Getting In Touch With Your Real Feelings
The only way we can truly learn about ourselves and become more intimate with ourselves is through opening up to our feelings. This is always easier said than done. However, nothing we do in life is more worth the effort than this process of getting to know who we are. The better we know our feelings, the more we learn about the different aspects and sides to our personality and character. The knowledge of how and what we feel also helps us to make the best possible decisions on our own behalf.
The hardest part of opening up to our feelings is the human tendency to shut down whenever we feel something we consider unacceptable or inappropriate. I spend much time helping people understand that there are no unacceptable feelings, only unacceptable and inappropriate actions. Feelings are private and personal, and do not have to become actions. The world judges us by our actions and behavior, not by our feelings. We feel what we feel. We cannot control our feelings. If we don’t open up to them, they can control us. This happens often when we see people who act out self-destructive behavior, hurting themselves and the people they live with. The better we understand ourselves, the less likely we are to act out. The key to self-understanding is a courageous effort to continually be in touch with our feelings. Being in touch and open to our feelings is the way we grow in understanding ourselves and our relationships with people.
One man, in his 40s, was experiencing what he described as strong, hostile and competitive feelings toward his 18-year-old son. This man had many experiences where he noticed how young women found his son to be very attractive and charming. He realized that wherever he was with his son, women would notice the young man and virtually ignore the father. The father described feeling as though he was losing ground, losing space. Father now had less space and the younger man had more. His son seemed to consume the space that was once his. The father, an attractive man, described how it always pleased him that women found him attractive and interesting. This position, he now felt, he was losing to his son. At the same time that he was feeling jealous, competitive, hostile and angry he was also pleased. His son was growing, becoming older, on his way to a highly distinguished university, and was clearly on the road to an independent adulthood.
The older man’s openness to all his feelings prevented him from acting out in a hostile way toward his son. Instead, he was able to understand himself, talk about his feelings in therapy and with his wife. He learned that he was mourning the passing of time. His own youth was leaving him and it was both painful and frightening for him. Because he was open to his feelings and able to talk them through, their impact and intensity was lessened, and his experiences and understanding of himself broadened. He learned that his wife was also experiencing difficulty with becoming older and that she would try to hold onto her youth by infantilizing, or at least trying to infantilize, her maturing son. Together, these two adult parents continue to share and explore their feelings. Their openness and courage will enable them to continue to grow; to handle the difficulty of passing years and becoming older and to continue to enrich their relationship with their son.
Prepared as a public service from the office of Psychotherapist Michael Feld, L.C. S.W. (718) 444- 8560.