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 “Real” in Relationships

solar system

I used to walk around in rose-colored glasses when it came to this idea of “love” and lasting relationships. In my youth, and to some degree in my adulthood, I tended to believe there was this mystical “perfect person” with whom we were destined to spend our lives. However, years of living, loving, and losing have taught me that there isn’t a “ONE” out there waiting to save us from ourselves (basically we have to save our own self). In all honesty, I think that there are an infinite number of possibilities that we can “make love” with (please do not misconstrue my use of the phrase ‘make love’; it is not sexual in nature, but spiritual). Like I said, I do think there are a number of individuals who cross our paths over the course of our lifetime(s), and it is up to us (both partners) to decide if we will walk out this experience together. Yesterday I read some TRUTH that not only opened my eyes, but allowed me to take off those rose-colored glasses and crush them under my feet. The following words revolutionized my thinking:

Love often fails because people instinctively give what they want….Many people give up when relationships become too difficult. Relationships become easier when we understand our partner’s primary needs. Without giving more but by giving what is required we do not burn out….To fulfill your partner, you need to learn how to give the love he or she primarily needs (John Gray, from Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus).

When I tell you that my mind has been blown and that this is earth-shattering information, I kid you not. This statement tells me that this idea of “love” that we so often toss around has the power to be sustained in a relationship/partnership so long as both individuals know how to fulfill their partner’s needs, not just their own.

I will be the first to admit that I had a selfish view of “love”. I was overly protective of my fragile heart because I was afraid of being vulnerable to another person’s needs and desires. In nearly each of my past relationships I kept up a shield to protect myself because I was so concerned about my needs that I failed to take the necessary actions to meet the needs of each man I claimed to “love”. That is a sad indictment on my part, and for that I apologize to every man I have ever loved.

The truth is, I was afraid to do what real love requires: surrender. Deepak Chopra wrote in The Path To Love, that:

Spiritually, no action is more important than surrender. Surrender is the tenderest impulse of the heart, acting out of love to give whatever the beloved wants. Surrender is being alert to exactly what is happening now, not imposing expectations from the past. Surrender is faith that the power of love can accomplish anything, even when you cannot foresee the outcome of a situation.

Quite honestly the idea of surrender scared the crap out of me. I connoted surrender with weakness and as an independent woman the last thing I wanted was to appear weak. But that’s what happens when our ego gets in the way. And you know what Deepak Chopra has to say about the ego? He says:

At the level of ego, two people cannot want exactly the same thing all the time. Yet at the level of spirit, they cannot help but want the same thing all the time. Your ego wants material things, predictable conclusions, continuity, security, and the prerogative to be right when others are wrong….spirit and ego are total opposites. Bringing them together is achieved through surrender, and the only force that can accomplish it is love. Surrender, then, is the next phase on love’s journey, which you enter as soon as you choose to be in relationship.

I don’t think that Deepak Chopra is saying that we, and our beloved, should literally want the same things, but that we should desire the same things from love: support, compassion, understanding, appreciation, respect, devotion, etc. I believe that he is urging lovers to recognize that our ego inhibits our ability to surrender. For it is through surrender that we are able to achieve our loving desires (those noted above).

In my previous post, “Le’Go My Ego”, I spoke of the importance of relinquishing ego because it stands in direct contrast to love. I stand firm on this belief. Actually, while watching a previously-aired episode of Oprah Winfrey’s “Super Soul Sunday” I received confirmation about this issue of the ego. In the midst of a conversation with Reverend Ed Bacon, a priest in the Diocese of the Episcopal Church, he noted that Satan, the deceiver, is synonymous with ego. Reverend Bacon went on to say that Satan/ego (whose instrument is fear) isn’t purely outside us. The enemy that he spoke of is not outside, but within and that makes sense when Joyce Meyer has informed us that the battlefield is in the mind. So much of our drama is internal, and if we are ever able to control our thinking, I’m certain that we would experience a freedom we have never known, perhaps surrender. Our ego is that enemy that we battle daily. If we want our freedom, we have to give up ego. Just last week my therapist asked me a fundamental question; she looked me right in the eye and said: “Do you want to be right? Or do you want to be effective?” The question she posed was asked in the midst of our discussion about my emotional turmoil over my most recent break up. I contemplated her words and instantly realized how I had been allowing my ego to sabotage my relationships. Instantly I wanted another chance to prove that I could love: be vulnerable and surrender.

As I sit here now, I continue to contemplate Bacon’s words and am immediately drawn back to Chopra’s idea of surrender as it relates to spirituality. If each of us is on a spiritual journey, then it only makes sense that love would require us to learn lessons about surrender. While I cannot do anything to change my previous actions/responses to love, I am eager to integrate what I am learning. So here’s what I have gleaned from Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.

The Differences in Men’s & Women’s Values

Men Women
Power Love
Competency Communication
Efficiency Beauty
Achievement Relationship
Proving themselves Support/Help
Developing power/skill Nurturing

Men define themselves through achieving results. They gain fulfillment through success and accomplishment.

On the other hand, women define themselves by their feelings and/or the quality of their relationships. They are fulfilled when they share/relate.

The Differences in Men & Women’s Primary Emotional Needs

Men Women
Trust Caring
Acceptance Understanding
Appreciation Respect
Admiration Devotion
Approval Validation
Encouragement Reassurance

In reading John Gray’s text, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, I have been able to pinpoint experiences where past relationships had “gone wrong”. Knowing what I know now, I feel I have gained insight on what is required to successfully maneuver through a healthy love relationship. If the premise from my introductory paragraph is correct, “…there are an infinite number of possibilities that we can “make love” with…”, then I am walking into my future with 20/20 vision.

Now knowing these fundamental truths, I am hopeful about my future responses to love.   And the following quote will lead me to loving freely and fully.

“Love is magical, and it can last, if we remember our differences”—John Gray (author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus)