Thursday, December 3, 2009

Why Can't I Clear Out The Fog?

Why is it that we can clearly see problems and solutions for others and yet when our own difficulties come into play we often remain in a fog?

We have the ability to practice a form of mental self defense where we either deny a challenge exists all together, or we rationalize away its severity. We may intellectualize our issues, not allowing ourselves to feel our emotions fully. We may do this to minimize pain and loss, or in an attempt to keep ourselves from recognizing the truth of our situation.

We may have begun learning this defense mechanism when we were children. If we lived in a family of origin where there was a great deal of chaos we may have needed this defense in order to survive. As we grow into adults we may find that our old defense mechanisms have begun to hinder our ability to fully participate in our own lives. We may be incapable of recognizing when we are being treated poorly. We may be unable to experience joy. We may be marching through life in a state of suspended emotional animation, existing, but not living.

When we begin our walk on the path of recovery we may initially find our emotions overwhelming and feel incapable of handling the waves of feelings that surge through our minds and bodies. As time progresses we become more comfortable within ourselves and feel capable of handling our strong emotions. We may recall that as children we may have had no one to guide us through the maze of our own feelings. They may have been strong and frightening, so we locked them away. Now that we are adults we can unlock those stored childhood feelings, process them in our adult minds and allow them to become a part of us.

In healthy families adults model appropriate reactions to strong emotions by regulating their responses. In dysfunctional families there may be no responsible adult present to serve as role model. The only model we see may be an emotionally frightened or enraged caretaker who is incapable of managing their own feelings and is acting out. If we grow up in an environment such as this, it is no wonder why we, as adults, may feel overwhelmed by strong emotions.

Learning to properly respond to feelings and challenges is a skill that is developed over years of observing role models and experimenting with our own abilities. If we have not developed these skills in childhood we may be emotionally immature.

We can learn the skills necessary to function in a healthy manner in all our interactions. It may take practice, learning new skills and a great deal of failure before we finally become adept at handling our strong feelings appropriately, but we can master the necessary skills with time and practice.

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