Are you protecting yourself from emotional pain?
It sounds crazy I know. Why would I have a mental health issue to protect myself from facing something painful?
In one sense it doesn’t make any sense, in another it makes complete sense and I can apply this strange logic to my own experiencing.
For a while now I have believed that anxiety, depression and other forms of mental distress have very real causes and reasons. Unfortunately in society there is little time to actually give space to such experiences to. Perhaps we are frightened to allow someone else to explore their inner Worlds and want to rush in and make it stop. Growing up we all went through painful moments. Whether it be in relationships or environments. We take in messages from those around us, which shape who we believe we are, how to deal with problems and how to handle emotions. We create a image of what is normal and acceptable to others.
Unfortunately those messages aren’t always helpful. We can grow up with very unhealthy ways of managing distress.
In some cases this could lead to a total disconnection from our bodies and ability to feel and process painful emotions. Or a complete denial of our experiences.
What it looks like
If the mind and body are out of sync the natural flow of emotions can become blocked. Instead of being able to be aware, acknowledge and process emotions we may develop unhelpful behaviours that cause a backlog of unexpressed feelings.
Be in physical unexplained pain.
Be constantly tired or exhausted with the World.
Avoid the people / situations.
Say yes to things we want to say no to but too afraid of the consequences
Distort reality and close ourselves off.
Push emotions down, pretending we are okay.
Find unhealthy ways to sooth ourselves through alcohol, drugs, food, exercise, putting ourselves at risk sexually
Have strong, unbalanced attachments to others (needing partners over wanting them)
Not having a good sense of who we are, what we like and what our values are
Having a poor work life balance
There will always be situations that call for protecting ourselves over being authentic. It may be most appropriate to avoid some people at times. Problems may occur when the balance is out of sync and we are unable to make the right decisions and weigh up each unique situation.
Why it may result in poor mental health
To deny our feelings leads to a cutting off from reality. Emotional pain doesn’t listen and go away because it’s told to. It will find other ways to be expressed.
If the denial of feelings builds up more than often behaviour and attitudes can be coming from that place. Sometimes without even realising that’s whats happening. For each of us there’s a differing limit of disconnection and distortion our minds and bodies can cope with. Once the limit has been reached anxiety, depression and other mental health issues may arise. It might have been years of somehow coping and managing then one day enough is enough and something has to give.
Each and every person I have spent time with has a story to tell. A difficult relationship – past or present, a loss of some kind, unexpressed grief, hidden parts of self, trauma and abuse. The present mental health has roots in things they’ve been through.
What you can do about it
It doesn’t necessarily mean telling everyone exactly what you think of them or changing everything about yourself.
Don’t be afraid to let past experiences have some space. Fear can be very good at keeping us trapped in our emotional pain, unable to face our feelings and thoughts because we don’t know what that will look like, what could change.
Find a way to express yourself, in a way that helps you face the difficulties and heal. Finding a new way to be more integrated moving forward.
Trust – in those that care for you and in your own ability to be resilient. You are stronger than you think.
Be honest with yourself and go easy. Instead of looking back with regret, look forward with intention.