Reconnect to your Core.Chapter 1 - excerpt B.
Examples of feelings phobia in daily life.
Susan – neck pain after meeting with the boss.
It’s time for the yearly work performance evaluation. This year Susan actually looks forward to it. It’s been a fairly good year, not exactly great, but she’s sold above average so there’s no reason for her to «feel worried». She arrives at the boss’ office on time, but finds him busy on the phone talking to a supplier. She sits down quietly waiting for him to finish his conversation and tries to think of what she’s going to tell him about last year’s performance.
The boss takes his time and when he finally hangs up the phone he’s stressed and edgy. He talks rapidly and in a crass tone. He says he’s somewhat displeased with Susan’s accomplishment this year. Sure she’s above average, he says, but Susan has been here five years now and it’s expected more from here than just being average. His tone is not very friendly and he’s not giving Susan time to talk. She tries to defend herself but he interrupts her and continues to criticize her performance.
Susan can feel movement in her bowl and she starts feeling slightly nauseous. Suddenly she also finds it difficult to think straight and she begins feeling as if she’s having a mental block. She tries to calm herself and explain herself the best she’s able to, but she doesn’t get to say much before the boss gets up from his chair and says he has to leave immediately because he’s got another meeting.
Stunned and feeling unwell she gets up and goes to the restroom where she vomits. When the evening comes she worries about the evaluation but tries to distract herself by watching a movie. She goes to bed early feeling tense and exhausted, but when she wakes up the next morning her neck is so stiff and painful that she has to call the office and tell them she’s sick and that she can’t make it to work that day.
How it relates to feelings phobia:
Physical pain due to emotional stress is referred to as somatization. This is a defense mechanism that occurs when physical symptoms and pain are expressing through the body what deep down feelings are actually trying to express.
Often times somatization symptoms have obvious links to suppressed aggressive fantasies, but other times physical pain manifests itself in subtle ways more difficult to understand. That somatization symptoms links with aggressive fantasies and impulses occurs in a clinical setting when a person has pain where she (in her unconscious fantasy) wants to hurt or strike the person she’s angry at. The somatization process happens unconsciously. After all it’s not like people consciously choose to get neck pain, back pain, limp hands, ringing in the ears, ulcerative colitis, or other chronic diseases which develops if unconscious anxiety lasts for a prolonged time.
Psychodynamic psychology may argue that Susan unconsciously feels anger towards her boss because he’s «a pain in the neck», or that perhaps she wants to strangle him in her fantasy. But since she’s not in touch with her feelings, her anger remains hidden in her body and therefore turns on herself. Her own aggressive fantasy is not allowed into her conscious awareness by her reptilian brain and her ego. Still, «something» inside her tries to alert her to what’s going on by using the language of physical pain. It’s almost like there’s an alarm bell inside Susan screaming at her to «wake up and listen to what’s going on inside you!».
I’ve mentioned that tension, stress, nervousness, and anxiety are not feelings, but that they’re the ego’s ways of trying to prevent «forbidden» and anxiety producing feelings to surface to conscious awareness. Anxiety is the body’s alarm system that signals the existence feelings we’re not aware of. But Susan doesn’t just experience stress and tension during the meeting, she also experiences rumbling in her stomach, and an inability to think clearly. These are also symptoms of anxiety. You will in Chapter 6 learn the different ways that anxiety can manifest in the body. Not only can anxiety come as tension in our voluntary muscles, but it can also be present in our involuntary muscles, internal organs, and in our brain. To be aware of this so that you can recognize these symptoms for what they are will be of enormous benefit to you.
A common defense mechanism that distances Susan from her feelings is the defense of confusion. As you already know there are only three intrapsychic processes that goes on inside us at any given time: we either feel a feeling, we experience anxiety, or we use defense mechanisms. The reason it is called the Triangle of Conflict, is because a person is in continuous inner conflict between her feeling, anxiety, or defense. However, Susan is confusing these three inner processes, and this confusion keeps her removed from her internal state. Before the meeting she thinks that she has no reason to «feel worried». But a worry is not a feeling, it is a cognitive thought produced by the ego that keeps her distracted from her feelings. To become aware of what’s what, and know the distinction between feeling, anxiety, and defense, will give you a lot more confidence. You’ll learn this key difference between feelings, anxiety, and defense in Chapter 4. Below follows Susan’s Triangle of Conflict (ToC):
Julie – depressed after dinner with her parents.
