As women, most of us are conditioned to cut off from our self-expression.
We have been repeatedly told not to get angry or have needs and just focus on pleasing others. We have learned to be “nice” at the price of losing connection to what really matters to us the most. We may even be at the point of not really knowing what we like and basing our opinions on others around us.
Some women have developed silence for their survival. They have been victims of abuse and were punished or threatened if they tried to talk about it.
These feelings result in an extreme loss in a sense of self. This may manifest as lack of energy, motivation, or confidence. We may feel confused, angry, afraid or numb.
When the feelings become so intense, or we feel so cut off from who we are that we begin to harm ourselves (cutting, excessive use of substances, sex, or work) simply so we can start to feel something or dull the pain, what can we do to recover our strength and joy?
If the pain or numbness is very intense, the message from our bodies that we need to express and heal has been knocking for a very long time.
The first thing to do is admit that something has gone terribly wrong and needs to be changed.
Accepting that we actually are not “all okay” and need support in order to heal can be difficult but crucial.
As you drop into this understanding, ask yourself what you are really feeling. Is there physical pain, tension, or pressure? Is there heaviness around your heart or a churning in your stomach? Does it feel like grief, anger, rage, or fear? Take note of where you feel the emotional pain in your body. If all you get is a numb sensation, stay with the numbness—do you feel numb all over or just in parts?
Try to notice the rate of your breath and focus in on the exhalation. Feel your feet on the floor. Note what happens when you do that. If you are feeling overwhelmed or flooded with feeling, back off and count backwards from ten. Bring yourself present in the room and the here and now. You may take note what it good about being in the room you are in or look at several objects in the room around you and note the shape or color.
Sometimes going on a walk in a park or somewhere quiet can be helpful as well.
If you want to investigate the feeling further you can ask yourself:
What is happening right now in my life that is contributing to this feeling? Often not knowing what you need will lead to feelings of confusion or overwhelm. Are you giving 110% and not taking any time for yourself? Do you need help/support/advice or just some down time?
What’s my earliest memory of feeling this way? See if you can get a picture of yourself in your mind’s eye. What was going on around you? What were you most afraid of in that moment–(physical safety, punishment, abandonment/rejection, shame) and what did you need the most? This will give you an idea of where this pattern or habit is coming from, and can be brought to a therapist to heal if necessary.
Being able to name your need alone can bring a lot of relief.
For instance: Safety/Protection, Choice, Understanding, Kindness, Connection, To be Heard, To be Seen? What needed to be different in order for you to have that need met? Who or what needed to change, be added, or taken away?
Once you have identified the fear and the need, close your eyes for a moment.
How does it feel to have done this? Repeat your identified need 10 times silently to yourself and notice how your body responds. Allow yourself to cry if tears come. Breathe. Imagine yourself making contact with the earth in some way and let your body lay on the cool, moist ground. Surround yourself with a scene from nature and breathe in the serene landscape. Feel the earth providing your body support.
Practice saying “No!”
Setting boundaries is an important component of self-care and making sure our tanks are not running on empty. Examine where your energy goes regularly and if it is giving back by contributing to your health and well-being.
Call a friend or your therapist if you need to talk. Let your friend(s) know that you need support and ask them if they would be willing to just listen for sometime before offering feedback.
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Asst Ed.: Linda Jockers/Ed: Sara Crolick