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Learning how to feel for the first time

Discussion in 'Dysregulation' started by T2L, Apr 8, 2018.

  1. T2L

    T2L Active Member

    First of all, I apologise in advance for any typos... My phone had been autocorrecting words and I don't catch them until after I post. I guess I have two topics related to this. I think this is the right forum to post in. Second, I mention various behaviors related to harm and eating disorders.

    1. Anyway, I am 30 and I feel embarrassed (I think) that before I can even start processing the multiple tramas, I have to learn what emotions are. I guess maybe I'm too hard on myself, but I can't move forward until I feel my feelings. I can't even express happiness I'm so disconnected. After years of therapy I can finally tap into anger (actually, rage takes over but i turn it inward) and I have started to understand other emotions such as guilt and shame.

    I've been so disconnected from any emotions that I literally can't name them. I don't know if it's due to learning how to ignore painful emotions so I disconnect, the fact that I was raised not to have or express feelings, or a combination of the two. I often find myself blanking out and thinking "umm I have no idea what I'm feeling." I think I go from no feelings to an intense ball of tangled emotions where I get overwhelmed and shut down. If it gets too bad, I feel like I'm crawling under my skin. I have to have a written list of feelings in front of me to be able to name the emotions, and that's after the fact..I can't do that in the moment yet. Shouldn't I know how to do this already? I feel like a child, but I guess since abuse started at 3, it's been ingrained.

    2. Can you subconsciously "feel" yet you're so disconnected you can't bring it to the front of your mind to truly feel? It's hard to explain. For example, true I can now connect some things such as "I want to self harm because I'm angry/anxious/numb, etc," or "I'm using food in an attempt to gain control." However, there are many times that I'm obviously triggered and want to do self destructive things, but I don't have any thoughts, feelings, or any idea as to what or why. I'm trying really hard to figure out what these triggers are. I ask myself "ok, I want to cut, purge, or drink right now, but what emotions am I trying to avoid by doing these things!? What painful feelings am I trying to mask?" It's obviously something negative or I wouldn't feel the need to do these behaviors to release the negative feelings, right? I have had urges (minor or intense) or done a behavior on a daily basis since I was 12. My therapist asks to think about why I harmed myself and what was going on in the moment. For the most part I truly don't know...the urge is just there and i want to numb out from whatever it is.

    It's really frustrating to want to process the trama so I can move on with my life, but how can I if I can't even explain what's going on in my head? I have started to write down the event a day or two later which had helped me understand a tiny bit, but in the moment, the urges are all I can think about. It's like I'm stuck and all I can think about is doing the behavior. One example is when I get in the "binge mode." It's like I'm in a trance and can't think of anything else except "I must binge and purge...I *have* to do it!" But why? I can't answer that.

    Perhaps it'll take a long time to reprogram 27 years of learned maladaptive coping responses. If I never learned to feel as a child, will I be able to eventually? It's very tiring.

    I am going in circles and don't think I am making sense trying to explain these things. I don't feel I connect or express emotions like a "normal" person would.

    Am I the only one that can't express or explain what I'm feeling? I wonder if the emotions are too painful that my mind won't allow me to feel them until I'm ready to face them.

    After writing this, it helped me see the progress I have made, even if it has taken many years to even get this far.
    magnor, AngelkeeperJ, Beans and 3 others like this.
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  3. Freida

    Freida Been There, Done That, Lived to Tell the Story Premium Member

    Oh ya -- that whole "let your emotions live" crapola.
    I think the numbness is pretty normal - you might just have an extra layer to work through

    Yep - it's going to take some time and that's ok.... because you already see the progress. maladaptive coping techniques can be restructured, it just takes time to build the habits and learn to "be" with your emotions (I'm dealing with that too -- ugh)

    Are you still doing therapy?
    magnor, AngelkeeperJ and Overcoming like this.
  4. Harmonics

    Harmonics Member

    I hear you on this one. I am trying to figure out the whole feeling thing. I was trained not to acknowledge feelings of any sort. Now I am trying to figure out how to feel anything besides fear. That seems to be my go-to emotion for everything.
  5. Sietz

    Sietz I'm a VIP

    Hey, I can answer this. First, congrats on feeling adequately :) that's very hard to accomplish.

    Usually in terms of numbness what we're trying to hide is that horrible existencial pain, so we self harm in order not to end it completely. It's a coping mechanism, very unhealthy one, but there you have it.
    That pain will come out and you'll need to feel it.
    Sometimes I just lay in bed feeling terrible, but at least I'm not avoiding feeling it, you know? Then it goes away, comes back, goes away again. In the meantime we learn how to feel it. It's hard but doable.
    Freida, AngelkeeperJ and Finchlet2 like this.
  6. Finchlet2

    Finchlet2 Active Member

    The feeling ting. Believe it or not this may comfort you. It gets horrid before it gets better. It's horrid almost unbearable what I feel right now but I feel. Some would say and therefor I am but that scares me as I am peinfully aware of my life's insignificance. Regardless I wouldn't swapped other for the urgent destructive numbness again. I've jut at turned 29. We have time mate let's believe together that we have time to figure it out. No returning to the living dead
    magnor, Freida, AngelkeeperJ and 3 others like this.
  7. Beans

    Beans Well-Known Member

    31 and just now learning how to feel. Boy does it suck. But the numbness and emptiness is far worse.
    ShadowWolf, Harmonics, Freida and 2 others like this.
  8. magnor

    magnor New Member

    This thread gives me comfort. I'm 34 and in the same boat as all of you. Relearning how to feel for the first time. Just spent 5 straight days in my room feeling every kind of emotion. I think to myself, 'Is this what healthy people feel when they feel emotions?' I have difficulty gauging what is 'normal' and what is not being regulated properly. I know everything is heightened right now because it's all flooding through the gates that have been closed since we were kids. My therapist says my emotions will even out as we continue processing the trauma/abuse but I don't know if I'm even processing the emotions correctly. I just feel exhausted from feeling.
    I am getting better at noticing when I have self-destructive urges. I ask myself aloud "Why do you want to do that to yourself? Do you feel you need to be punished? Tell me where it's coming from?" Sometimes I just want to break things or overeat or disassociate. I get why my brain wants to protect me from feeling pain. It's hard to stop in the moment and figure out why. I try and feel as much as I can but my therapist says it's okay to take a break at some points and disassociate (watch tv and turn off my brain) temporarily. This is heavy stuff.
    Harmonics, Freida and Sietz like this.
  9. Anana

    Anana Was Anayana

    I'm 31 and I still remember that very first time when I began to feel smth. It was water in shower 3 years ago. After that a lot of work has been done. I was like a child (and still is)discovering more and more about my perception and feeling gratitude that I can feel. Though there were moments when it brought me additional stress when i was telling myself off for opening my "container"
    thud failing to control my emotions (because many years of being numb was quite "safe". But now i value my feelings. Any of them. Because still I have hours and even days when I'm "off". But now I'm already more scared about that dark emptiness
    Freida likes this.
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