Julie is invited to her father’s birthday party, but rather than looking forward to it she worries in the days leading up to it. She describes her relationship with her parents as «ok», but that she sometimes «feels guilty» because she doesn’t talk to them «often enough». Julie doesn’t want them to believe that something’s wrong between them, but still she doesn’t like to spend too much time with her parents either. She believes they’re superficial and materialistic, and she feels that she has nothing to talk to her parents about. Usually they always end up talking about mundane things and she finds herself going quiet and listening to her father’s monologues.
Her father has strong opinions on different matters and thinks he knows best about practically everything. If Julie tells something that’s going on in her own life she knows that her father will be critical, give her unsolicited advice, or interrupt her quickly and talk about his own matters. Therefore she no longer wants to tell him what’s really going on in her life. She has learned that if she just holds her tongue and let her father talk, he’ll eventually run out of stories and she can find an excuse to end the conversation and get back to her own life. This makes her «feel like a terrible daughter», but she doesn’t know how to handle him differently.
At the birthday party she’s seated next to her father and again the evening turns out like it always does. Her father is talking about his own stuff while Julie mostly stays quiet and agrees with him «when appropriate». But gradually she begins «feeling more and more exhausted», and before she knows it it’s like she has lost all her energy. She forces herself to sit there the entire evening because she «feels she can’t get up and leave» even though she wants to. At the end of the evening she’s totally exhausted and during the next week she’s «feeling depressed» and barely has the energy to go to work.
How it relates to feelings phobia:
Depression is not a feeling, it is a state Julie reaches after she has «depressed her feelings» (i.e. repressed her feelings) over a period of time. Feelings are what gives Julie her life energy, therefore to «put a lid» on them, depress them, and pretend they don’t exist, will lead to a depressive state that has consequences for Julie’s mental health. Feelings can’t be ignored without mental or physical consequences!
If feelings are not felt and experienced they’ll not simply disappear. This is because the physical energy of the feeling will remain in the body as long as they’re repressed, and their energy will manifest as psychological or physical symptoms such as depression, anxiety, physical pain, procrastination, and worry etc.
So what feelings are Julie depressing at her father’s birthday party? Her father is being critical, giving unsolicited advice, only talking about himself, not showing any interest in her, and being arrogant and superficial. Most likely she’d find his behavior rude and annoying, and therefore anger toward him would unconsciously be triggered by her mammalian brain. Anger as a feeling has its own physical activation in the body, and the distinct physical activation of all our feelings and the importance of being aware of these physical activations will be covered in Chapter 5.
There’s a universal emotional pattern, called the GSU-pattern, in our psyche that activates unconsciously when we have anger towards a person we’re attached to. Keep in mind that Julie isn’t only angry at her father, she also has positive feelings towards him that’s based on an attachment bond from early childhood. This attachment relationship still influences Julie’s psyche. This unconscious emotional pattern is believed to be universal to most humans (at least to those of us that aren’t psychopaths or have structural brain damage).
The GSU-pattern goes as follows: After anger towards a person we’re also attached to and have positive feelings towards, unconscious guilt is triggered due to these angry feelings and impulses towards the loved person. This unconscious guilt, when felt and experienced, triggers a third phase consisting of the feelings of grief and sadness due to love that wasn’t there, and this phase leads then to the last phase consisting of our loving feelings towards our attachment figures. This pattern is referred to as the GSU (The Generic System of the Unconscious) and it consists of the sequence of DAEC (Defense against emotional closeness), anger, guilt, grief, and love.
