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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What if you can’t feel?

Reposted from my DragonStar Rose mentoring site on MySpace:

'I'm just numb,' wailed my friend. 'Ten years, and now the relationship's ended! And I can't cry, no matter how hard I try, even though I know there are lots of tears there.' She thought maybe she was subconsciously afraid to let go in case she never stopped!

'Try looking for other things to cry about,' I suggested. 'If there are tears waiting to be shed, it doesn't matter what you attach them to, it only matters that they get released. That way, you can do it bit by bit and you won't get overwhelmed.'

I know that one. I haven't yet shed tears over the recent confirmation that my youngest and I are poles apart and – the way it looks now – may never be able to maintain any kind of relationship. I too am fairly numb, still, on that aspect of recent events, though I am feeling other things. Joyous relief at the fact that I so nearly lost my marriage to Andrew, and didn't. Heightened appreciation of my life and all the good things in it. And quite a deal of anger towards the said youngest, mixed with pity for him (which he would repudiate furiously) because I think he has focused on his mind at the expense of his heart. I do know there is grief there, but, like my friend quoted above, I simply can't find the tears.

Except ... I have been finding in my own life the confirmation of my advice to my friend. Not that I went looking for occasions to weep, but life is life and they do come.

My husband unwittingly joined a gambling site online, thinking it was a straight auction, and was inveigled out of $25 more than he meant to spend, but had so much trouble working the system that he never got to use the bids he had bought anyway. It's OK, I sorted it and we'll get a refund, but I cried and screamed out of all proportion to what had happened. I do have a horror of gambling, due to a brief early marriage to a compulsive gambler, and a long second marriage to a man who gambled in business instead and eventually sent us bankrupt after a number of near-thing dramas. Even so, that was long ago now, I have done a lot of working through it since, and this was a mere $25 which we are going to get back.

Then last night I suffered sudden excruciating ear pain and temporary deafness - which at the time I didn't know was temporary - and again cried out of all proportion, even for such pain and fear. (Turned out to be a middle ear infection, and I'm already heaps better after getting treatment.)

I said to Andrew, 'I think my grief about S is leaking through. I haven't been able to express it directly yet.'

It's not that these situations weren't distressing. That's the point, I think. There has to be a genuine cause for tears, so that they will happen – then, if they go on a lot longer and seem even more anguished than the presenting situation warrants, they're probably doing double duty. And a good thing too! We don't want our emotions festering away inside us, where if they stay long enough they can make us physically ill.

Case in point – my middle ear infection is associated with a cold I've been fighting off for a couple of weeks. Metaphysically, a cold can be giving yourself permission to take time out, but I haven't done that for many years as these days I give myself conscious permission. So that leaves the other option – suppressed grief. Well, well, well! (And the right ear? What is it, I wonder, that I am trying not to hear consciously? Could be various things, and I do have ways to find out in the very near future.)

It is the same with anger. If you think you've got some of that festering away and that it'd be better out than in, but you have trouble releasing it, look for other causes of anger. You won't have to look far; there are plenty in the big wide world, if not in your immediate space. The Government is usually doing SOMETHING that annoys you at least some of the time. And we still have wars, poverty, disasters and incompetence on a grand scale. You'll find something!

Sometimes it helps to just start going through the motions of releasing. The release may well build! I am thinking of a time when a long friendship ended nastily. I regarded it as a betrayal of trust and even outright cruelty by the other person. (Still do, actually.) I was also in some shock about that. As soon as I extricated myself from the situation and found some breathing space, I took the advice I dish out to others – I bashed a pillow. This hurts neither oneself nor the other person.

It amazed me what happened. At first it felt a bit contrived, but not for long. The momentum built rapidly. I not only punched the pillow, I ended up kicking it and bashing it repeatedly against the wall. I not only sobbed but snarled and yelled. We're talking absolute, ferocious rage. It went on for ages.

Well – better all THAT out than in! Better than contracting any of the major illnesses in which suppressed rage is a factor.

I still have the same opinions about that person, but have long felt calm indifference to the whole matter.


  1. I find a peculiar pleasure in biting things when I'm angry or frustrated. When I was a teenager, I broke a lot of pens that way. Now I just seem to crave really chewy food. I suppose it is the grounding you feel when you put physical pressure on yourself. I'm told a lot of children on the autistic spectrum do things like this in order to make them feel more solid, more comfortable with their space in the world.

    Doing something physical, I think, helps us feel in control and irons out our thoughts - minimises them even - so that we can deal with whatever it is we're feeling without the clutter of our thoughts.

    As you say, it's also good to release the tears whatever way they will come, and something physical will do this. Biting pens certainly hurts!

  2. Ha, I also have that biting impulse when angry, though I haven't carried it out since I was small. But I do gnash my teeth!