I feel fine and I feel good
I’m feeling like I never should
Whenever I get this way, I just don’t know what to say
Why can’t we be ourselves like we were yesterday
I’m not sure what this could mean
I don’t think you’re what you seem
I do admit to myself
That if I hurt someone else
Then I’ll never see just what we’re meant to be
Every time I see you falling
I get down on my knees and pray
I’m waiting for that final moment
You’ll say the words that I can’t say
New Order, Bizarre Love Triangle
I wrote a whole lot in January and February about the emotional demons I was facing as a result of my honey exploring a relationship with another woman. The exploration is still on going, as is my own, but the demons have mostly been exorcised and we have found ourselves in a more stable and comfortable place as a result. I also feel like I now have some distance and can look back at the process a little more critically.
I find, looking back, that I see a specific moment as a turning point for myself. Over the month of January (far and away the most emotionally difficult period in my life to date), I came face to face with every old hurt my honey and I had foisted upon one another over the years, I faced my own insecurities and uncertainties, I came to a much better understanding of my own depressive tendencies and I learned a whole lot about my need for interaction with other people. All of these are real issues and it was quite important for me to see, understand and process the emotions I faced. But at the same time, I had a really dramatic epiphany that changed the way I approached each issue.
Back in December, I wrote about Choice. Making choices, not choosing, and recognizing that either way, it is STILL a choice for which we need to accept responsibility. I realized that this applies not only to our actions and behaviors but also to our emotional state. When I found myself in crisis back in January, several times I choose – knowingly or not – to wallow in that emotional place and simply experience the raw intensity of all of my hopes and fears. This is not necessarily a bad thing to do – but it is not something that I (or likely most people) can endure for long at a stretch.
Often, I made this choice because I did not want to take a chance on repressing my feelings. It has always been quite clear to me that repression is almost universally damaging over the long term. On some levels, in fact, many of the ‘demons’ I faced during that time were residues of earlier repressed emotions. Issues, thoughts, feelings that I never addressed in their original context, so instead I associated those feelings with current, somehow similar events. I think that this is virtually inevitable when we repress ourselves, with the possible exception of circumstances that are never reinvoked.
With that in mind, I believe that it is entirely possible that I often did intentionally choose to embrace the sadness, the anxiety, the insecurities – because I did not want to allow them to get buried and come back yet stronger some time in the future. It sounds right, however difficult, and some of this is the basis of therapy based psychiatry.
But I found later that this was wrong. Or at least it wasn’t a solution. Bear with me.
When I get into a bad place, it starts with honest emotion and concerns – but if I allow myself to wallow in it, I invariably end up analyzing, projecting and imagining possibilities that are quite beyond what I truly believe. At times, I almost convinced myself that my honey was going to leave me for Laura, simply because it was a thought I could conceive, never mind that we had talked about this quite often and I, personally, do not believe that loving one person has any detrimental effect on feelings one might hold for another. I’m sure that there were quite a number of even more bizarre and unreal places my mind took me during those bad times, but I cannot even recall what those places might have been because even then I knew they were invalid.
So one day it hit me: that going to that ‘bad place’ I kept finding myself was, in fact, a choice that I was making. It was not necessary for me to go there, nor was it terribly healthy or productive. When I finally realized that, I found that I could choose to look at the feelings I was having, identify the source of those feelings and then consider whether the source was relevant to real concerns or if it was past repression, past or current insecurity, or, as in many cases, a side effect of loneliness.
Once I was able to step back this way, I was able to address past issues and put them into their proper perspective, I was able to talk with my honey about my insecurities (and he was able to help me get past them, or at least work at doing so) and I was able to identify solutions to address the ral concerns that also inevitable came up. And all of this without going to that bad place.
I think it is a very fine line, sometimes, between repressing difficult emotions and experiences and processing them in a positive way. Perhaps, at times, it may even be difficult to be certain which we are doing. But I do believe, having faced myself as honestly as I could these past few months, that when we find a way to process rather than repress or wallow, that the end result is incredibly empowering. The opportunity to devise positive solutions, the self understanding to identify future events that will be more or less likely to create another crisis, and the knowledge that we are strong enough to face those crises and emerge a better person than we were before.
(Originally Posted March 19, 2007)