Not So Helpful Any More

I used to think people weren’t very good at reading me. Now I suspect I’m not very good at reading myself.

I was so proud of my session with Jen yesterday. I really shared – I don’t think I said a single one-word sentence, which has to be a first for me.

At one point, we were talking about my foster brother living two doors down from my parents, and she asked if he’d rather be living back at home – I said that he would, but we were all told that once you’re out, you’re out and you can’t come back. I would have very confidently said that I didn’t have any particular feelings about this. I left home at 18 (after trying to move out at 16) and would rather pitch a tent at the fiery gates of hell than move back there. I love both my parents but I don’t want to live with them.

So it was a shock to listen back to the recording and find that when I started talking about it, my voice got very quiet and very vulnerable. Very young. I’m willing to bet that I also showed physical signs of distress – stiffening, crossing my arms or legs, blinking rapidly – but when I look back on my emotional experience…I don’t recognize feeling anything.

This is not uncommon for me – Anna will tell me “your activation level just went up” or “I can see you’re feeling sad” – and it frustrates me, because I don’t feel like anything has changed, but I know she’s ridiculously scarily perceptive and she’s probably right.

Not feeling your emotions is a pretty adaptive skill when you don’t have the resources to cope with feeling them, so kudos to little me for coming up with that strategy. It’s not so helpful these days, though, because it means I’m not good at recognising the warning signs that mean I need to stop and regulate myself before I go completely off the edge of the cliff, and I find it almost impossible to work out what it was that actually triggered me because I don’t know when the emotions started.

I know recognising this is the first step, but what’s the second?

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Not So Helpful Any More

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