If you have trouble identifying how you feel, or you notice that you suppress or push down your emotions a lot, find it difficult to communicate how you really feel or even have trouble identifying if you are hungry or tired until you’ve really hit a wall, then you may have denial and dissociation as coping mechanisms.
Denial and dissociation can be powerful ways of coping with situations that we cannot leave as a child. If you were ever reprimanded or shamed for your emotions or were placed in difficult circumstances as a child, chances are you may have learned how to dissociate from your body and your feelings.
Whilst it can be a helpful survival coping strategy, losing touch with our real authentic feelings and also what’s happening within our body, can absolutely have disastrous impacts on our lives and often is a huge root cause of burnout and exhaustion.
Denial and dissociation can leave us numb and blocked, to our own internal guidance and intuition, and gut instinct, often missing noticing the red flags in situations.
For years and years, I wore the bright happy bubbly smiley face, whilst internally I often felt worthless and a huge sense of shame with very low self-esteem. On the outside, it looked like everything was totally ok, and internally I was just a shell of myself.
After a difficult and very unhealthy relationship ended, it took me years and years to actually be in touch with my own feelings and boundaries and to know actually what was and wasn’t ok for me.
Denial and dissociation, also meant that I would often unconsciously be passive-aggressive in my relationships with others as well.
Because I wasn’t in touch with my real feelings, and therefore unable to effectively communicate them with my loved ones, my communication would often be tainted with the anger I felt internally but was not really in touch with.
I would say yes to something and then end up experiencing livid anger 24-48 hours afterward, realizing that what I had said yes to, actually was not ok with me at all.
(Anger is always letting us know what our boundaries are.)
This was so confusing not only for myself but for my partner.
Denial and dissociation also impacted how authentic I could be. After learning at a young age, that my big emotions weren’t acceptable, I had learned to deny and hide how I really felt.
This meant a lack of honesty and transparency in relationships with others and also meant tonnes of people pleasing, only to resent the fact afterward and feel like I was continually being used. (Even though I was the one saying yes.)
Dissociation meant not recognizing fatigue or exhaustion, not ever really knowing my own limits until I had hit the wall completely. It meant not knowing myself or being self-aware and feeling extremely ungrounded and scattered a lot of the time.
I felt vague, and when I was very dissociated I would become clumsy. I would sometimes even hit the wall with my shoulder or walk into the doorframe, instead of through the door because I wasn’t really fully present inside my own body.
One of my beautiful friends sometimes rings me, and says “I don’t know why I’m crying.” I then reiterate why it’s perfectly normal that she would be experiencing such huge emotions after going through some difficult life situations, and it’s not until I share all that with her, she realizes how much she’s been through and why it makes sense that she’s crying.
This is from years and years of dissociation as a coping mechanism.
Overcoming denial and dissociation takes a lot of self-awareness and patience.
It’s becoming more present and in touch with our bodily sensations.
It’s starting to tune in a few times a day and ask yourself how you are really feeling and ask yourself what you need right now.
It’s starting to be aware of little red flags, such as shortness in tone, abruptness, or other behaviors or habits that show up, when we are feeling super emotional; such as craving or avoiding mechanisms, such as scrolling on the phone/internet, gambling, drinking, smoking, spending or other addictions.
It can be confronting and scary to start sharing our feelings with others when they arise. And I highly recommend doing this initially with a “safe person”.
A safe person is someone who demonstrates emotional intelligence and has the capacity and ability to hold space for you to share.
Sometimes it can be very difficult in intimate relationships when we are learning how to do this for the first time and especially if what we are sharing, also triggers our intimate partner.
This is where working with someone to become more comfortable expressing your real authentic feelings, in a non-judgmental and heart-centered space, can provide the comfort and safety for your nervous system to work through and develop a greater capacity for courageous conversations and be able to share your feelings and vulnerability in relationship with others.
If you’d love some support in this area, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
With Love and Blessings,
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