A Visit to the ER (Emotional Repression)

Imagine if you will…

 er

Patient: “Doctor, my symptoms are: irritability, shortness of breath, an inability to sleep throughout the night, loss of appetite, and a soreness around my heart. I haven’t felt good in weeks. I probably should have come in sooner, but I just thought it might go away.”

Doctor: “Your pulse is good. Your heart rate is too. Blood pressure is normal.” He takes a deep breath and releases a short “hmmph”. “You’re suffering from emotional repression.”

Patient: Looks at the doctor. Cocks her head forty-five degrees to the right and says, “Excuse me?”

Doctor: “Yep. Nothing is physically ailing you, but you certainly are suffering from some serious emotional trauma.” He scribbles a few notes on her chart, looks up at her and then reaches for something in the pocket of his lab coat. “Here is the number to a great therapist.” On his way out of the exam room he gives her a pat on the shoulder and exits without another word. The patient, on the other hand, sits in wide-eyed bewilderment looking at the information on the business card.


In the last chapter of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, the author John Gray unearths why couples in loving relationships experience turmoil. When my most recent romantic relationship began to rapidly unravel I couldn’t help but try and determine where things had gone wrong. I was baffled how something so beautiful could become so hideous in such a short amount of time. And then it all started to make sense when Gray noted that:

It is very common for two people who are madly in love one day to hate each other or fight the very next day. These sudden shifts are confusing. Yet they are common. If we don’t understand why they happen we may think that we are going crazy, or we may mistakenly conclude that our love has died. Fortunately there is an explanation.

After reading these words, instantly I began to feel better. There was an assurance that an answer would soon be provided and I would know “what the hell” had been going on. Gray continued by point out that:

Love brings up our unresolved feelings…The painful memories of being rejected begin to surface when we are faced with trusting and accepting our partner’s love. Whenever we are loving ourselves more or being loved by others, repressed feelings tend to come up and temporarily overshadow our loving awareness. They come up to be healed and released.

Eureka! There it was–right there in simple terms. The love that had grown between my beloved and me was being taking to the ER (emotional repression). It wasn’t that our love had diminished, but that our love was somehow being tested by repressed feelings/emotions that hadn’t fully been dealt with from the past. But in the midst of the emotional trauma that I was experiencing, I couldn’t see past my current situation. I couldn’t connect my present circumstances with past hurts and disappointments. Finally, it was becoming clear that:

We are all walking around with a bundle of unresolved feelings, the wounds from our past, that lie dormant within us until the time comes when we feel loved. Then, we feel safe to be ourselves, our hurt feelings come up.

It is true that I have made some great gains in the past two years. I have recovered from the last heart-wrenching failed romance, but somehow there were still some things from my past that had not yet been acknowledged. And then the following words helped me determine how far in the past I needed to go to gain the healing I had longed for.

By understanding how past unresolved feelings periodically surface, it is easy to understand why we can become so easily hurt by our partners. When we are upset, about 90 percent of the upset is related to our past and has nothing to do with what we think is upsetting us.

So, with this new sense of awareness I have determined that the “unraveling” of my most recent love affair wasn’t so much about what my beloved had said or done, but was about the emotional trauma of a childhood smeared by a divorce and feelings of abandonment. All these years I had been suppressing feelings that were birthed in my youth. I subconsciously believed that every man that I loved would eventually leave me behind just like my father had left my mother and his children behind. Please don’t get me wrong. I am in no way pointing a finger of blame at my father, but acknowledging how the events in the past have shaped my emotional (in)stability in the present. I am well aware that both of my parents did the best they could with the information they possessed. They loved us to the best of their ability and for that I am thankful. I am merely acknowledging the hurt, so that I can heal and release it–so that it doesn’t surface again.

As part of the healing process, author John Gray suggests the “Love Letter” technique for communicating difficult feelings to those we love. Gray believes that there are times when talking is ineffective. He also points out that letter writing provides us with an opportunity to listen to our feelings without the possibility of hurting our partner. It is an effective tool to provide awareness to us for how unloving we may sound.