The extreme importance of this universal emotional pattern for our overall health and psyche will be one of the main topics of this book. Though mainly it will be covered in Chapter 13, it will also be covered throughout the book where appropriate. The GSU-pattern may be illustrated like this:
Unconscious guilt is the cause of «most» of our psychological problems. However, most of us aren’t even aware of having any guilt inside us! It’s a feeling that’s seldom felt consciously because our defense mechanisms work hard to avoid experiencing it. A lot of people say they often feel guilty, but what they’re usually describing is their habit of thinking thoughts of self-attacking content which is very different than physically feeling the feeling of guilt. It doesn’t even occur to most of us to allow ourselves to feel through this unconscious guilt by feeling all the feelings in the GSU-pattern (and why would anyone?).
To go full circle and fully surrender to the rage, to feel the unconscious guilt of our aggressive impulses, and by grieving the love that wasn’t there, and allowing ourselves to embrace the love that we have towards our attachment figures has a miraculous effect on both mental and physical health. This miraculous effect can’t really be explained, it needs to be experienced!
Having the courage to face these feelings is where you’ll find the path to true healing. The repressed and unfelt feelings of the GSU-pattern are so important to our psychological build-up that they’re believed to be the main driver behind the majority (if not all) of our psychological problems and symptoms. Therefore, getting back in touch with these feelings will be the key to overcoming your problems and symptoms! That in fact human beings functions like this, and how you may overcome the UAM (Unconscious Anxiety Mechanism) by feeling through the GSU (Generic System of the Unconscious) will be covered thoroughly throughout the book.
What Julie’s unconscious mind does at the party is that rather than allowing Julie to feel her anger (and the entire GSU-pattern) towards her father (and most likely her mother also) the feeling system inside her shuts down (i.e. depresses). Since her feelings is what gives her her life energy, a body without feelings is a dead (i.e. exhausted) body. Unfortunately for her energy level, well-being, and happiness, her UAM activates when her anger is triggered. However, rather than becoming tense and nervous, as perhaps most UAM-dominant victims do, her body shuts down her energy supply, through the defense of instant repression, and goes to a depressive position instead.
Her Defense Against Emotional Closeness (DAEC), which is her barrier against sharing feelings, contributes to her distancing, ignoring her own feelings, and rationalizing why she should keep her feelings buried. After the DAEC and the defense of depressive position takes place, her ego helps out further and starts to generate even more defense mechanisms. The ego gives her self-attacking thoughts («I’m such a terrible daughter»), even more rationalizing thoughts («I’ll keep quiet because I don’t want to cause a scene»), passivity, detachment, and imitation (i.e. she imitates her father ignoring her). And because she’s more identified with her defenses than with her feelings and her Self, she gets lost inside her mind and the depression increases.
In Chapter 8 you’ll learn about the most common defense mechanisms so that you’re able to recognize them in yourself. Special emphasis will be given to the DAEC and the cluster of defenses that constitutes this pillar-defense. Later in Chapter 11 you’ll learn about defense work and how you may turn on your defenses and overcome them. For Julie it’s important to learn these things in order to realize that it’s not her father’s behavior that’s making her depressed, though his behavior is the trigger, but her own way of handling her feelings (i.e. her defense mechanisms) that’s the cause of her depression. You’ll learn that what’s most important for Julie’s depression and energy level is not necessarily what she «says» to her father or «does» in the situation, but rather if she herself is conscious of her feelings and can allow herself to experience their energy rather than ignoring them and shutting down emotionally.
But what’s Julie going to do? In Chapter 12, 13 and 14, you’ll learn how to feel your feelings and how to communicate them constructively when dealing with people. You’ll learn that the feeling of anger and the defense mechanisms of discharge, acting out, or blaming are separate things. The fact that Julie is angry doesn’t mean that she now has to raise her voice and yell at her father. The feeling of anger can in fact be very productive and constructive, and there are productive and constructive ways of communicating it also. If you listen to the feeling and use it wisely, anger will give you the ability to stand up for yourself, set boundaries, be proactive, state what you want, protect yourself from non-integrous people, and create healthy relationships. An illustration of Julie’s ToC follows below.
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