In the book, “Will I Ever Be Good Enough?: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers” by Karyl McBride, Ph.D. the author talks about one of the keys to successful recovery as ‘teaching yourself to grieve’. In this particular subsection of the book I found a deeply meaningful and reassuring affirmation of my strategy of releasing feelings and expressing emotion.
“The grief process begins with another decision: to let your feelings be there.”
“This is difficult when you have been taught to stuff it or suck it up or not to feel anything, to be phony, to pretend everything is all right when it isn’t. ”
“Don’t try to talk yourself out of it. Others around you may try to do this. No one wants to see you hurt, and your loved ones may not understand how important this is, so don’t listen to them. Let yourself feel!”
“You may begin to try to rationalize away the pain. “I shouldn’t feel this way,” or “I didn’t have it that bad.” This won’t help. Whatever is there you need to release. Let it be.”
“Don’t listen to others as you go through this process. Well-meaning friends and loved ones often say things like “Forget it already.” “You can’t undo the past – quit trying.” “Quit thinking about the past and be in the present.” Those closest to you (and some not so close) will discourage you from doing this important work because they do not understand just how important it is. They may not want to see you suffer, so they try to fix it. They don’t understand that if you don’t face this sadness, it will remain part of you forever. Do not listen to this unqualified advice.”
One of the most difficult things I have had to deal with as a result of surviving abuse, becoming disabled, living with depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has been the way others react to my need for venting my emotions. I learned in therapy that it’s important to express and ‘feel’ our emotions. Stuffing them and pretending they aren’t important or don’t exist is unhealthy and will prevent us from ever moving on from the trauma we’ve experienced.
I cannot count the number of times people have told me “pull yourself up by your boot straps”, “just think positive and you’ll feel so much better”, “if you’d stop talking about it you wouldn’t be so upset about it”, “why can’t you just let it go?”, “oh come on, straighten yourself up, get yourself together and stop dwelling on it”. People can be quite creative about the ways they dismiss your pain and/or your need to deal with the things that have had a profound effect on your life.
I’ve always thought that their need to dismiss our feelings is more about their discomfort with hearing them than care for us and whether we are ‘dwelling’ on the past.
This process doesn’t happen overnight. People are quick to tell us that we have to ‘deal’ and move on… they want to tell us that we’ve spent enough time on the past. They clearly don’t understand. It’s ironic to me that people will say, “I didn’t gain weight overnight, so obviously it’s not going to come off overnight”, yet they think that years of abuse and trauma should easily be dispatched once we become adults, we should be able to ‘flip a switch’ and be done with it.
The author talks about the negative effect this ‘dismissal’ and ‘discomfort’ has had:
“This is precisely why so many people today are projecting their feelings, misbehaving, creating crises for themselves and others, suffering from depression and anxiety, and are not being accountable for their own actions and emotions – they’re not facing the truth about their own pain.”