Gray’s Love Letter Technique

 

  1. Write a Love Letter that expresses your feelings of: anger, sadness, fear, regret, and love.
  2. Write a Response Letter where you express what you want to hear from the person to whom you addressed the Love Letter.
  3. Share the Love Letter and Response Letter with the individual to whom it was written.

Gray acknowledges the flexibility in this three-step approach—meaning it’s up to you to determine if you will do only one or more of the steps. He urges us, the reader, to:

  1. Include all five elements in the letter
  2. Use simple terms/phrases
  3. Try to keep each section balanced in length
  4. Don’t stop until you express the “love” at the end
  5. Include a “P.S”

All that being said, I used his technique to write a “Healing Letter” to myself. This letter is then followed by the “Loving Response” that I needed to say to myself.

Disclaimer/Footnote: the use of “self” in the Healing Letter and “Self” in the Loving Response Letter are purposeful. In The Path To Love Deepak Chopra connotes the “Self” with our higher Self, our spirit man, “…created from the same spirit that in infinite form is called God”. Thus the “self” is synonymous with the humanly defined and psychologically developed (ego-driven) image of who we are—separate from our innate spirit. So hopefully that will shed light on the symbolic use of the words in the closing.

The Healing Letter

July 8, 2015

Dear Linai,

I am writing this letter to share my feelings with you.

  1. Anger: I am angry that love is so elusive. I am frustrated by life’s unexpected hurdles, trials, and tribulations. I am annoyed by my lack of faith: in God, in others, in myself. I don’t like it when things don’t go as I would like. I want to trust that my heart’s desires are unfolding in this very moment.
  1. Sadness: I am sad that my relationship with my beloved has not been rekindled. I am disappointed that I didn’t experience a childhood where open communication was the norm, not the exception. I wanted to open up and effectively communicate with my beloved (and other men), but I didn’t have the tools or know-how to do so. I feel hurt when I think about my relationship (or lack thereof) with my father. I want to stop trying to “fix” a broken childhood that cannot, through proxy, be repaired.
  1. Fear: I am afraid that I will spend the rest of my life alone—never knowing/experiencing a lasting romantic love and never experiencing motherhood. I am worried that I won’t get what I want out of life so I “try to make things happen”. I am scared that my beloved won’t come back; won’t want to try and make our relationship successful. I do not want to start all over again. I need my beloved to “see the light”—rekindle the flame and work with me to repair what we lost.
  1. Regret: I regret becoming sexually active at such a young age. I feel embarrassed for not investing in a good therapist in my early twenties. I am sorry for all the missed opportunities to show my love to others. I feel ashamed for focusing so much on my emotional needs, that I neglected those of my beloved. I didn’t want to hurt/disappoint my beloved.
  1. Love: I love that you’re a fighter; you never give up on love, those you love. I know that you write from the heart. I adore your natural curiosity. I appreciate that you are a romantic through and through. I respect the transparency in your writing. I understand why you’re hurting and what you’re trying to heal from. I forgive you for being human and not having the tools you needed to be a more loving, successful, and compassionate being. I thank you for realizing that you need help.

Love,

your self

P.S. I need you to know with ALL certainty that you are perfect, complete, and whole; you lack nothing. You are perfectly imperfect.

 

The Loving Response Letter

Dear Linai,

Thank you so very much for sharing this with me. I understand that you are working through some emotional turmoil right now. I am sorry that life hasn’t always been pleasant for you. You deserve to relish in each and EVERY one of your heart’s desires. I want you to know that you are completely loved and completely lovable. I love the person you are and the person you are becoming.

Truly,

the Self


The prospective client knocks on the office door. Slight cracked open, a sliver of dim light escapes. Upon entering she is greeted by a smiling forty-something woman. She drops her tote bag and purse to the floor after the smiling forty-something woman reaches out to hug her. Two strangers embrace in a hug. Moved by the therapist’s compassion, tears begin to well in the eyes of the prospective client. The therapist gestures for the client to have a seat and then grabs her a tissue from the box on her desk. Again, she smiles warmly—full of care and concern.

 

Therapist: “This is a safe place.”

Client: Still in tears. She begins to regulate her breathing. “Thank you so much.”

