After years studying the matter, both on and off the couch, I have a pretty clear thesis on why I struggle emotionally.
Developmental injuries left me feeling periodically worthless and unlovable, which I have been ineffectually trying to remedy by frantically scrambling to somehow make myself more lovable and worthwhile.
I’ve since learned that worth and love need not be hard to earn. Making a contribution and not being an ass are pretty much all it takes. Or should take. But that wasn’t my experience and the repercussions are still echoing through my nervous system.
I have now come to the part of my healing journey that involves accepting and even inviting these painful feelings into my conscious experience. (Woohoo.)
As I do this, and spend more time tolerating, exploring, and feeling my feelings, I am struck to find that they feel exactly the same as they always have.
This makes a lot of sense since my real problem has never actually been my current shortcomings but how my childhood left me feeling about myself and the world. I’ve suffered this same singular problem my whole life so why wouldn’t the underlying sensations be the same?
With extensive expensive help, I’ve come to know, at least in my head, that my chronic bouts of worthlessness, defeat, and my nearly constant, low-grade terror has to do with my past and not my present. Now, through somatic therapy, this realization is becoming body-centered and felt.
It turns out that my feelings at this moment are a direct portal to my emotional past where I can experience exactly what it felt like to be me at the time my developmental injuries were developmentaling.
Being able to connect these all-too-familiar feelings to my backstory helps me place them where they belong, instead of continuing to mistake them for an accurate response to what’s unfolding in front of me.
And it helps me see the ways that I’ve been dealing with them up to now.
Unsurprisingly, the process isn’t easy. It was completely overwhelming to feel these feelings the first time through which is why I cut myself off to them as much as I could. But now, with full adult agency and alternative ways to find safety and support, I’m able to let them flow more readily. Maybe too readily.
It’s striking that the whole time, this visceral, hi-def, time-travel experience has been right under my nose, just waiting till I could handle it. Now that I can and I am better able to separate now from then, my historical reactivity is calming and leaving me more space to inhabit the current moment. And to identify future experiences that I might enjoy.
This is no small thing.
And it hasn’t come a minute too soon.