Moving forward from bad past experiences, sucks. It plagues you and at times, it can define you. I personally hate being weak. In fact, I would actively fight any kind of deep emotion as frequently as I could get away with it. If I got angry, I’d leave the situation to deal with it alone, if I had to cry, I’d for sure do that privately so no one would hold it against me or shame me for it. To me, if I was weak I wasn’t in control of myself or my life. I was ashamed of that side of myself and prided myself on being strong for other people and being the one who could solve their problems. To be fair, I really did solve people’s problems very well….unless of course….it meant: discussing, hearing about, or helping with any kind of emotion. I wanted to be there for my friends who were sad, but, who was I to give advice? They really want a warm hug from me? Me who is very direct and doesn’t realize how strongly I come across? You, for sure, have come to the wrong person.
So how did I overcome it? Was it some magical advice I had heard from an iconic movie or a motivational quote? God no. I’m sad not tacky. I started listing how not dealing with my emotions impacted my life both personally and professionally. I didn’t realize that by not dealing with my emotions in one area, it would impact other areas of my life. At first, I didn’t really understand how deep it went. Never would I have thought my bad upbringing was impacting my physical health by giving me autoimmune diseases until I researched Adverse Childhood Experiences. I took their test, got an eight out of ten, and looked at the odds of my future. It was very humbling and very scary. I approached my emotional self the same way I did anything else, I trouble shot it. I wanted to fix it or at least know what was wrong and, by really putting myself on the table, I realized I was very resilient but equally untrusting. Through my research, I also discovered I had Complex PTSD which explained a lot of my problems with negative emotion. By that point, I didn’t care if I was weak, I was more concerned to know if I was broken. I won’t lie, the healing process has been pure hell, and I have a long road left to get where I need to be, but, it is worth it.
Another thing I did was a type of vision board, but instead of things I aspired to, I created it as things I didn’t want to be and people I didn’t want to end up like. For instance, I grew up poor and lived in several economically depressed areas, so I added some of those pictures to remind myself where I came from and also that I don’t want to remain poor. I added celebrities who displayed the type of behavior and classlessness I aspired never to be like, and added reminders of bad choices I had made in the past so that I don’t repeat them. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of aspirations and goals in my life, but if I’m serious about achieving them and not just seeming like I’ve achieved them in some kind of IG story, I had to take a hard look at my character, what I stood for in my life, and where my actions were causing pain. It’s a hard thing to face, but I hope you take some steps to really examen your life, the relationships you have with the people, and determine how well people know you or how well you know them. If, during your introspection you find you’re keeping them at arms length, have a problem with being vulnerable around any one of them or yourself, or struggle with high expectations, then I suggest finding some workbooks to start. One I highly recommend is, ‘The Complex PTSD Workbook,’ by Arielle Swartz. Even if you don’t have Complex PTSD, it’s worth trying. Another great one is, ‘Retrain Your Brain: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in 7 Weeks. A Workbook for Managing Depression and Anxiety,’ by Seth Gillihan PhD. I can’t say they will work for you. I’m not a psychiatrist, but they have helped me.
I think we all want to be good partners, parents, friends and fulfilled people. We want to know our lives matter and that people are better for having had us in their lives. No matter your emotional intelligence, or lack thereof, I think you have to start by finding what healthy support looks like.