With a smile and a forty-five degree head tilt, the therapist looks into the eyes of the prospective client with warmth and compassion. Their journey had just begun, but the healing was already underway.

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The Morning Process: Mourning in the Morning

morning (mawr-ning) noun 1. the first part or period of the day, extending from dawn, or from midnight, to noon; 2. the beginning of day; dawn.

mourning (mawr-ning, mohr-) noun 1. the act of a person who mourns; sorrowing or lamentation; 2. the conventional manifestation of sorrow for a person’s death, especially by the wearing of black clothes or a black armband, the hanging of flags at half-mast, etc.

In a 2013 article titled, “The Sacred Experience of Grief and Mourning”, Amy Brown, a R.N. in Gynecology-Oncology shares her experience of losing patients and sheds light on the grieving process. She expands Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s linear five-stage model of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) and explores the Four Tasks of Grief and Mourning introduced by Dr. J. William Worden. The task model differs as it is non-linear and the tasks may be worked through simultaneously. The new model includes the following tasks:

  1. To Accept the Reality of the Loss
    1. This first task involves facing the reality that our loved one is gone and reunion with them (in this lifetime) is impossible.

When I awoke this morning, I had finally accepted the reality that reconciliation with my once and former beloved was highly unlikely.

  1. To Process the Pain of Grief
    1. There is both physical and emotional pain involved with grief. This experience is different for everyone and is deeply rooted in attachment theory.
    2. Attachment Theory, developed by John Bowlby, a British psychoanalyst, attempts to understand the intense distress experienced by infants who have been separated by their parents.

The past two weeks have been devoted to my processing (emotionally and physically) the fact that my beloved had ended the commitment. I have processed with hypnotherapy, with singing, with writing, and with talking (candidly with friends and family).

  1. To Adjust to a World Without the Deceased
    1. The three areas of adjustment after a loved one dies are external, internal, and spiritual. External adjustments involve everyday function; specifically, how the griever will adjust to day-to-day life without the deceased…Internal adjustments involve the sense of self…there will be challenges to one’s self-esteem, self-definition, and sense of self-efficacy…The third area of adjustment is that of spirituality in terms of one’s beliefs, values, and assumptions about the world. The death of a loved one can challenge our fundamental belief systems. Many people search for meaning in the loss of their loved one and in the process, they may leave their church or seek out a church or spiritual discipline for the first time in their lives.

Over the course of the past two weeks I have done my best to not “insert myself” into my beloved’s life, but more and more often I have found myself sending him emails and text messages in an effort to remain connected. Since we have never seen each other daily, I haven’t been too overly bothered by not seeing him. I have however been adversely affected by not hearing his voice. I broke down and called him last Saturday as a result. In terms of the internal adjustments I have been reciting positive confessions each day in an effort to redevelop my self-esteem and self-worth. I have also re-submerged myself in The Word in order to see myself as God sees me—which also serves to realign my spirituality.

 

  1. To Find an Enduring Connection With the Deceased in the Midst of Embarking on a New Life
    1. This task involves emotionally relocating the deceased so that the griever remains connected with them but at the same times goes on with life…When people are able to incorporate the influences, values, memories, and inspirations of their deceased love one into their new patterns of living, the transformation can be very endearing and humbling.

Because my beloved is not physically deceased, I have had to emotionally “relocate” him into a place where I cannot easily access him—out of sight, out of mind.

Not all deaths are those that consume the soul of the physical body; some deaths are those of the relationship variety. Yesterday I wised up and cut off all communication with my once and former beloved. After finally accepting the truth of his actions (inaction actually), I determined that it was time to sever ties and truly move forward with my life. In The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz cautions his readers on the issue of lies as they relate to the second agreement, “Don’t Take Things Personally”:

Don’t expect people to tell you the truth because they also lie to themselves. You have to trust yourself and choose to believe or not to believe what someone says to you. When we really see other people as they are without taking it personally, we can never be hurt by what they say or do [don’t say or don’t do]. Even if others lie to you, it is okay. They are lying to you because they are afraid. They are afraid you will discover that they are not perfect…If others say one thing, but do another, you are lying to yourself if you don’t listen to their actions. If someone is not treating you with love and respect, it is a gift if they walk away from you. If that person doesn’t walk away, you will surely endure many years of suffering with him or her. Walking away may hurt for a while, but your heart will eventually heal. Then you can choose what you really want. You will find that you don’t need to trust others as much as you need to trust yourself to make right choices.

