Feeling Different or Flawed: Part 2 in a two-part series
I recently posted about the impact that childhood emotional neglect and abuse can have when you’re an adult: Intentional and unintentional trauma and abuse can leave you feeling that some part of you will never feel truly connected to others — that maybe you’re just different in some way. Dr. Jonice Webb calls it the fatal flaw. I also posted my own story, A Story of Survival and Healing: A Therapists Story into Seeing and Being Seen, sharing how trauma impacted me as a person and as a therapist.
Feeling different or apart can make it hard to feel connected from the people in your life you care most about. Or it can make it hard to form new connections. It can leave you feeling anxious because you don’t feel like you’re showing up as your “true self.” But what keeps that distance between you and others isn’t a fatal flaw that can never be healed.
If you’ve felt disconnected from others, there’s a good chance you were never taught how to manage or regulate your feelings when you were growing up. Maybe difficult feelings like anger, fear or sorrow weren’t validated, or you were punished or shunned for expressing them.
Anxiety Shows Up
When you’re taught that feeling and expressing our emotions isn’t safe, and you didn’t have people in your life who modeled how to manage emotions, it’s really hard to figure out these skills by yourself. You become uncomfortable when strong emotions surface, so you push them down, avoid and ignore them. Avoiding the difficult emotions creates a disconnection from yourself because you don’t know how you’re feeling in the moment. Anxiety creeps or jumps in, because your body understands that you’re feeling discomfort and it wants to alert you to any potential danger.
You might feel numb, unable to describe how you feel, or you might find it hard to identify the more subtle emotions. As a result, you use very basic language when describing your feelings:
- I’m angry.
- I’m sad.
- I’m happy.
Those few phrases barely scratch the surface. There are so many ways to describe our different emotional states. Here’s a list of words you can use to better illustrate how you feel. Just to give you an idea of the diverse language of emotion, here are 10 words to express sadness to help you get to the core of what you’re experiencing:
- in despair
Reconnecting With Yourself
In order to feel connected to others, you have to be able to connect with yourself first, because when you don’t know how you’re feeling it can be hard to understand how others are feeling. So the first step is to get back in touch with those feelings that you have avoided, pushed down and ignored.
6 Suggestions For Getting In Touch With Your Feelings
Meditate. Meditation allows you to calm your mind and understand your body’s reaction to stress.
Practice mindfulness. Being more present in the moment gives you a greater understanding of your body, your thoughts and your feelings. Pausing and being mindful when you’re stressed and anxious can help you understand your feelings as they’re happening. And when you know what’s bubbling up, you can better soothe yourself.
Journal your emotions. Use the list of emotions try to identify exactly what you’re feeling. When you can name an emotion with authenticity, you might feel your body relax, because you’re allowing yourself to see it and feel it.
Get in touch with the “felt sense.” Try the exercise below to help you better understand what your body is telling you about how you feel. It helps you get in touch with the felt sense and honor what your body has to tell you.
Offer yourself some compassion. When you’re struggling or you feel like you’re “less than” or flawed, you might blame yourself or feel ashamed. Maybe you’re very critical of the mistakes you make or maybe you get caught up in the things you should have done or said. Offering yourself compassion can calm and soothe you in times of stress.
Share your story with a counselor. Finding a therapist who specializes in trauma and attachment, and childhood emotional abuse can help you feel understood and seen. Therapy can help you learn how to reconnect with yourself in meaningful ways.