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Intense Fear of Expressing Emotions

Discussion in 'General' started by Awakening, Jul 30, 2007.

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  1. Awakening

    Awakening Well-Known Member

    Hope this is okay.

    I posted my intro in the intro place, not sure if I have pts or ptsd.

    I had an intense session with T. Anyone experienced the gestalt empty chair thing?

    I refused to do it. All I could feel was an overwhelming flood of emotion, that surprised me. I didn't know it was there, I don't know who that person is. Doesn't belong to me. GRRRRRRR.:cussing:

    Now even though therapy is a few days away I feel incredibly anxious and so I'm drinking. My old friend. I really don't think I can handle the intensity of these emotions.

    Some things in life I can talk about and feel sad, angry whatever but this is so intense. I feel really scared. :eek:

    Any advice on how to access those emotions and let them out? I want to get better, I want to release them, but my defenses kick in. How to get past this? How to feel safe in therapy?

    BTW, my psychologist is great, trustworthy etc but still something holds me back.:dontknow:
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  3. anthony

    anthony Silently Watching Founder

    Then from what your just stated, your therapist is doing everything correctly, its you that is not participating because of your own fears. You need to make a decision in order to continue therapy, being do you want to get better or not? Simple question, simple answer. If you do, then you need to take charge of yourself, because you don't control anyone else. Only you can make the decision, the choice, to get better, and that choice includes feeling the pain associated with your trauma. Your therapist knows this, I know this, you know this, but you avoid it.

    Your not unique to this, trust me on that. We all fear our past, that is what gave us PTSD to begin with in a nutshell... fear. Whilst you continue to fear your trauma, your trauma continues to control you. Simple choice ha? Feel the pain or not! You feel the pain, its short term for long term gain vs. don't feel the intense pain short term, and suffer long term. Not much of a choice as I see it, but that is me.

    Harsh, yes... but the reality of the situation. You get to make your own choices, that's the beauty of all this, and the painful part too!
  4. She Cat

    She Cat Policy Enforcement Banned Premium Member Sponsor $100+

    Anthony is so right.......

    It's also facing the trauma again so the we can desensitize ourselves to it over a period of time. Fear is just fear, it's just an emotion. What you are feeling is just a emotion to a previous trauma. It feels awful, and it makes us FEEL hurt, angry, sad, or whatever, but it can't hurt us. You are in the here and now, you are safe, it can't hurt you again.

    Over time, by exposing yourself to the feeling of the trauma, you will become desensitized to it, and it won't affect you like this anymore....Just give it time. Yes it will FEEL like shit, but it will also hurt a little less every time you face it after that.

    Just keep telling yourself that you are in the here and now, breath deep, and tell yourself that you are safe......

    Hang in there,

  5. kers

    kers I'm a VIP

    While I agree that you've got to face the emotions and overcome the anxiety that is holding you back, maybe you just need to work with your therapist to find a way that works better with you. My counselor tried to get me to do the empty chair thing several times and I strongly, strongly resisted--I felt so stupid just thinking about it. The feeling was so strong that it was pointless to try the approach--we found other ways for me to explore the feelings and get my emotions out.

    It's okay to say something isn't working with you, but you do have to ante up and be willing to try something else! Once you start exposing yourself to the trauma, it is like a stone rolling downhill--it does get easier.
  6. Damiea

    Damiea Well-Known Member

    Just a thought.. is there anything you can do to make you feel "safer" like holding a special stuffed animal... or an item that has treasured memories you can hold and run your fingers over to remind you of good things? I could never express emotion of any sort for years and years untill I held my baby in my arms and felt that warm little body cuddling up to me. only after that was I able to let myself feel safe to show emotion or even talk about how I felt to people. and that was usually by carrying something like a picture or an item my daughter had made me to remind me that some emotions can be wonderfull and sometimes you have to feel the bad ones to relise how special the good stuff is.
  7. Awakening

    Awakening Well-Known Member

    Thanks everyone, you are all helping me a lot.

    The problem I'm finding is that I will psych myself up for it. I make a decision before going into therapy that I will be open & willing. That if I feel the fear, I will do it anyway. I try several different things to gear myself up for expressing emotion. I feel ready before entering the session.

    Then *Something* happens. It's an automatic response. Despite my very best intentions something else happens in there, and I walk out Homer Simpson d'oh! Frustrating. My brain can't seem to override my body's response.

