Why do I have to access feelings in order to process ?

I am in the middle of some very intense theraphy and my T has often asked me why do I not feel the won't in around the events that happened to me as a child. We had a serious discussion about her style of working as I felt she wanted to parent me in the process and I felt that was not save for me and she is ok with that. But she cannot understand how I don't break down in the session and feel what I am talking about.

To me when I talk in the session I have to protect myself from feeling the stuff, otherwise I wouldn't be able to talk. I know a bit part of it is a trust issue.

Is it safe to trust someone to hold your feelings and not either ignore them or trample on them, in my world at the moment it's not.

Why can't they understand that some of us need to understand stuff more than we need to feel it. Feelings hurt.

21 Replies

  • In my experience and from what I have read, it takes a lot if time to build up the kind of trust both in yourself and in another person to allow the feelings associated with trauma to surface. I could tell my story for literally 20 years without much emotion behind it. Now, I allow myself to feel the emotions most of the time. My guess is that I spent so much time keeping the feelings at bay at any cost, believing they would completely destroy me if I didn't, that it took me so long to simply trust in myself enough to let them out. I am not even sure it has much to do with who the other person I am sharing with is. It takes time and a lot of work to get to this place and it doesn't just happen. I wonder if your t is very trauma informed because this kind of thing is widely known among people and professionals who are? All that to say, what you are describing is completely normal and I am sorry you are experiencing a lack of support in that reality.

  • This is a very timely post for me to respond to. I'm going through a rough patch and I have asked this question of my psychiatrist in this past week. I have said I can tell of the many trauma without any feelings at all. I said it's like here is my story and the feelings are all locked away behind a door somewhere else. He told me this is one of the classic symptoms of PTSD. In terms of accessing feelings with memory if it's emdr therapy you are having it is not necessary to have the feelings while processing in the beginning. Eventually the feelings will come but you can still begin the processing without them I am told.

  • There is very good reasons why we split of emotion from the trauma. It is a survival mechanism I'm told. If we felt the feelings at the time it would have destroyed us. It simply wasn't safe to feel so we blunted out.

  • I can relate to this. For me I got through life "thinking everything out" and "Figuring out my plan." If I had allowed myself to feel as a child I would have broke down and I'm not sure how I would have made it through. I carried this with me until this past year when I did have a break through..... I figured out that most of my emotion or feelings express through my body with sensations. I also got tired of trying to figure everything out. So I am just now starting to feel more which is very hard. But I think in my case it's a little more healthy at this point in my life since it is now safe to feel. I completely understand why you would work this way it may have kept you going.

  • I agree Perfect4 feelings do hurt. Whenever I start to feel any of my trauma come up I start to dissociate. I go from perfectly "normal" adult, to a trance like state. That's when all my inner peeps start fighting. My Therapist asked me what it sounds like, at first I had thought static, like on tv. But then it changed to walking into a crowded room,and everyone is talking, loudly, chaotically, and I at what age I can not tell, just start yelling shut up. Every once in a while an inner persons voice can be heard more than all the others. Usually the inner critic. Sorry for the ramblings, I was going to delete it, but then thought, what if my complete ramblings actually hits home with someone who needs to hear it right now. For that reason, I will let the chips fall where they may. I wish you luck in feeling your feelings, I know it's tough and highly overrated in my book.

  • Do you think these inner people are seperate parts to you? I have parts which seem seperate to me yet there is only one body so my head knows they can't be. These parts take over very quickly if we are triggered or fearful. I have been diagnosed with amongst other things dissociative identity disorder. Sometime I can loose huge chunks of time days and sometimes weeks where I have no idea of what's been happening.

  • Hi

    Welcome to my world. Its horrible, brutal n painful needless to say. I too have DID and find ways to manage as best as I can. Wishing u alL the best on your recovery journey.

  • It's really good to know I am not alone with DID Diana. My middle name is Dianne so there is another similarity.

  • Lindyloo. I don't think they are separate from me. I do not have DID I don't loose pieces of time or stuff like that, it's just more of an internal dialogue the inner peeps, just happen to represent different people from my past. The critic is usually my mom or dad, my inner child is the self destructive one. Sometimes the thought process of the one that is most in charge at the time, is hard to reason with, and very emotionally draining. I was looking over an article about being Co dependent though, I was really shocked to discover there is a huge chance that I am. But not going to label myself as such. I don't need anymore distractions in my life.

  • Lol I told my shrink who I have been seeing now for fourteen years that the only labels I accept are the ones hanging in my wardrobe. It is good having a dr for that long as he knows me well and knows when I hit crisis to act fast. Usually this means for me I have been triggered and parts have taken over. Sometimes We have a very well thought out plan to go missing or worse. I will miss him when he retires though he's not said he's doing that yet.

  • Thank you for all your replies. I am slowly working through a lot of trust issues. Before working with this T I was in the medical model for 20 + years and when you started talking there they started hunting for information straight away, so in a sense I was being re traumatised again and again, hense my caution. I agree with all the replies, I did block all the feelings to survive as a child and my T is very experienced in trauma work but she has said she has never worked with someone who keeps it all together and never cries (tears can be over rated at times) or acts out (and I can act out, but that was when I worked with medical people who triggered me all the time). So I have decided to stay with my system for the moment which is talk and don't feel, for the moment.