Last night I deleted every email, text message, picture, and I “unfriended” him on Facebook. When I awoke this morning, I began my morning (mourning) process. After two weeks of emotional torture, I had drawn the conclusion that this man had no intentions of reconciliation. While a recent email response gave me a glimmer of hope with his “Maybe. I just need time to heal and clear my head [,] so maybe one day I can forgive;” his inaction said something else completely. When I finally listened to his actions a day later, they didn’t match up.

(Me) Your comment about forgiveness weighed heavy on my heart.

This morning I wrote an article about Forgiveness on my blog.

Here is some of what I wrote…

(Beloved)

Maybe once you forgive all of the folks that hurt you in your past

[it] may free you for your future.

Not hold all that inside.

(Me) I don’t hold any ill-will towards anyone.

If I did, I wouldn’t be able to write as much as I have lately.

(Beloved) Ok.

(Me) But have you forgiven me?

(Beloved) Most certainly.

I had been listening…but what I heard wasn’t making any sense to me. Why would someone who has supposedly forgiven me “…need time to heal and clear [his] head so maybe one day [he] can forgive”? That question wracked my brain. Immediately my mind returned to the words of Don Miguel Ruiz, “…listen to their actions”. His action(s)/inaction was saying very clearly that he was toying with my emotions and had no real intentions of reconciliation. While he may have sent intermittent text messages and random emails in the past two weeks, he had not once called me in the two weeks since pulling the plug on our relationship. And when I did reach out to him, he was emotionally distant and his responses tended to be short, vague and nebulous.

My movement through Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s five-stage model:

Sunday, May 31st: Denial over the relationship’s end

Monday, June 1st: Anger and Bargaining with my Beloved

Everyday: Fighting depression

Saturday, June 13th: Acceptance of the relationship’s end

heart beat

Time of Death: 06/13/2015

Citation:

Brown, Amy. “The sacred experience of grief and mourning.” Journal of Gynecologic Oncology Nursing 23.1 (2013): 10+. Academic OneFile. Web. 13 June 2015.

Forgiveness

Today’s piece was birthed from a short string of correspondence that I had with my beloved. Though emotionally and physically estranged from one another, we have maintained communication. And as a result, I haven’t completely been able to move forward because my heart longs for this man who made the decision that we should split. That being said, I wanted clarity. I know from the past that unanswered questions have the potential to drive me crazy, so I wanted to ward off a return to entertaining old strongholds. Nevertheless, in asking questions, I have also learned that we may not receive the answer we hoped to hear. So here is the message I sent to him just yesterday. Mind you, I prayed that God would help me accept whatever response was returned, and to move forward in peace and love.

Screenshot 2015-06-11 11.13.06

Screenshot 2015-06-11 11.13.15

Screenshot 2015-06-11 11.13.21

While it wasn’t exactly the response I was hoping for, it wasn’t a “no”. At the present moment I am not sure that the “maybe” I received has brought me solace or more confusion. At any rate, what latched onto my spirit was my beloved’s statement, “I just need time to heal and clear my head so maybe one day I can forgive”. Forgive.

Forgiveness seems so very simple in theory, but the reality of the action can seem insurmountable for many. I heard somewhere that forgiveness isn’t for the other person (the one who “wronged” us), but forgiveness is something we do for ourselves. I agree with this logic because when we harbor feelings of unforgiveness, it is only stunting our growth and development. All too often those we feel have done us wrong may have no idea that what they said and/or did impacted us in such a profound way as to leave us crippled or damaged emotionally and/or psychologically. Words, which have the power to uplift or destroy, have lasting conscious and subconscious effects on our psyche.

As part of my healing process, I have immersed myself in the music of India Arie, a kindred spirit. Ironically enough, the lyrics to India Arie’s “The Heart of the Matter” rose with me this morning.

