‘Our beauty is sometimes trapped behind tightly locked gates’
Photo by Pete Caughey
Blog 95.How do you defend yourself from feeling your biggest emotional pain?
There are many different methods we can use to avoid experiencing a feeling that we don’t like, and behind these feelings are usually thoughts that arise. Thoughts like nobody really loves me or I’m not good enough. Thoughts that nobody really sees you or that you have nothing really useful to add to the world. Thoughts that nobody really wants to listen to you or that you don’t have anything very important to say. You may have feelings of inadequacy or have a feeling that there is something wrong with you. You may think one or some of these or none of them; you may have others.
Some of the methods people can use to avoid feeling the pain that comes from these thoughts can be by withdrawing from the person who is presumably making them feel discomfort or you could switch off and go inside yourself so you don’t hear or feel it. Or you could get angry with the person who is triggering the feeling either by what they are saying or doing. You could try to find fault in the other person to make them wrong to make you feel better, or you could transfer or redirect the attention to somebody else and point out what they are doing, this seems to be a common way of avoiding our own feelings and reactions.
If you use transferring or redirecting method to avoid your own feelings of discomfort, you may use comments like “but you do that” or “you say things like that’ or ‘that’s what you do, or “you speak like that, that’s why I react” or “when I ask you to stop and you don’t listen to me”. All these can be ways of redirecting attention away from yourself so you don’t have to be responsible for your own feelings and uncomfortableness.
Notice all of these comments use the word ‘you’ for example, “you do this” and “you do that” or “you always do that”, or “I see you doing that”, or “you are not listening to me”, or “you don’t give me time to speak”. There seems to be very little, if any responsibility for your own feelings, its all about what the other person is doing.
Perhaps a more helpful and empowering way to deal with this uncomfortable feelings could be to use the “I” language and say “I am feeling uncomfortable when you say that” or “I’m feeling angry towards you as I don’t want to go where I feel you are taking me”, or “I’m feeling inadequate” or “I feel unsafe” or “I feel vulnerable”, or “I feel out of control”, or “I notice there is a large resistance to not wanting to hear what you are saying right now”, or “I am feeling threatened”, or “I feel nervous” and so on.
Even though these words if you say them out aloud seem to be coming from a place of weakness or disempowerment in yourself, the truth is quite the contrary, they are words of immense honesty, courage and strength and could be doorways in to understanding the story that may be stopping you from being free. They could be hiding a strong underlying story that maybe hindering your ability to ever be free.
Another way you can be is to feel curious about your reactions and to look into why there is such a resistance, ask yourself why is there such a charge around this subject, or ask yourself what story have I got running in the background that I am so compassionately defending? Be curious. Inquire into your reactions.
I believe the subject you have the biggest reaction to, the biggest charge, the biggest reluctance to go there with, that you have the biggest unwillingness with could be the one thing that is stopping your biggest growth, your biggest brake though.
Unfortunately it also could be the thing you will defence the most and have the biggest defensive wall around. You will find all sorts of ways of not going there, you may not even know you are defending it, let alone know what you are defending.
You will know where it is though, it’s the one you get the most angry about when you feel other people are backing you into a corner and you feel you are threatened or you feel uncomfortable.
I believe it is useful to ask yourself ‘What am I defending?’ And what am I defending myself from? Or is it that you are really defending yourself from a feeling that you will do anything not to feel and you will do anything not to feel this, at any cost. It may even feel like death to you.
This feeling is very real and could be your biggest fear, a fear that you might be found out that you’re not the person you want people to see you to be. Maybe if they found out, people won’t like you, they may think you are a fraud. You may have a fear that people might find out you don’t know as much you as you want people to think you know. There are many reasons.
My own examples of this stem from my childhood and that I couldn’t read and spell very well I thought there was something wrong with me as a child, I didn’t want people to find out because I thought I was dumb and I was embarrassed. I built up coping methods around this and if anybody said I couldn’t read very well, I made up excuses. I developed great ways of blaming other people for it. But most of all I would just hide away and hoped that no one would ever find out. But the ironic true is I am dyslexic and that was the real reason but as a kid I didn’t know this, I just thought something was wrong with me. Nobody told me that was the reason why my brain seemed to be dysfunctional, as there wasn’t very much information about dyslexic and learning disabilities when I was a kid.
I have noticed later in life that I have developed other ways to avoid the feeling of inadequacy; I started getting angry if my secret was threatened. And lately I have noticed the angry has turned to rage. I have carried out processes and work around this now and I understand that turning to anger and rage is a much stronger empowering feeling than feeling vulnerable and disempowered. But I do realise that this is probably still not the most useful way of dealing with these feelings.
I recently had a break through and realised that my dyslexia was a gift and it made me use my mind differently and I created other skills and strengths which has made me the person I am today.
Another way I use to react was to be the victim. I tried to get people to give me sympathy, I would say “I’m just doing my best” and “I’m trying”, or “I just don’t understand” and all of this was to get people to think that I’m a good person and feel sorry for me, which is still a better feeling than vulnerable.
I see now that these reactions and habits are just defences to help me avoid the feelings of pain and discomfort that stem from the feelings of vulnerability and inadequacy. I know the true meaning of this story now and it is quite different than what I thought. It was a revelation when I finally saw the truth behind my childhood stories of thinking I was dumb and that there was something wrong with me.
Now my understanding of the truth and as a result of not being able to read, spell and comprehend written language very well, I developed other skills to compensate for that. I started developing my ability to verbally communicate, sense and listen.
I not only developed my ability to express myself thoughtfully and mindfully but over the years I’ve learnt how to hear people, not only hear what they were saying but to hear want they really meant. Today this is an invaluable strength in understanding my patients. It helps me to understand more clearly what has brought about their illness and discomfort. I see it as an incredible gift now and I wouldn’t have got it if it wasn’t for the reading, writing and spelling limitations that I had as a child.
The result of what seemly was a major failure and handicap as a child has given my one of my biggest gifts, I now have immense gratitude for this.
I encourage you next time you catch yourself defending a story that makes you feel that you’re not perfect, I invite you to check out your underlining story and the fears that you have around it. This could be the story that lives underneath your anger and sometimes frustrations if you have these emotions playing out a lot in your life. These feelings maybe the doorway to your biggest earth shattering discoveries about yourself and they just might set you completely free.
I encourage you to inquire into and to be curious anytime you get angry, frustrated, judgmental and defensive and, to discover the story and the feelings that come with this story that these emotions are protecting.