  • whatever is working best for you at the moment. Only you can know. I agree crying is way overrated, and then I have to breath through my mouth! which makes me feel like a cave man! It's not pretty.

  • This is very much me also Perfect4 so thank you for raising the subject.

    My lack of emotion in session with my last T completely mystified her and she kept pushing me which resulted in retrauma. I found it "easy" to cry about the poor dear dog dying but not about bigger losses. I'm glad you feel confident enough to stay with your own system for the moment and don't feel pressurised into adopting your T's system as happened with me.

  • Hi Harry34

    Thank you for your kind comments. Re working with my T, we have connected on a very deep level and I enjoy learning from her. But I refuse to view her as the person in charge or let myself feel that she is going to parent me. That dosent work for me, my parents were crap and I don't trust anyone to do that for me so I have to learn to do that for myself. This is the first time that she has worked with someone like me and to be fair she is adapting her normal style of working to suit me. But we keep coming back to why and how do I not feel anything while in a session. I do disassociate when things get tough and she is very good at working with that. I journal a lot and I bring that into the session. The first time I brought stuff in she told me that she would prefere if I read it, and I just put it back in the bag and said no. The sense of shock in the rom was huge, but once I explained why she understood, she now reads aloud the stuff I being in and we discuss it in depth. Key to this work for me is going very slow, and taking time out form theraphy when needed.

    I guess what I am trying to say is it is not always nessary to feel stuff in the session that can be done in private and that has to be respected. I just want to be "Seen, Herad and Understood" that's my motto in this work.

  • That's great Perfect4 and thanks for explaining. That gives me confidence. My mother clearly abandoned me emotionally and I had to completely get by without her, anything else would have been unsafe for me. I was so alienated from her that I do not have any sense of abandonment - luckily - my previous T made out there was something wrong with me and that it was "unnatural" not to want a mother and how I should grieve for her after she died. I said I could only grieve for something or someone I have a connection with, such as the dog! I still hold to that over 18 months on. Your post gives me hope that I don't have to conform to the "normal" route and I can go with what is best for me. I admire you for discovering this and having the guts to stick with it. Great motto too!

  • Perfect4 I have done that to my therapist also, she asked me to read it, and I just said nope, and put it away. When I first started with my current therapist she asked me to write my life story down, which I did. Then brought it into her. She asked me to read it! I was floored, I asked her why she didn't tell before hand. She replied, if I had you wouldn't have written it down. Which is true. We went our rounds for quite a while with it. I read it to her my version severly edited. Gave her a copy of it then took it back. In the end I never did read it to her, but sent her an unedited version of my life story. So she pretty much knows everything about me. Kind of scary if I let myself think about it. Which I don't. But there is one person on this earth that knows everything. Important or not, she knows. That is the main reason I really don't want to have to start over. I have most of my Ah Ha moments the day or two after therapy.

  • It took me a long time to feel the feelings in front of my therapist and I had an immediate connection and affinity for her. But I talked about really bad stuff with no emotion ALOT (still do sometimes) just to get it out/share my story/burden with another human being and to understand it. My T totally got that I needed to analyze and understand before I could come close to feeling the emotions.

    My T was infinitely patient and NEVER questioned me on this as to why I wasn't emoting to her. Her not saying anything but rather letting me dictate the speed and style of what and how I shared opened me up faster and established my trust with her faster. Had she questioned me on this I would've become defensive, untrusting and would've had the impulse to pull away rather than open up more. Seems like psych 101 to me. Not sure what your T wouldn't understand about that.

    You drive your own recovery at your own pace and with your own style. Bravo for honoring yourself and your own boundaries at this stage you're in.

  • Gemini. I think my Therapist knows I am feeling "something" but I can't put into words what it is. It's really frustrating, I guess they are what you call emotionally illiterate. I often wonder if I have a bit of Alexithymia. Not that I am endorsing any webpage. Put just out of curiosity I found a Alexithymia questionnaire on line. Said I had High Alexithymia traits. Gee big surprise there.

  • Hi perfect4,

    I completely understand where your coming from. You seem to dissociate your feelings from the thoughts and memories in order to tell the story. That's fine too because once you feel safe enough within yourself first and foremost then you will be able to let others into your feelings world. There's nothing wrong with that.

    Obviously your first few steps are understanding what's happening before you feel safe enough or comfortable enough to express your emotions and that's ok too. Parts of we are exactly the same and feel we need to understand the process.

    I'm sorry you have felt badly burnt in past re your feelings and they've been trampled on. If it's the right therapist for you then in time you will open up. Good luk and wishing you all the best. Just remember things take time and that's ok :)

  • I think I know why they want us to read our rewriting out loud. It's because she thinks we will connect with emotion by doing that. When I have done this I read in a monotone voice. I think the rule of thumb therapists go by is 'you can't heal what you don't feel'. I used to think I didn't have feelings in fact when I first saw my shrink I said we don't cry. We never have cried.

  • Lindyloo, I thought we had to Fake it to Make it!! That's probably where I have been going wrong! hehehe!

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