Before I started counseling I learned that to change your actions you need to change your thoughts. I intellectually got it but something seemed missing. I didn’t realize the thing missing was my own connection to my emotions. Counseling shed light into the dark parts of my mind and helped me start to connect my reactions to actual events in my childhood. I was fortunate that my counselor understood that part of the healing process required me to learn new skills. The skills I should have learned as a teenager but I was scrabbling to survive. To survive I shut off my feelings, this is not living. I lived a half life, a cursed life. (reference to J. K. Rowling she understood this) I wanted to change and didn’t know how to get from where I was to where I wanted to be. I could visualize it but the chasm between me and what I believed I could be gaped in front of me.
This article my friend shared on FB outlines some of the main skills I needed to develop. I am struggling with some of these but I believe the information is useful. I like what the author said to chose one you figure you can do then build from there. https://blogs.psychcentral.com/childhood-neglect/2020/05/6-healing-habits-of-adults-who-recover-from-childhood-emotional-neglect/
I did scroll to the bottom to the link there and first answered the questions like I was at the beginning of counseling. 21 out of 21 yes indicating I am deeply affected by childhood emotional neglect. Taking it with my thinking today….some improvement but I still have a long way to go. I will share my perspective on each of these habits.
Noticing your own feelings
Wow, feelings were taboo. My emotions were ridiculed, belittled and denied. You have no idea (unless it happened to you) how weird it is to express an emotion then be told you don’t feel that. Eventually, I hid my emotions from everyone including myself. I got to where I wouldn’t know my own emotion if it bit me on my leg. I was totally disconnected from all of my emotions. Useful for survival, terrible way to live. I needed to feel, identify, and acknowledge what I felt and have some clue why the feeling was there. Feelings do not come from thin air. There is a cause and effect to the little pests, emotions. Fortunately for me, my counselor was adept at allowing me to feel my feelings and create an environment was safe for me to talk about what I was feeling. Did you know that anger and excitement, have almost identical physical reactions? I didn’t when I started. This was a big step for me.
Listening to yourself first — and last
I didn’t listen to myself at all. Every major decision was countermanded and reinforced strongly that I would listen to my parents or else. Yes, I believe a certain amount of obedience to parents was essential but this was way beyond anything close to reasonable. I didn’t trust my own feelings. Actually it was computer repair that helped me to establish a trust bond with myself. I have a gift for fixing computers. I was usually right. I could diagnosis, isolate and resolve computer issues. I did this for a job for 15 years. I was really good at it. I hate it. Computers are so annoying but they helped me learn to trust my own instincts, study what I didn’t know and then added it to my understanding of maintaining computers. My counselor showed me that if I could be right about computers, maybe I could be right about other things in my life. I started somewhere and I continue my progress.
Actively seeking enjoyment
This was considered selfish in my childhood. To do something simply because it makes you happy was another taboo. I actually started on this before counseling. I came across a small book called “Life’s Uncertain, Eat Dessert First.” https://www.amazon.com/Life-Uncertain-eat-Dessert-First/dp/0385298994 Oh my goodness. The whole concept of doing something just for fun because it brings me happiness was mind bending. I finally changed my major from computer engineering to photography. I love photography. I endure computers. I picked photography.
Overriding your impulses
This one became problematic after I started feeling my feelings. I didn’t have any issues with this before counseling because I didn’t listen to what I felt any way. However, after I started feeling my own emotions, these wild and sometimes naughty impulses became a bit problematic. Oh my goodness, I am so glad my counselor helped me guide me through this maze. I am still struggling with it sometimes but I no longer feel overwhelmed. What helped most was establishing my own set of basic values that I decided were my values and I would not compromise on these basics. I then built my own infrastructure of what I valued and felt important in my life. I realized that I wanted in my life the things that were important to me which makes over coming some impulses easier because they don’t align with my values.
My therapist told me I needed to fire my mean boss…..My first thought I would love to he’s kind of unpleasant. Then my counselor talked about my mean boss that expected me to be up before anyone else, get to work 15 minutes early and work past my time to finish a task and work twice as hard as anyone else. Took me a while to pick up on the fact he was describing my own brutal expectations of myself. He pointed out I was my own mean boss. I call myself some of the mean names I was raised with. I called myself names I would never let anyone else call me. I talked mean to me. Bummer. This is a very hard habit to change. The key for me was looking at myself as I would my children. I am working at being encouraging, uplifting and reminding myself I survived 100% of my bad days, I’ll survive this one too. I work hard at not talking mean to me.
Saying no (an expression of boundaries)
Could have knocked me over with a feather the first time my counselor explained to me that No was a complete sentence. Head crash. (Computer term that is a terrible thing in a computer, destroys the hard drive.) Life changing information. No is how boundaries are formed and maintained. No is a wonderful word. Complete. Probably one of the hardest things I ever desperately needed to learn to say. My therapist eased me into the concept by saying, “If you say yes to one thing, by definition you must say no to something else.” I think we went over this concept for months. He had me practice saying it over and over. I would still fluff it by following every no with a massive narration why I said no. I made progress. I can say no, I can also tell a person to go jump in a lake when they ask me to do something I don’t want to do. To become true to myself, I needed to say No to those things that were contrary to the values I learned I have. No is a beautiful thing.
I enjoy crocheting