    My T asks me 'what do you need'. And my response is always to 'make the bad feelings go away'. That is the incorrect answer apparently.

    I have a cushion that I hold to make me feel safer. I feel like a baby but that's how the bad feelings make me feel. Like a vulnerable defenceless child.

    With the empty chair, I had to put my child there, and all I became aware of was an overwhelming urge to cry, which I resisted. I realised I couldn't do the exercise without crying. Yet, I've told myself a hundred times & my T has told me a hundred times that it's okay to cry in therapy. Hell, I've even done it a few times. But again, this automatic resistant thing comes up. It's really annoying.

    When I get this bad feeling it's like I'm going to die. Like death is right there. I *know* I'm not going to die, yet my body acts like it's about to. I can't breathe properly, my legs go weak, I start shaking all over, intense panic. Yet nothing is there, I'm perfectly safe. It's simply I'm scared witless about the feelings. These feelings are different to normal sad, anger, fear. They are life threatening, uncontrollable, overwhelming. They do hurt me. They hurt a lot. Physically & Mentally.

    I tell myself that if I feel the urge to cry or get angry, then just go with it. But then in the session I lose focus, I can't see clearly everything gets blurry, I can't think straight, I feel surreal. My T says I tend to 'dissassociate' during the session, yet I can't seem to stop this from happening.

    I guess all I can do is keep reminding myself that I can handle the feelings, that I am safe, that it's okay to show emotion and hope my body catches up.
  8. kers

    kers I'm a VIP

    You're doing fine, Awakening. This IS the process of healing. Sucks, doesn't it? I have a lot to say because you sounds so much like I felt this past winter.

    You sound angry! I understand--it would be so much easier if the therapist could just fix the problem, right? But no one but you can make the bad feelings go away. Your therapist can help though, by listening, giving you information that makes you feel less alone, or by telling you you're not alone in your pain.

    Yep, I do this. It's not unusual with PTSD. reread your post about all the emotions you feel when you try to talk about the trauma: terror. You're scared and you space out or dissociate to try to feel safer.

    Lots of us blank out when we try to share about the trauma and process the feelings. It's natual, but you have to fight it to get out of the hole PTSD has put you in.

    Try talking with your therapist just about the fear you feel when faced with discussing the trauma. That may help you ease into the discussion of the actual trauma. Talking through the process helps move it along.

    This isn't going to be solved quickly. But being devoted to trying will get you there, eventually. Keep working--you'll see results in time.

    Exactly. It takes a long time to re-condition our bodies that it's not a dangerous time.
  9. anthony

    anthony Silently Watching Founder

    I would say its absolutely incorrect actually. Normal, but incorrect. Your conceptualising your response, using an "always" response, never really thinking about the depth of the problem, just looking for an easy fix.

    The bad feelings aren't just going to go away when you don't want to open up and get your true emotion out. Sorry, but thats the way it works. You don't be honest with your therapist and tell them the true depth and scope of your emotional self, you don't get rid of the bad feelings. Harsh, but factual. You control this, not your therapist. Your therapist cannot make you unload your emotions, they cannot make you be honest with them by divulging your true feelings, even what you know you feel, so they can dig further and help you. Basically, your giving them nothing in order to help you with, because their sitting there taking guesses at whats wrong, not actually knowing what is wrong, knowing how you truly feel, etc. Again, you control this, nobody else. You choice whether the bad feelings go away or not, and not your therapists choice like you seem to easily think at first.
  10. Awakening

    Awakening Well-Known Member

    OK, this has got me thinking.

    And I like the to-the-point, hold no punches approach on this forum, so I'm saying don't hold back. It doesn't sound harsh, it sounds correct to me, I'm just not sure how to bloody well get there. I do really want to get over this. I'm very determined.

    I'm thinking that maybe I'm confusing myself with the ptsd (assuming that is what it is for now). I'm thinking if I try and separate the ptsd from myself that might help? It really is pure terror.

    It hasn't occured to me that I could 'fight' it or that I might have 'control' over it. Because it really doesn't feel like I have any control, because I can't even see the 'bad feelings' coming. They tend to hit me from behind and I'm well & truly in the middle of it before I might realise. Sometimes I don't even realise until after the event i.e. after a therapy session or even a day after a panic attack thingie. I can control other emotions; nervousness at public speaking, sadness at the thought of a deceased relative. But this is different to those experiences.

    I realise I have been thinking that it's my therapists choice to get those feelings out of me, so I need to change my perspective.