I got a call today, I didn’t wanna hear/but I knew that it would come/An old true friend of ours was talkin’ on the phone/She said you found someone/And I thought of all the bad luck,/And all the struggles we went through/How I lost me and you lost you/What are all these voices outside love’s open door/Make us throw off our contentment/And beg for something more?

I’ve been learning to live without you now/But I miss you sometimes/The more I know, the less I understand/All the things I thought I knew, I’m learning them again/I’ve been tryin’ to get down to the Heart of the Matter/But my will gets weak/And my thoughts seem to scatter/But I think it’s about forgiveness/Forgiveness/Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore…

These lines capture the Sound Track of My Life. On the heels of healing from this recent break up, I do find myself missing my beloved sometimes. My thoughts are oftentimes scattered. My will to remain positive does often get weak. And I know with all certainty that forgiveness is at the heart of this matter of brokenness.

After I listened to the song a couple more times I sent the link of a live performance to my beloved. I’m not sure he understood where I was coming from, but I’ve recently decided that I won’t take anything personally. And that includes the lack of response. Afterwards, I went in search of scripture on the topic of forgiveness. Below are those that resonated with my spirit.

Forgiveness Scriptures

Matthew 6: 14-15 (MSG)

“In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.”

Mark 11: 25 (MSG)

“If you have anything against someone, forgive—only then will your heavenly Father be inclined to also wipe your slate clean of sins.”

2 Corinthians 5:17 (MSG)

“We certainly don’t look at him [people] that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons!”

Isaiah 43: 25 (Amplified)

“I, even I, am He Who blots out and cancels your transgressions, for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”

Daniel 9: 9 (MSG)

“Compassion is our only hope…”

If we work with the logic that forgiveness is something we do for ourselves, then Matthew 6: 14-15 proves that unforgiveness leaves us at a deficit with God—making it impossible for Him to send us the healing that will propel us to our “next level” experience.

Likewise, Mark 11:25 is also proof that we cannot receive forgiveness of our wrongdoings if we haven’t in fact forgiven others.

In the case of 2 Corinthians 5: 17 God is calling us to relinquish our view of the “old man” who “wronged” us. He is calling us to see each other with new eyes. When I woke this morning the following prayer sprang from spirit, out of my mouth, and onto the pages of my notebook/journal:

Lord, help us to see ourselves as you see us. All too often when we look in the mirror the image we see is untrue. We see a fragmented, broken, incapable, unlovable person because of what has been said and/or done to us. But God, give us new eyes that allow us to see our [and other’s] truth—who we are through your eyes.

When we consider Isaiah 43: 25 we find the absolute TRUTH about forgiveness. God himself “blots out and cancels” the remembrance of our wrongdoing(s). And it isn’t for our sake because He says, “…for My own sake…” There you have it right there. Forgiving others is truly something we do for ourselves–for our healing, growth, and spiritual development.

And finally, in Daniel 9: 9 we find the simple solution to the “woes” of humanity, compassion. When we express compassion for our fellow man we are doing what God sent us here to do, love one another as He loves us. When we are able to extend compassion for another person we are essentially freeing ourselves from the bondages that would otherwise keep us from the greater life God has prepared for us. Compassion is a gift, like forgiveness, that we give to ourselves and to others.

beloved 3.0

Where Is The Path to Forgiveness?

Co-authors Stasi and John Eldredge noted in the text Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul that, “Until you forgive, you remain their prisoner.”  I have been harboring ill feelings (unforgiveness) towards another human being for the past seven months.  Why?  You ask.  Because he was one more man on the growing list of many who have discarded my heart, love, and affections.  Recovering from the rejection and loss hasn’t been easy.  It’s never easy to bounce back from disappointment.  But it is true that time heals all wounds.  What I have learned is that some wounds take longer to heal.  To this day I am unable to watch one specific commercial because it reminds me too much of the last man who walked away from me.  Because I turn the channel or divert my attention each and every time that commercial comes on, simply proves that I haven’t completely forgiven this man.  I have backed myself into a corner and the only way I can get out is to forgive him.  But the truth is, I don’t know how to get onto the path of forgiveness.

