Feelings are our lifeblood. Without them, we would perish. Think about it. What if you couldn’t tell the difference between hot and cold, the feeling of pain, body temperature, strength or weakness? You would be numb at best, severely injured, or dead, at worst. Unable to discern possible danger or harm potential in the environment would doom you to a short life. That’s one set of feelings; the physical feelings, necessary for our survival. But what about emotional feelings? Are they any less important? The obvious answer is “no” they are no less important. That is why we have the full array of feelings; physical and emotional.
What’s interesting about feelings is that we develop the ability to refine and perfect our feelings by learning from our mistakes. It only takes one time for a child to touch a hot stove. By the time we reach adulthood we are pretty good at discerning what is good or bad for us physically, although some may debate this statement. Suffice to say, more of us survive than perish.
We also become more adept at identifying and expressing our emotional feelings and we become more socially adept as we establish and build relationships. The more adept we are at identifying and expressing emotional feelings, the better we feel and the better our relationships.
In the process of growing from childhood to adulthood, however, some of us unintentially lose touch with our emotional feelings. Somehow, our parents teach us to stop responding to our feelings as we were created to. “That didn’t hurt. Come on, get up! a parent might say, as we fall and scrape our knee. Or, “Stop that crying! I’ll give you something to cry about!” We might be subject to our dysfunctional parents’ emotional, psychological, and/or physical abuse, either due to their own childhood abuse, drug addiction, alcoholism, or mental illness. We might grow up having to deal with an unfeeling, cold-hearted, angry, depressed, bi-polar, schizophrenic, or personality disordered parent, all the while thinking we and our parents are “normal.” “Everyone is like this.” All this is fine, as we learn “survival skills” that help us cope in our family and which later may help us deal with difficult friends, co-workers or authority figures. Unfortunately, we are also subject to losing touch with our own emotional feelings.
Most people that I see in my practice have lost touch with their emotional feelings from one degree to another. Some might have experienced a “nervous breakdown.” Others might be living in a very conflictual relationship or in a conflictual family relationship. Some may be living with mentally ill, drug or alcohol addicted individuals. Some, most likely, are living with people just like they grew up with, and wondering what is wrong. “Is living Hell? Why can’t I find any peace?”
The very skills that helped us grow up in an unloving, conflicted, dysfunctional family, soon fail as we negotiate the trials and tribulations of adulthood. Screaming louder than the other no longer works. Hitting no longer works. Other violence does not work (and might get us arrested if we try it). Chasing after our abused spouse in a drunken stupor doesn’t work. Trying to remain calm and do everything for our spouse and family no longer works. We no longer have the stamina. Our energy and reserves have run out. ARGHHHHHHHH! What is left? The Emergency Room, an inpatient psychiatric unit, alcohol and drug treatment? Outpatient therapy? A self-help book? A combination of all of the above?