Every two weeks, I visit my psychologist. We chat for an hour – often I cry a bit (always with the crying!!), we laugh a bit, she listens and I listen and at the end of the hour, I usually have something written on paper to help me through the coming week. Some of things we have worked on have been my weight, finding a job, maintaining my exercise program, the way I care for myself, my grief, my loneliness and motivation.
However, the thing we discuss the most, are my feelings and how I manage them. The message here, from the psych to me, has not changed in the last twelve months. It’s just that when it comes to my feelings …. I’m definitely a slow learner! You see one day during a session, I stated that I am a feelings person! Anyone that knows me would probably agree. I allow myself to be ruled by my feelings and most times my feelings will supersede all other considerations. I like being a feelings person. I would say it defines who I am. I’m a feelings person!
And this is where my doctor is attempting to teach this old dog a new trick.
My doctor thinks I am limiting myself, when I define myself as a feelings person. Sure, being a feelings person is a part of who I am. But it is just a small part of who I am! To say I am only a feelings person, according to my psych, completely disregards all the other parts that make up who I am …. my education, my experience, my skills, my confidence, my family, my appearance, my writing, my relationships, my dreams and so on. By allowing my feelings to control all that I do and all the decisions I make, my life becomes distorted and out of balance. When I only make decisions based on how I feel, means my ability to push through when things get hard can be almost non existent …. if I don’t feel like it, I don’t do it! When I always, allow myself to be controlled by my feelings, it gives me an out in many areas of my life.
For example – I love to write but I often say to myself that I can’t write it, if I’m not feeling it! This means that I am not trusting my ability to write anything but emotional, often gut-wrenchingly, heavy personal pieces, when I know for a fact that I am quite capable of writing beautiful descriptive pieces or laugh out loud humour. When I do write these alternative pieces, I spend a lot of time wondering if they are actually worth anything. Yet laughter is a huge part of who I am and is in fact just as worthy a part of me as my feelings are. As is my appreciation of the beauty and love of nature that I see as I wander through my life. Of course, my feelings will interact with my humour and descriptions but they will just not be the star attraction all the time.
And so it has to be with my life. But, for me, as in so many areas of my life, knowing and doing are two totally different things! Every counsellor I have ever had (and I’ve had a few) has said to me that I am one of the most self aware clients they have ever dealt with! I have an innate ability to actually work out what I am doing and, also, what I need to do!! But I have terrible trouble letting go of the old way and changing my behaviour to the new way – even though I know it is better for me. I cling to the safety of the familiar even when I know it’s not working for me. I seem happier to stay in an uncomfortable, static situation, than try something new that might move me forward.
Why? Well that is the question I have been asking myself for the last 35 years. Why would I allow myself to sit in uncomfortable, unhealthy, unpleasant or unwanted situations when I know there might be a better way? And this is where I trot out that wonderful excuse ….. But I’m a feelings person and I just can’t help it! So convenient! Because everybody loves a person with feelings! Don’t they? I don’t know how many times I have been told by others, that they wished they could share their feelings as easily as I do. I get positive feedback about it all the time and therein lies the problem for me. I have been allowing my emotions and feelings to rule me for so long that I am scared I will be less Mandy if I take control and put them back where they should be ….. just a part of who I am!
When you take medication for anxiety or depression, sometimes your extreme emotions smooth out a little. Sometimes they smooth out a lot. As a feelings person, I believe I have been fighting against my meds for fear that I will no longer be Me any more. If I don’t have my extreme highs and lows, I won’t be able to write relatable posts. If I don’t have my extreme highs and lows, people will think I no longer need them to help and care for me and I might lose my friends. And so on! I feel as if I am sabotaging my ability to get well and stay well because I’m a feelings person! And as my psych likes to ask me ….. How’s that working for you? Knowing damn well that it isn’t!!
With the I’m a feelings person having run on a loop in my head for the last 30+ years, how on earth do I change it? I really like being a feelings person but do I want to be defined as ONLY a feelings person? No, I don’t! I would like to recognise the thinking person that lies within me. I would like to recognise the educated person that lies within me. I would like to recognise the funny person that lies within me. I would like to recognise the curious person that lies within me. As well as, the feelings person that lies within me.
You will notice that in the previous paragraph, I am writing in the first person. That I want to recognise these things in myself. I do this because I believe that most of you already recognise these other parts of me and that it is just ME that fails to see them! You all know that I am more than a feelings person. You already know that to know Mandy is to know an opinionated, educated, spiritual, thinking, feelings person. Just as I know you are more than what you might perceive as your defining quality.
So this week, this “little black duck” (old Adrian saying) is attempting some circuit breaking ideas to change the direction of my thought patterns when I’m preparing to use I’m a feelings person to convince myself NOT to do something that I know will be good for me! Practise is the key and I’m sure I will trip up more times than I’ll get it right in the beginning. After all, I’ve had 30+ years doing things the old way.
Be gentle with me, I am a feelings person after all! ……… Oops, I did it again!!!