The last man’s rejection left me feeling like the fourteen-year-old version of me.  Once again I was that girl searching for guidance from a father that wasn’t available—physically or emotionally.  Each time a man has chosen to leave, the pain of that initial rejection from my father resurfaces, and I once again question my self worth.  When my father divorced my mother he divorced himself from me too because our relationship hasn’t been the same ever since.  While we have made some headway over the years, the little girl that lives inside me wants her dad(dy) to be there to shield, rescue and comfort her from the harsh realities of life.

I remember vividly the moment when I knew my father wasn’t returning—not just from the trip he’d gone on—but to his family.  My family had recently returned from a three-week cross-country vacation in our motor home.  My older brother had just graduated from high school, and I was fourteen years old.  My father had left for Michigan (not sure if it was business or pleasure that time) and when he didn’t come back when he was expected, I knew that my nuclear family would be forever changed.  One night I awoke to odd sounds downstairs.  Slowly, I crept down the stairs to find my mother on the floor in the living room shredding—quite literally–my father’s hunting rifles.  Without making a sound I sat there on the steps for a few moments.  My mother must have been in a trance because she never noticed me, never heard me, never turned around, and never stopped hacking.  As she hacked away at the guns, I knew with all certainty that their marriage was in serious trouble.  When my father finally returned home a week or two later, he merely came to retrieve some personal items.  Just like that I had become a statistic.  I was one of those kids whose parents divorced.  I was one of those kids growing up without a father in the home.  Sure, he lived in the same city, just a few miles a way in fact, but from that moment forward our relationship was strained.  I was a girl without her father’s guidance.  I was a teenage girl who was clueless about navigating the interests of the male species.

I think I’ve spent the past twenty-something years running from the pain of being the statistic—the 50% of North American children whose parent’s divorce.  Along with that, I presume that I’ve subconsciously, and to some degree, consciously feared that every man who walks into my life will do the same thing my father did—unexpectedly leave.  It’s the classic case of the self-fulfilling prophecy.  Psychologists define this phenomenon as the process in which an individual’s expectations about another individual eventually lead the other individual to behave in the way that confirms their expectations.  This is to say that I expected every man who entered my life to also one day exit my life because they were men, just like my father, not capable and/or interested in maintaining their commitment.

I don’t want to be a closed flower or a caged bird.  I don’t want to be hard and calloused.  I don’t want to stop feeling.  But I do want to know love, security, protection, passion, and commitment.  I want the freedom to love without the fear of being rejected.  I want the freedom of being quirky.  I want the freedom to express myself without being misunderstood.  I simply desire to be free from other’s judgments.  I seek to live a life without regrets or condemnation.  I admit to making my fair share of mistakes.  I am far from perfect, and I’m okay with that.  I want to also be okay with life’s disappointments without them decimating me emotionally and psychologically.

I’ve come to realize that I’m that little girl who’s craving for her father’s attention.  I’m the same little girl who followed her father out into the garage or out into the yard.  I’m that same girl—only now a woman—seeking her father’s validation and love.  If my father had let me, I probably would have followed him everywhere.  It didn’t matter if he was tinkering with one of his motorcycles or playing with a turkey call, I wanted to be right there stealing away some of his love, time and attention.  Perhaps I’ve been doing the same thing all these years later.  Though every man has been different, the desire has remained the same—maintain the commitment and give me the attention and love I didn’t get from my father.

Today I’m asking God to heal my heart once and for all.  I’m asking God to give me all the love and attention that I lacked from my earthly father.  I undoubtedly love my earthly father, but have come to understand that we cannot go back in time to reclaim what has been lost.  I forgive him for his humanity and hope that he can do the same for me.  If there is one thing I have gleaned over the years, it is that we are all doing the best we can with the information we have obtained.

As I close, there are questions that I need God, The Father, to answer.  What is it that makes me special?  What do you see in me?  What makes me captivating?  When the answers to these questions are revealed, I am confident that the constant yearning in my heart will dissipate and a peace I’ve never known will fill me to overflowing.  And so I ask you dear reader, what question(s) do you need The Father to answer?