Culturally we are taught not to feel. There is this notion that expressing feelings such as sadness, hurt or fear is a sign of weakness. We shouldn’t cry, we should be strong. This is probably easier to cope with for those surrounding the person in pain, because they were also taught not to feel these feelings, thus they have no idea how to soothe someone expressing intense emotions. They feel uncomfortable and do not know what to do with it.
What do we do with our feelings when we don’t express them?
Feelings do not disappear simply because we do not express them or because we pretend they are not there. They still affect us, but silently. The less aware we are of our real feelings, the more they tend to appear in disguised ways. Sometimes we react in ways we do not understand and to situations that do not merit the intensity of our emotions. We might have anger outbursts, we might have a panic attack, we might crawl in bed and not want to get out or see anyone for days. These are all ways in which these emotions are indirectly being expressed.
What do we do to avoid these feelings?
We tend not to want to feel our feelings, particularly when they are related with sadness, guilt, or shame. Sometimes we resort to a series of behaviors that can even lead to addictions to avoid feeling our feelings. Drinking, using drugs, partying constantly, having sex or watching porn constantly, over eating, over buying, are all ways in which we try to avoid our feelings. We focus our attention and get instant satisfaction from all these behaviors. We try to make ourselves believe that everything is fine by filling up a space for a moment. The issue is that none of these behaviors can ever fulfill us. That is why we need more and more of them, but we still feel empty.
What do I do for help?
The first big step is to recognize that you are focusing too much on a behavior (or a substance) to feel better. If you are there, here are some tips you can use to determine how much help you need. Remember that we cannot always do things alone. Sometimes we need help, and that is perfectly fine. There are professionals that can help you go deep inside and help you heal from any past hurt that might be getting in the way of your happiness.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you currently or have you gone through a difficult time in your life?
- Do you use any drug or do something compulsively not to feel or think about a certain experience you are going through or have gone through?
- Has anyone close to you made a comment about this behavior being excessive?
- Have you gotten in trouble for this behavior? (financial, relational, work related)
- Do you feel the need to do this behavior and leave responsibilities aside for doing this?
- Have you ever lied in order to do this?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, maybe you should seek help. There is much you can learn from every experience. Usually the most painful ones are the ones that can teach us more and help us become better people. Take care of yourself!