The Many Ways People Avoid Emotions
Consider the following:
A client whom I’ve been seeing for 1 year sits across me speaking eloquently and rather placidly about what he had been doing In the time between the last and current sessions. It was a report on the little triumphs because he had been crippled by strong anxiety and depression 1 year ago. Truthfully, the monotonous recitation of things he has done was hypnotising and I felt a mixture of irritation - after all, I’ve heard the same spiel many times now; boredom and a curious sense of not wanting to be there in session with him. There was simply no emotions whatsoever in the room between us.
A 2nd client comes in and indicates that she was suffering from depression. As I listened to her story, I felt disturbed that her tone was flat and blasé even though life had been somewhat cruel to her and she had experienced a lot of bad stuff in her life. The image that popped up in my mind was a flatline - the types you see In the hospital on the monitors when a patient has passed away. Her narration was dead.
Another client looks away and smiles awkwardly when we discussed his emotions. He looked relieved when the session ended. He books the next appointment and never showed up again.
Yet another client comes in all bouncey and positive giving me a sense that he is very plastic and glossy - fake happiness. Eric has a term for this - bouncey leprechaun! The message (on then surface) is that ‘all is well’, except that (underneath it all) it’s not.
These are all ways that we might use to wall off and avoid uncomfortable feelings. Some are subtler and more sophisticated and some are more abrupt, but all serve to get us far away from the emotional turmoil that we feel inside. They also serve to keep people away from our vault of emotions.
Why though do we do it? Well unpleasant emotions are simply uncomfortable and we know instinctively that life is unpleasant and we would prefer not to make it anymore so - thank you very much! For some of us, someone or perhaps the whole society and community we lived in have taught us that emotions are bad, and that we should keep it under wraps. “Men don’t show emotions”, “Don’t burden us with your stuff!”, “I can’t deal with your emotions!” Etc. etc. are some of messages that might jolly well be the bricks that form the wall that blocks us from our emotions.
Blocking off anything for a long time is generally a bad idea. Think constipation - if our ducts are blocked, poison accumulates in our bodies and we suffer for it. Walking off our emotions is emotional constipation and the strong unprocessed emotions will eventually corrupt us and lead to more pain. So, I’d say - “lower the walls when the right conditions are present.”
Next time we will talk about how to foster the right conditions to lower the wall.