    I feel like the ptsd is me and I'm the ptsd, it's all lost in there together. Not sure if that makes any sense. Maybe if I had a red flag to remind me that when I dissassociate this is the ptsd to bring me back. I can feel in control when the symptoms aren't jumping up and down inside me, but once they start I completely lose myself and my brain disappears. All my resolve goes, and I forget I even had resolve. I am just the PTSD in those times.

    My therapists asks me 'what do I need?' and the honest answer is I need to be held & comforted whilst I cry & scream like a child. I need to let all these feelings out, I'm tired of carrying them around.

    But the above statement makes me cringe. It's so embarassing, pathetic & needy. It doesn't sound like me, even though I'm saying that's what I need. It's true though so I will leave it typed there in cyberspace.

    Is this really what trauma work is about? Do people really 'lose it' in therapy?

    And yes, Kers this sucks! I thought "healing" would feel a heck of alot better then this.
  11. anthony

    anthony Silently Watching Founder

    You have no idea how much people lose it during trauma therapy. I have seen the biggest toughest man in a room devoured to tears on the floor. I have seen tiny framed women tear a room apart in anger. Not much surprises me nowadays, especially with trauma. You have to be honest with your therapist, that is the point. You clarified what your true feelings are, then you stated, "It doesn't sound like me!" What do you sound like though when you haven't been honest with yourself? I can tell you, and that is the sound of society, trying to be what society or social pressures, peer pressures want you to be, instead of just being you.

    PTSD and you equals you. They are one, and you can't divide or separate them. If you have read here when I refer to people here who i have worked with, they break, and I make no secrets of it. You must break in order to get better. You break for nothing more than the sheer emotional turmoil that you release, and then your brain decides to dig up even more, release that also upon you.

    Your fighting to try and keep it in, your trying to fit a mold that you believe society has dictated, and it doesn't work with PTSD. You must work on yourself, you must be honest with yourself. The more you bullshit yourself, the worst your symptoms will become over time. You will eventually break, regardless whether you want it or not, but at present you can control to some point how much comes out, compared to total melt down, likely suicide or attempted suicide. You have to reach that point regardless, because you will during the release stage, but you must control your temptations to want to take the easy way out, you must control the ideation you will get, you must work on you extremely hard for a short period of time, around 3 - 6 months typically, at which point you will find a severe change in how things then affect you, because no longer are you being stressed by the present and your past trauma, just the present you live within. That is when you learn to manage PTSD. At the moment though, your carrying around years of torment, bags of negative emotion from your trauma, all firing inside you which your trying to keep in, instead of honestly letting it all out. Your therapist can help you, but they can only work with what you give them. You feed them bullshit, they feed you useless information back. You feed them the 100% honest truth, they will feed you absolute techniques to begin trying, learning, and finding what works best for you.

    People, the majority of times, work against their therapist, and then wonder why therapy does nothing for them. You have to work with them, and you have to be prepared to take responsibility and do the work yourself.
  12. permban0077

    permban0077 Policy Enforcement Banned

    Well, since you sound like you are having some sort of panic attack... Has your therapist worked with you to learn to control them a little before hand? Panic will not go away until your issues are worked through but maybe they can teach you some CBT techniques to ease the attacks so you can push forward?
  13. Awakening

    Awakening Well-Known Member


    This site & the users are 'reaching me' more then anything else has in 18 months.

    My BS doesn't seem to work here, you guys see straight through it, and point out what I'm actually doing. I don't realise I'm being dishonest with myself. But I am.

    I do have some 'grounding techniques' for panic attacks and that's what I've been using, and it does help a little, sometimes.

    Right now, I think I'm overloading. I think all your comments are exceptionally valid but it's making me feel sick, so I think I'll take a break, then come back & read all this again right before my next therapy session.

    Right now, I feel so ready to be honest, I can see how I'm not being honest, and I think if my therapist was here now, I'd do it.

    But then it seems, that by the time the therapy session rolls around, I'm so relieved to have made it to another week, that I go in all positive & bubbly & look-how-well-I-cope.

    So, I'll take a break for two days because it's starting to get unsettling, then come back here & re-read over so I can remind myself of the TRUTH of the matter.

    I need to give this other me - the one with all these emotions & feelings I don't want to have - a voice in the therapy room, rather then trying to obliterate it.

    I'm very very grateful for your straight-forward advice, and I will let you know how I go.
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