What We Hide Hurts Us…
Once upon a time I was a cynical jaded “don’t get in my fucking personal space, shut up with your whining” kinda girl. Feelings I did not do. They were pointless. There was no room for “feelings” in my world – my world was about if you want something, make it happen. Work for it. Don’t whine about it.
Feelings were a sign of weakness and I had decided a long time ago that weakness was for pussy’s. I wasn’t going to be weak. Even my career in fitness has all been about being strong. Feelings = being weak. People who were controlled and dominated by their feelings were not productive people. I wasn’t going to be one those people.
I’ve come to learn that there’s a big difference in weakness from being someone who is playing a victim and spends most of their days whining and not doing anything about their situations or circumstances and weakness from someone who refuses to even acknowledge there is an issue at all. On some level being forceful worked, but on so many others it didn’t. It didn’t look as messy as the people who couldn’t keep it together, but it wasn’t really different.
Shutting down isn’t a sign of strength. It’s a sign of weakness – “I can’t handle feeling…” so I don’t/didn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t let myself feel anything. To drown out the noise I worked constantly… I didn’t like the feelings in the quiet so I made sure there was no quiet. There was no time to feel anything. Addicted to busy was my coping skill and it was way healthier and way more acceptable in our society to be busy than addicted to drugs or alcohol. But it’s not really any different. Our life experiences and belief systems will often determine what vehicles we use to meet our needs and there are many… Facebook, internet, food, sex, busy, TV, work, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes… you name it we can get addicted to it. Because it’s a coping skill for what we’re not dealing with.
Checking out is a way to cope with what we don’t know how to cope with. When people would cry in front of me I did everything I could to make them stop. I was so uncomfortable with emotions. I didn’t understand how people couldn’t just control themselves. Control was something I was clearly really good at… not with other people though. I never tried to control others but self control was my forte. Eating disorders, my schedule… control. I really didn’t like it when things didn’t work my way because that threw things off.
I’d react in anger. It was a strong point for me. It seemed to be the only emotion I could express. And our society rewards us for it. So much so that a friend of mine told me last year she was worried about me because I was going to meditation groups and attending events and retreats with freaky people – I responded that I’m freaky people haha – but seriously… no one was fucking worried when I was losing my shit over how slow traffic was or venting about people not doing what I told them to do and then not getting results and then blaming me…
It’s acceptable to be enraged in our society. But expressing love, gratitude, devotion is foreign and we’re worried about people who start doing it. We think they’ve joined a cult and drank the kool aid, because we are rewarded in this society for getting shit down, for being busy, for being angry, for sticking it to people in a big fuck you.
But what’s under that anger? I had never considered that there was anything under there. I just thought I was stressed out because I was so busy and blah blah blah… until I took some workshops to calm down. I understood “positive thinking” a little more and realized I could have control in much different ways and I could change how I looked at things. And it worked. I started shifting and changing. I became happier. For a period time. If I wasn’t constantly immersed in the positive thinking world by attending workshops, weekly groups, I was falling backwards consistently. When I had trouble “thinking positive” I blamed myself, I thought there was something wrong with me and the cycle would continue… “just think positive” became a phrase that cause my eye to twitch.
Do you think I hadn’t tried that?
Looking back now I realize it was all perfectly timed. We learn and change and grow in stages. We get so far, we plateau, life’s great. Opps, someone pulled the rug out from under us, life’s crap… work through more stuff and then plateau, life’s great again.
I battled my fears and beliefs constantly that I was weak because I was emotional and feeling things. I battled my anger as I learned to let it bubble up and not stuff it back down. I let myself get under those surface feelings and I realized it was always something else… my anger was really a bandaid, a way of not feeling let down, hurt, sad or at times like a failure when I didn’t get something right or perceived I didn’t. Anger allowed me to go to blame… “well, if she/he didn’t do this, then I wouldn’t have done…”
Positive thinking nearly killed me and saved me at the same time. Forcing myself to think positive when I felt sad made me stuff those emotions back down, something I had been doing my whole life. It was just another band aid. The more trouble I had with just thinking positive, the more I felt like a failure. And the more I judged myself.
And that’s where I got my freedom. It was there, the judgement, the shame, the feelings of not being good enough, the feelings and fear of failure, rejection, that I understood that my surface anger and frustration was because I wasn’t allowing myself to explore my feelings of not being good enough, my fear of failure. As I looked at those things I knew there was some serious life experiences that I had never allowed myself to feel or process.
I was standing in a doorway… hand on the knob knowing that once I opened that door there was no going back. There was no pretending it was all ok anymore. By exploring those experiences I could no longer pretend they hadn’t happened, I could no longer pretend life was peaches and roses and everything was amazing. Shit was about to get real.
I could have turned back. I wanted to. Many many times I wanted to put the bricks and the walls back in place because the emotions, the shame, the fear, the overwhelm was too much and I was battling with my belief that I was weak for doing this work. As I took out each piece from the dark recesses of my mind and examined them in the light, there were times I couldn’t breathe I was so overwhelmed. But each time I got new footing. I got new ground under me and as badly as I felt by exploring those things, each one gave me a sense of freedom. I wasn’t running or hiding anymore.
I wasn’t and haven’t waved a flag in the air telling all the sordid details of my life. The details are irrelevant. Because, don’t you have a bunch of things you have hidden in your own closets in your mind? Things you thought or wished? Things you hope no one ever finds out about you? We all have things, even if they’re not real but only have happened in our minds… because we judge ourselves even for our thoughts, for our dreams.
The relevant part is that hiding it, pretending is what causes us the pain in the first place. We hold onto our secrets and that gives them life and inside of us we’re running constantly. In order to pretend it never happened, we have to become someone else. And becoming someone else is a rejection of ourselves. And when we’re not ourselves we are fighting a battle every single day. We put on masks to hide who we really are. We become people pleasers. We can’t say no. We hide behind walls… because on a level we’ve already rejected ourselves and if anyone really knew who we were they wouldn’t like us.
So we hide who we are. We hide the stories that make us who we are. We pretend everything’s ok. We don’t say what we really think, what we really feel, what we really want and we end up angry and bitter because life didn’t turn out the way we wanted or expected it to. How could it when you’ve been putting bandaids on it for a life time.
What we hide eventually hurts us. I’ve come to learn that real strength is in allowing myself to feel it. When I feel anger or irritation bubble up now I take myself through a process of getting real – identifying my emotions and what’s really going on. This is where I let the “story” out. Sometimes it’s short and other times I’ve really got to dig for it. Once I get the surface crap out… the blaming others, etc… then I can find and see what’s really going… and I usually find something like fear, sadness, hurt, or a limiting belief of feeling not good enough or a failure. Then I get real with it. I let myself feel the feelings and then I move through them. Then I reframe the situation, I look at it in different ways and then I put my positive thinking to work to find new meaning in the situation, find the silver lining, find the blessings and to change the pattern of my thinking… IE… I am obviously not a failure… I have accomplished this, this, that, that.
We can’t use strategy until we’ve cleared out the closets. We’ve got to get under the feelings and let it all out in a safe environment. It’s not weak. It’s the strongest thing I’ve ever done actually. Letting myself sit with my emotions… 30 odd years of them. And continuing to allow myself to feel, I now have the peace and freedom I had always sought and getting it meant to I had to face every fear I had.
There was freedom in that. And there was strength.
What we hide, hurts us and The truth heals us.
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