Although my last post published just a few days ago, it has been a year since that post was written. At the time of this writing, it has been a year since I left my blog and podcast in search of deeper healing for myself. By the time this publishes, it will have been a year and a half.
I have learned a lot in that time. It is in the act of re-building this blog and podcast that my former self held up a mirror for me today. Now I can see what happened. This vision comes into focus even clearer because a physical cause for many of my symptoms has been discovered and corrected.
I can see that in search of my own healing and in an effort to authenticate my victim experience through creative expression, my victim/helpless emotions amplified themselves to the point that I could no longer see how I could continue this work. I had gone so far down the rabbit hole that I couldn’t see light.
I was wrong. I needed time and space to get correct perspective.
With a new perspective (based on the relief of physical symptoms that have troubled me for a lifetime) I understand a few things differently.
Here are the lessons I’ve learned after a year’s hiatus and a heart procedure:
– The appropriate time for digging deeply into difficult feelings is when those feelings lead to behaviors that don’t serve you well in your life. Many therapists dig into old trauma with clients thinking that telling the story and getting the emotions out will lead to relief. While that can offer the temporary solution of “unloading a burden,” dwelling on those emotions can swallow a person whole. Why not just wait for the body to tell you when it is time to uncover the mystery of the feelings behind actions or words that aren’t what you wish they would be?
– Just because uncomfortable feelings reveal themselves, there is no injunction to do anything with or about them. Know they’re there. Don’t ignore. But a feeling isn’t a commandment. Not everything we feel has to be expressed. Again. Expression for the mere sake of expression can lead to overwhelm: like a sea of ocean waves that are exhausting and serve little purpose besides sucking life out of the person who chooses to swim in water that is too deep.
Saying this, I had written two “performance pieces” that I’ll post in written form here. They expressed deep, poignant emotions that moved the audience. And brought the observation that I was “still a victim.” I thought the woman who told me “when you stop being a victim” had missed the point. But, maybe not. Shortly after that observation I shut down my blog. And quit the work. I believed it was too Spiritually draining. Even though I felt a soul calling that has nagged at me – even over the past year – while I tried to make sense of things.
While allowing myself to “delve deeply” for the sake of connecting with my blog followers and other survivors of trauma I also created an emotional tidal wave that I believed I could only escape through quitting.
The problem wasn’t the work. The problem was that I lost sight of the delicate balance between experiencing feelings and moderating them so that they don’t take over my life. Honest mistake. Makes me ever more empathetic for anyone who sits with a therapist that believes that expression of feelings is a panacea. Interestingly, the others I’m working with (at the 2bsisters blog) shared the same experience: burn-out from too much focus on describing the victim experience.
It has its place. But, after D.V. there is a time when it is appropriate to turn the corner. Once you are safe and know you are capable of staying safe and healthy, the focus on feelings should be more casual – a background process informing your decisions in the here-and-now. Staying in the feelings too long empowers the victim experience to direct your life as a silent puppeteer.
The healing process requires balance between paying attention to and dealing with the feelings and healthy distraction using activities that move your toward a stronger healthier you.
In this episode Tamara Bess LMFT discusses when delving into feelings is a useful practice and when it isn’t. She describes becoming overwhelmed by feelings leading up to the close of the podcast a year ago and the new direction toward self-empowerment for this and future episodes.
© Tamara Bess, LMFT 2016 All Rights Reserved. Any use of this article without Tamara’s express written permission is prohibited.