To Process Emotions

When I stopped seriously blogging about two years ago, it was abrupt and painful. Painful because I missed the writing community of almost five years which had enjoyed stories and laughs and tears and memories and traumas alongside me. They were there when I got my first car. They were there when I quit each job I got. They were there when I became employed at a Peer Respite house. They were there in my largest transformations of self.

Also painful because I was cracking up. Breaking down. In the hospital, confused and somewhat oddly satisfied in my terror of life. I felt alive again in a twisted way. I felt targeted and special and immortal and genius and connected to something greater than myself.

I posted every once in a while, but lost my follower’s attention. I created a slough of new sites, but WordPress changed so much of their format that I got frustrated trying to adapt. So, I went dark.

I told myself I’d be back only when I felt secure in myself. I’d be back only when I knew I had something important to say. I have something important to say.

This journey through depression and delusion and anxiety has given me new insights on darkness. Its introduced me to the true duality of nature so described in daoism. It’s roughly coddled me into accepting not only myself but all of life.

At the beginning of the pain, before I even worked at the respite house, a voice kept telling me “dead man walking”. Considering I’m a woman, it kind of cracked me up and also simultaneously terrified me; someone, something, was coming to kill me I thought. But I don’t think he predicted my future. I think he commented on my present. I was dead. I enjoyed nothing. I faked smiles. I practiced expert avoidance. I ignored myself and my inner processes because they scared me and because of that fear those inner processes found a way to express themselves for the first time in both of our lives. That way was voices, beliefs, depressions, a mania, panic attacks, and the underlying feeling of being broken.

I could talk about childhood stuff here. I could talk about medication and homelessness and the trauma of school. But I spent years reiterating that on my previous blog. I’ve spent time reiterating it to friends and therapists. And now, I can sum it all up in one word: fear.

I feared everything, for many reasons. I feared life. I feared being sad. I feared being happy because sadness came after. I feared anxiety, I feared death, I feared fear.

I think many of us go into therapy or other treatments confused on what “processing emotions” means. I think some therapists and psychiatrists who have never really gone through that heavy process are also confused on what it means. So they blurt it because they’re supposed to, it’s part of the script.

Processing emotions for me meant more than just talking about them and feeling them. It meant not telling myself “tomorrow will be better” or “this is temporary” or “I’ll be happy some day”. It meant not telling myself “you need to get up”. It meant greeting darkness with a handshake and respecting the space it needed within me. The darkness is lonely, too.

It meant sharing my body and my mind with panic and voices and fear and setting boundaries with them; if we all have to live in here together, we need to communicate and I can’t hold the power. But neither can you.

It meant getting comfortable with uncertainty. There is no standard “life”. My experiences don’t make life worse than what life should be, they don’t make life better than what life should be because life doesn’t have a designated “should”. It doesn’t have a designated “have to”. It’s just there.

It meant veering from my psychology degree and studying philosophy, a bit of physics, and leafing through neuroscience articles. It meant studying research. It meant, for me, getting off medication, and really feeling ALL of myself.

I’m sure most people have heard of the double-slit experiment in physics. I remember hearing about it for the first time as I sat high as a kite in High School chemistry. You learn the conclusion is that photons (and other particles) behave as both a wave and a particle, given the observed interference pattern. What high school teachers don’t talk much about is that the reason we come to that conclusion and label it as a reasonable consensus is because, as of right now, we’ll never know if we’re wrong.

We can’t see a single photon pass through anything with the naked eye. And so when we don’t observe it with a camera, when we can’t see what’s happening, the photon behaves as a single photon. The camera we use to observe this particle has a tiny light. That tiny light is a confounding variable–it could be affecting the particle’s behavior. Or maybe it isn’t. But, because we can never see for ourselves with a naked eye, we’ll never know. That’s the paradox, and part of the foundation of the Uncertainty Principal.

We’ll never know. We’re limited in this life we have, and when we’re not okay with that, we run ourselves exhausted trying to fix what isn’t broken.

I’m not scared of darkness anymore. What is there to be scared of?

3 Comments on “To Process Emotions

  1. Everyone is afraid, its had been said that the basic fear is of death and all the others are variations on that. My experience is that a therapist will never really understand unless they have been through the same thing which is very rare. And the psychiatrist that prescribes the meds sidestepping the enormity of the side effects and withdrawal means well but will also never know what its like.
    My favorite shrink was Otto Rank who said: For the only therapy is life. The patient must learn to live, to live with his split, his conflict, his ambivalence, which no therapy can take away, for if it could, it would take with it the actual spring of life. In any case when I said it to my psychopharmacologist it impressed the hell out of him. šŸ™‚

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    • It is rare, and I find even if they do have lived experience, they feel wrong in sharing it because it’s not an essential part of the training: a shame, really. I love that quote, thank you for sharing! I’d never heard it before. Thanks for the comment, as well!

      Like

  2. Pingback: Is Psychology A Science? Part 4 – The Philosophical Psychotic

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