One of the main reasons I’m going the therapy route is that I have no idea how to process emotions. Most people learn how to do that when they’re very young but people from dysfunctional homes like mine just stuff that shit down…ain’t nobody got time for that! Of course we all know that comes back to bite you in the ass eventually. For me the bite turned out to be clinical depression and a whole host of other text book behaviors that left me a 53-year-old recovering alcoholic in desperate need of therapy. Oh well…cest la vie!
My therapist told me about a Buddhist saying that goes something like – rather than avoiding your feelings, invite them in for tea.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that. First I have to recognize I’m feeling a particular way and name it. Believe it or not I’m just learning how to do that. So let’s say I figure out what I’m feeling and it’s knocking like a cop on my front door. I’m visualizing opening that door with anger and resentment on the other side (or whatever I’m feeling in a particular moment) and instead of shooing them away, I invite them in for tea. Which of course would be sweet tea rather than oolong because I’m in the south and that’s how we roll. Which means instead of sitting on the floor on some fluffy pillows and sipping from tiny cups and listening to pan flutes, we’d be sitting on stools around my kitchen counter drinking from Tervis tumblers and listening to Trace Adkins or Colbie Caillat or P!nk.
Anyway, I like the way that makes me feel. Like I could actually get comfortable with my emotions. Get to know them a little better. Let them leave in their own good time rather than rushing them out because I don’t want to deal with them. Because they make me uncomfortable.
Except that I can’t figure out what to DO with them while we’re at the kitchen counter! I’ve been trying to practice today and I’m having a hard time knowing what to do with them while they take their sweet time moving right along. If I were at home and IF I had the time I could go into my closet and just let the feelings be. But I’m not. I’m at work and…well…ain’t nobody got time for this shit you know what I’m sayin’?
Yeah…I still have a little work to do.
My guess is that normal people do this on a regular basis and don’t even think about it. They process emotions and feelings like breathing…it just happens. I was thinking about how, when my kids were little, I used to make sure that whatever they were feeling was validated so they knew that it was okay.
For example, someone is angry and throwing a hissy fit. I’d tell them (sometimes having to yell over their yelling) that it was okay to feel the way they were feeling. That I understood and that they had every right to be angry because it never feels good not to get what you want. In fact, let’s stomp and little louder and maybe punch some pillows. But I’m not giving you the _____________ no matter how angry you are or how much you yell. So get this out of your system and we’ll talk when you’re feeling more like yourself.
And then I’d walk away.
I’d say it worked about 70% of the time. I mean sometimes an irrational child is just that. But I notice now that they’re grown, that they are way more in touch with their emotions then I’ll likely ever be (with the exception of my niece and nephew who I’m still working on – but that’s a different post). So how could I teach that skill without learning it myself?
Who the hell knows? Maybe it’s just an innate desire to model what I wished was done for me as a child. Maybe it’s just dumb luck.
For now I guess I’ll just use my feelings journal and me and my emotions will sit at my kitchen counter and stare at each other until they decide it’s time to get the hell out of my head and go bother someone else.