Emotional Discernment

Taking Power Away from the Fear

"We are all carrying around repressed pain, terror, shame, and rage energy from our childhoods, whether it was twenty years ago or fifty years ago. We have this grief energy within us even if we came from a relatively healthy family, because this society is emotionally dishonest and dysfunctional.

When someone "pushes your buttons," he/she is activating that stored, pressurized grief energy. She/he is gouging the old wounds, and all of the newer wounds that are piled on top of those original wounds by our repeating behavior patterns.

We are terrified of this pressurized pain, terror, shame, and rage energy - of "having our buttons pushed" - because we have experienced it in the past as instances where we have explosively overreacted in ways that caused us to later feel ashamed and crazy, or as implosive reactions that have thrown us into that deep dark pit of emotional despair within.

We are walking around with this set of buttons available to be pushed by any person, place, thing, or combination thereof that recreates the dynamics of the situation wherein we were originally wounded. (For example: a certain smell, the texture of a fabric, a tone of voice, a gesture, etc., can be emotional triggers that throw us back to an age of our inner child.)

We carry this set of buttons, this baggage, with us until we release that stored, pressurized grief energy in a healthy grieving process. This society's answer to behavior caused by unresolved grief is to shame you, label you, lock you up, and/or give you drugs. We do not have to play that game anymore. We have new tools now, and we have rediscovered the healing power of the natural grieving process."

Quote from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls

As long as we are unconsciously reacting to our emotional wounds from childhood, we are doomed to keep repeating our dysfunctional behavior patterns. It is vital to start becoming more conscious of our childhood emotional wounds so we can stop allowing them to dictate our behavior and define our experience of life.

We all have reactive emotional "buttons" - an internal emotional mine field - that cause us to have intense emotional reactions when a button is pushed, when one of the unhealed wounds in our psyche gets activated. Other people, life events, an old song, etc., can trigger these emotional wounds.

Having these strong emotional reactions is not a sign that we are crazy, it is just a symptom of codependency. It is important to stop judging and shaming ourselves - or blaming others - for these reactions. It is vital to start learning how to disarm those buttons - how to heal our emotional wounds.

Consciousness is the key. We need to become more conscious of our reactions so that we can stop reacting to our reactions.

In recovery it is important to start realizing that any time that we have an intense emotional reaction with a lot of energy behind it, a lot of power - whether it is terror and panic, despair and helplessness, rage, or whatever - that is a sign that an old wound has been triggered. It is an indication that unresolved grief is involved in our reaction.

One of the first clues to start paying attention to in recovery, clear evidence that inner child wounds are involved, is when our reaction to a situation, person, job interview, whatever, feels life threatening. That is, the situation is not actually, factually, life threatening but it feels like a life or death situation - it feels like our survival depends upon the outcome, the other persons reaction, etc.

In childhood our survival was dependent upon our parents. They were wounded - had their own internal emotional mine fields - so they wounded us. It felt like there was something wrong with our being that was threatening their love for us - and therefore our survival. We learned to focus externally to try to manipulate and control life and other people to try to ensure our survival.

This survival fear is the codependent fear that I spoke of in my article Obsession / Obsessive Thinking Part 1: "a distorted, magnified, virulent, mutated species of fear caused by the poisonous combination of a false belief that being human is shameful with a polarized (black and white, right and wrong) perspective of life."

This gut wrenching survival fear has been running our lives - whether we were charging through life in denial of it, or allowing it to totally dominate our reality. It is vital to learn how to start taking power away from this survival fear.

Emotional discernment starts when we can detach from the feeling enough to take an honest look at reality. It may feel terrifying, may feel life threatening - but is that the truth?

There is a tool that comes out of Transactional Analysis that can be very helpful in taking some power away from fear. It is called a fear slide. The way it works is that you write down what your fear is - say, I am afraid I will be alone on Valentine's Day, or I am afraid he won't be my friend any more, or I am afraid I won't get the job, etc. Then on the next line you write the answer to this question: "If that happens, then what?" Then I will feel hurt, or whatever. On the next line you write the answer to that same question, "then what?" And you keep doing this down the page. Eventually, you will come to: "I will die." or "I will cease to exist."

I am afraid _______

If that happens, then what?

If that happens, then what?

If that happens, then what?

If that happens, then what?

Then you go back to the original fear, and ask yourself, "Will I die if I am alone on Valentine's Day?" The answer, of course, is "No, I won't die."

You may feel like you want to die, but that feeling is a result of codependency. It is very normal to feel sad about being alone on Valentine's Day, but the reason we end up feeling like we want to die is not just because of the sadness. The reason we end up feeling like we want to die is that we are allowing our reality - and our relationship with our self - to be dictated by a combination of inner child wounds and false intellectual beliefs. We react emotionally out of a desperately lonely, love starved, inner child place within us - at the same time we judge ourselves for being alone, and for our feelings. The critical parent voice in our head beats us up unmercifully for being a "loser" and a "failure" in romantic relationships.

By starting to use some emotional discernment to recognize that the feeling of life and death urgency is not reality - it is just a feeling - we can start to take some power away from the fear. As we start taking power away from this mutant variety of fear, we can start to see ourselves and the situation with more clarity so that we can begin to disarm the emotional minefield within. We can start taking power away from those "buttons."

I will talk about the emotional discernment that is involved in disarming those buttons in my November article. Next month I will go back to looking at intellectual discernment to talk about a vital component in this recovery dynamic - shutting up the critical parent voice.

Go to Intellectual Discernment - shutting up the critical voice

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