Looking at the past with new eyes

I am just feeling the need to write something down, it sometimes helps me to see things differently or to better glimpse how I unconsciously operate.

Way back when I was a teenager I felt an overwhelming separation from people and experiences, I never felt like I fitted in anywhere and I was painfully self-conscious, plus the idea of being laughed at, looking stupid or judged badly stopped me doing many things (even if not doing them was silly or self-sabotaging) it was almost as if it was ok for me to be horrible to myself but not for someone else to be critical of me. When I try to remember back to those times it is a bit of a blur because I would just become overwhelmed with emotions and then I needed to suppress those emotions because I felt self-conscious!

Obviously this led to a lot of repressed frustration, which would occasionally explode out of me in fits of anger and rage and bouts of “cutting my nose off to spite my face.” I remember as a child being sent to my room once for an hour and I stayed in there for 24 hours! I guess so I could wallow in the unfairness of it all, it was a silly strategy but (back then) I knew no other way.

This avoidance of bad emotions probably led to the development of my early behavioural traits about making sure things worked the way I wanted them to so I could avoid any bad emotions (often at the expense of what I truly wanted). Plus, because everybody seemed to be interested in different things to me I thought I had nothing of interest to say to others. So I would spend a lot of time silently watching people and rather than wondering how they saw the world and trying that on for size, I seemed to just feel more and more different, more and more disconnected. It was as if I were looking for ways that I was different to others rather than looking for ways that I was the same.

This led to my formulating an inner world of dreams and outcomes that could elicit emotions which I could ride in a good way or dwell on and spin into tornados of depression and melancholy self-pity.

I could still function in groups and did quite well at the activities I chose to engage in but I always felt that I was a fraud and would be rumbled at any moment. Ironically although I felt uncomfortable I was nearly always pushed to the front to lead situations or take control of problems – the evidence was there that I was likeable, trusted and competent – but I never saw it! Or at least did not feel it or accept it within me.

It is hard to put into words how I felt, perhaps the best way to describe it is… I felt like I was an extroverted mind trapped in an introverted body, I desperately wanted to connect with people, but sabotaged my own outcomes, for example; I would go to a party but I would not dance as it made me feel too uncomfortable and paradoxically my defiance to not dance probably made a bigger scene than me just getting on with it!

At the time I thought I was shy, but I don’t think that was true, I was just painfully afraid of feeling my own self rejecting emotions if another person rejected me, so I went out of my way to not be rejected by either pleasing others or staying away from others!

Whilst all this was going on I found myself to be very creative, not in a painting way, but in problem-solving and finding ways to educate and get messages across to people. Even this though was shrouded in doubt, and although I could come up with good work I didn’t like being the centre of attention to promote it. I could see how this looked weird to others but in my own little world, it was a nightmare – the need to produce good work so I was not rejected, then the need to present that work in a way where neither myself or the work was rejected! As you can imagine this led to a lot of procrastination!

I functioned in life, it was OK, I got good jobs and did OK but I just didn’t know who I was or what I wanted and struggled deeply with depression and felt very alone even amongst friends and family.

Then, in my mid-forties, I discovered that who I am, was in fact, quite describable and definable through psychological and psychometrical profiling and I can’t tell you what a game-changer that was to the way I subsequently lived my life and took back control over my emotions.

To put it into those terms I am an Enneagram type 4 with a 5 wing and a (BMTI) INFJ (I will leave you to research these personality profiles if you are interested).

It made it OK for me to introverted when I wanted to be, the, extroverted at other times, it made it OK for me to be creative or not creative, it made it OK for me to connect with people at great depth or to stay on the sidelines, but most importantly it showed me that it was OK to be myself and that the biggest person who rejected me, was, in fact, me, and that had to stop.

At this point I became fascinated with thoughts, emotions, values, personality types and the affects of who we think we are in this subjective reality we experience within ourselves.

Twelve years on and things are so very different know, I accept that I do have an underlying personality, however, that does not have to define me and I don’t have to follow it. I now know that emotions are just emotions, I can bring them up, I can be with them and I can let them go too, they don’t mean anything! I now know that if I am thinking “if only…” then I am dwelling in the past and that serves no purpose and if I am thinking “What if….?” Then I am worried about the future and that hasn’t happened yet!

Therefore the only important emotion is “How do I feel right now?” Plus, what is the story I am telling myself right now that produces that emotion? Basically, I have found out the hard way (but at least I finally know) “I am responsible for my feelings” nobody else is…

Because I can now sit with my emotions and just accept them I don’t need to be so controlling to avoid them and because I can accept them when they happen, I can detach and observe the thoughts or external influences that triggered them too.

So what does this mean?

Well, it means that I still don’t like dancing but I do it anyway (and mostly end up enjoying it) I accept the initial emotional discomfort and then just let it go.

It means that I can share more of my own fears and doubts with others and let them closer into my life without the fear of rejection or how I would beat myself up for not feeling good enough.

It means that I don’t have to be perfect or have all the answers.

It means that I can let go of blaming others for my emotions.

It means that I can feel all my emotions more deeply and to not get stuck in them.

It means that when it is appropriate to be angry I can be and to not repress it, it affords me the ability to feel grief and love and to spend more time choosing the emotion I want to feel in any moment.

It means that even if the emotion is ugly and unasked for – I can sit with it or let it go and the fear of the emotion does not have to stop me doing what I need to do, it is just an emotion.

It means that because I have a depressive nature I must be absolutely vigilant about stopping my negative thought patterns or second-guessing the future or fearing what others might say and do.

In my own personal relationship my partner is an (MBTI) ENFP and she shows me at great depth that it is possible to be carefree and passionate, it is possible to just feel good for no reason and that planning can be so restrictive and inhibiting – basically, that life is for living and on a daily basis I learn from her.

A final thought, if any of this rings true to you (and we are all different) – it is possible to accept emotional turmoil, it is possible to let go of having to control everything, it is possible to feel fear yet proceed anyway, it is possible to be calm in your mind even if your emotions are not – and it is in interesting journey to begin to accept yourself just as who you are…

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