Underneath the Shame

It is one thing to be empathetic, but another to not feel my own feelings and instead try and feel someone else’s. So, in individualizing myself I am feeling all the pain that I never allowed myself to feel. It is not the pain of missing that person, it is the pain of not being numb.

It has been overcast all week, and usually the clouds make me sleepy and unmotivated. Part of the reason I moved to Southern California from Portland Oregon was so that I could be in the sun and see the blue skies more often. But this week the weather hasn’t affected me as badly as it normally does. Sure, I wish it was sunny, but the clouds are not zapping my energy and making me want to hide under the covers.

This is because lately my journey has turned to internal queues more than external. Most of my life, my state of being has been based on what was going on around me and how others seemed to feel about me, and not how I felt inside. In order to feel good and happy I relied on external stimulus, external approval or distractions. Up until now, there was a part of me that was unaware that I was doing this and another part of me that was scared to investigate why I did this and change it. When I would go there to try and figure out what was underneath my need to distract myself, it felt like death. It felt like something dark, wrong and bad was waiting for me and I didn’t want to go there.

But I have decided to finally investigate. I am facing those dark feelings head on and letting them reside in me without trying to intellectualize them or cover them up. I am getting to know myself, rather than trying to control who I am. So sometimes feelings come up that I don’t want to believe are part of who I am, but I am learning to sit with them, and accept them. Because they tell a story and fill in the blanks of why I took certain actions and who I am today.

I never wanted to be a victim. I think that is why I pretended that things didn’t bother me. But my anger at the people that I believed wronged me told another story. My anger short circuited my mind and rerouted me around the helpless version of myself. It made me believe that I had power, when I really didn’t. This blocked the feeling of being a victim, but it also blocked my real innate power.

I had always seen the abuse in my childhood, and in my marriage from the other person’s perspective. How could they do what they did? Why were they so mean? How can I understand and make sense of it? But I didn’t see my reaction and who I was. In sitting with my feelings I am seeing myself, maybe for the first time.

I am not the victim that stayed for abuse, but rather I simply loved someone who didn’t love me back. I will never understand why other people acted the way they did, especially if they were confusing the situation by lying to me. In focussing on them and trying to figure them out, I was ignoring my own body and the warning signs it was giving me. I realize now that keeping the focus on them was a way to numb me out. This was a learned behavior but then became a habit. It is one thing to be empathetic, but another to not feel my own feelings and instead try and feel someone else’s. So, in individualizing myself I am feeling all the pain that I never allowed myself to feel. It is not the pain of missing that person, it is the pain of not being numb.

None of this was by accident, my body hid my emotions as a child and as an adult I intentionally hid them as protection against feelings that I didn’t think I could handle. I created an alter ego that was fun, easy going, and accepting. I created a person that I wished I was, and I wanted someone to love the person I created. In reality I felt weak and unworthy but I didn’t want others to see that. I wanted them to see me as powerful and worthy of being loved. The irony is that the part of me that I was trying to hide was where my real power and feeling of worthiness resided.

The first three months of this year were probably some of the hardest of my life. Sitting with feelings of unworthiness is brutal. But I had to get through that in order to get to the long ago buried part of me. I am learning to trust my body, to trust my feelings. It is ok to be angry, sad and lost. It fact, it is good to feel lost, because that means I am doing something new and going to a place that I have never been. If I felt completely in control that would mean that emotionally I was staying put.

I am realizing that I was never damaged or destroyed. I created the protective cover of shame and unworthiness because I couldn’t comprehend that the people that I loved were cruel on purpose, so rather then accepting that I chose to believe there was something wrong with me. Call me a victim if you want, it doesn’t matter. Really I was just a person that was exposed to people who were struggling with their own emotions and hurts and couldn’t be there for me. But, finally now, I can be there for myself.