; say, in a professional environment, or while receiving criticism, etc. The problem is that once I bottle something up, I never really seem to get around to going back and releasing it. So, there is a LOT bottled up. And I keep running into the problem of having all these feelings suddenly surge up from below like a geyser. Boiling hot. Under extreme pressure. Possibly sulfurous.

And evidently bottomless.

Naturally, it’s distressing to suddenly become overwhelmed by a screaming surge of pent-up, abstract emotion. I have a few reliable triggers: rejection, criticism, feeling of exclusion, any time when I fail to speak up for myself- but mostly this surge of feeling comes on because of some unrelated cause: dropping something, breaking something, etc. One small little thing unleashing a disproportional torrent of emotion.

Even more distressing, however, is the sense that this torrent of emotion never seems to end. Even at it’s most overwhelming, the “surges” don’t seem to be enough to burn off all the feelings under the surface. The pressure goes down, it doesn’t go away. According to the literature, the only way to make it go away is to feel the feelings: “The only way out is through.”

I’m still not clear on how I do this, but I suppose just knowing that it needs to be done is a first step. Right now in a work-from-home environment I have a bit more opportunity to step aside for a Feelings Break when necessary- so maybe this is the time to vent the pressure cooker at regular intervals to clear out some of the buildup? We’ll see how it goes.

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on September 15, 2020.

5 Responses to “The Feels”

  1. If we fall or even lean into our feelings, how do we pull ourselves out of the depths, if we happen to fall? For those of us inclined to fall into emotional ruts, isn’t suggesting a lean or dip like handing an alcoholic a beer? If I am going into my feelings, instead of steering away from a fall, then I want someone to hold a rope and kindly, not bitterly or condescendingly, pull me back up, give me a reassuring hug and continue to work with me.

    I am NOT low-reactive, once my fuse is sufficiently lit. I try to restrict myself by the three-strike rule. But, some topics are…touchy. And, once a wound has been made, it may take just a little nudge to set me off like a volcano. I was raised to be low-reactive, to be polite and quiet. But, once my life was threatened by the help I sought, I could no longer be quiet and polite. And, the older I get, the less patience I have for waiting my turn to speak, sort of like my mother, sadly. I hope I never get so bad that I just talk AT people and stop acknowledging whether or not they are actually listening and talking WITH me.

    I can imagine it’s rather hard for the “typical” redhead to deal with bottled feelings. [Typical meaning redheads are said to be rather fiery with their tempers.]

    You said you already take runs (like Kinsey Milhone). But, perhaps, you need some more physical outlet for your feelings. [Lest I make another reference to your “lion.”] A punching bag? An aggressive video game in which you kick NPC butt?…I favor Double Dragon and Final Fight games, occasionally a Street Fighter version.

    So, you are Brindly Banner, the red-haired alternate-universe version of Bruce Banner. And, just wrenching a tire iron could set you off into Hulk mode. 😛

    I can’t help feeling fairly if not considerably saddened by your position and what seems like a terrible lack of emotional support, a lack of cushion for your feelings, for your outbursts. I know this feeling well and am struggling myself with my own weighty emotions (particularly a somewhat irrational level of fear which is toxic and inducing internal stress at critical levels).

    For me, family is the primary trigger; they’re essentially all I have around me, not friends, not coworkers. And, my family is particularly insensitive and blind to both my feelings and, well, manners in general.

    So, as I’ve suggested, I think the solution you seek…or, at least, need, is a release conduit. Some say shout into a pillow…but that sounds mad. [I’ve tried it and felt my jaw lock out of sorts.] So, punching bag, video games or someone to work through those feelings with you who won’t give you grief about them or act aloof and professional as they dissect your mind like a frog.

    • Well, this is where I’ve finally had to admit that I required professional help and having a therapist has been very helpful. I know you’ve expressed frustration with bad therapy experiences in the past, so it’s understandable if you’re reticent to give it another shot, but it has been good for me.

      On the contrary, I would say that the fact I’m actually willing and able to face these big feelings point to the fact that I do have the emotional support I need. It’s not cozy or plush, but that’s not really what I need right now anyway.

      • Is it the professional help that makes you so much more functional than I am? You seem less…crippled by the similar currents of feelings.
        Yes, horrible experience on my part. I chalk it up to a lousy health-care system based upon level of income. To be fair, the best should be paid the best, I suppose. But, heaven help the worst, then, because the poorest may be the pawns of monsters.
        And, yes, it would take some serious convincing to get me into another therapist’s office, and I don’t mean threats (like a parent might make to a child, like saying it’s either therapy or hit the street, kid).
        Well, for someone who said she didn’t have much to say in a blog, you seem to be doing okay. 🙂

      • It has definitely helped me organize my feelings instead of having them all tangled up in a jumble- they’re still strong and unpleasant, but at least now I can deal with one or two at a time instead of having then all go off like a string of fire crackers. Maybe you could find a therapist that would let you work through writing: it might be more approachable than a group or some such.

      • One of my other complaints about professional help is that you have to accept their costs around their schedule. I might need someone to talk to Monday, but I am only able to see the therapist on Fridays. That was a pain in the distressed butt. And, adding more sessions was too costly.

        Group therapy actually seemed more beneficial, the little I had of it.

        Work through my problems through writing?…as in emails? That sounds like more work than good.

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