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Emotionality and Me

I was talking to my therapist yesterday, and she brought to my attention my ever-flat affect. We discussed my lack of emotionality, and she told me that I likely dissociated from my emotions as a child. Basically, it went like this: when all I felt was pain, my mind basically said to itself, “Well, if this is what it means to feel emotions, this sucks,” and for the most part cut itself off from emotions to protect me. With the notable exception of anger. Even if I don’t always express it, anger is the one emotion that has been my constant companion for years.

However, now that I am no longer in constant immediate danger, this lack of ability to properly feel and express emotions is sort of a problem. I long ago realized that it made it difficult for me to empathize with people–a large part of empathy is sharing in others’ joys and sorrow, and my version of joy or sorrow is but an empty shell of what I once felt and what I believe others feel. This effectively leaves me feeling isolated, even when surrounded by friends.

I often feel numb. Sometimes, I imagine I should be feeling something, but it eludes me. It’s true; I sometimes feel nothing at all. That used to scare me, but I think I got used to it somewhere along the way, which somehow makes it all the worse.

I could try to work on changing on all this, but there are two problems with that, the first being that I don’t know how. The other issue is something that may exist only in my head, but it’s a very real issue to me: I more or less know who I am with low emotionality. What would happen if I were to suddenly become a very emotional person? I feel like I wouldn’t know myself anymore. Would I seem like a different person? I don’t know. Because as much as I sometimes feel numb and alienated, I at least know who I am.

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About The Mental Chronicles

I am an otherwise "normal" person who suffers from psychotic depression. This blog is about me, things I like, and my struggle with mental illness.

2 responses to “Emotionality and Me

  1. Sandy Sue

    What interesting questions you pose! My first response is that you’re displaying a very clear emotion—fear. I’ve seen this emotion expressed several times in your writing. It may seem distant and transparent, but it’s there.
    And I imagine that’s the way you experience all your emotions—from a distance. But they’re still there. Ready to be accessed *in your own way.*

    I know from experience how depression deadens all the other emotions, so I get what you’re saying. I also understand the coping mechanism that shoved them in a box to keep those overwhelming feelings away. Feelings are painful and can run riot, but one school of thought says that emotions follow thought. So if you can consciously watch your thoughts, weed out the twisted and delusional thinking, the emotions generated from them will not feel so dangerous.

    Have you discussed how to go about reaching for your emotions with your therapist? I would imagine it would be a slow process that would yield incremental results, which would give you time to adjust slowly to the differences. You would still be you, there would just be more to you—a few more notes in the song, a few more colors on the palate.

    • One thing I have been getting better at, after my increasingly frequent psychotic episodes, is distancing myself from my thinking in order to analyze it. I think you have a good point there about “weeding out” the bad thoughts.

      I haven’t yet discussed how I might go about trying re-connect to my emotions.

      A few more notes in the song and a few more colors on the palate–what beautiful metaphors 🙂

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