Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Feeling My Feelings

As I've mentioned elsewhere, my major coping method of survival from abuse was not to feel. When the emotional level got heavy, I went numb. I didn't do that consciously, but it was my way to handle the trauma of  childhood. Once I became aware that numbing was what I did, I also realized that I needed to feel my pain--to reexperience the hurts of my past--if I wanted to be free from the past.

Here's how I did it, and this may not work for others. Each day I said, "God, help me feel my feelings." Followed by, "I feel my emotions." I usually spoke to my reflection in the mirror. I wanted that message to get into my core being.

Although I hadn't talked to a therapist or a pastor, I sensed that facing the hurts and feeling them once again was a step I had to take.

It took months before I became aware of how I felt; it took even longer before I fully accepted the abuse of my childhood. It took years before I knew I had been healed.

The journey wasn't easy, but I refused to give up. At times, I felt alone, unloved, unwanted, unworthy--and other negative emotions flooded through my soul.

Each time I felt my emotions, however, and thanked God for allowing me to experience them, the pain seemed to lessen a little. Now, years later, I can honestly feel my emotions.

Caring God, teach me to feel and to accept my emotions.
You made these feelings, and I want to honor them.

* * * * *

This post is excerpted from Cec's new book, More Than Surviving: Courageous Meditations for Men Hurting from Childhood Abuse (Kregel Publications, 2018).


Preston Hill said...

Well said Cecil. I've often said with fellow survivors, "Feeling is healing." I know you've said similar things in your own work. I think it is very true. It seems to me that the greatest evil of all the abuse is that the pain is so overwhelming that my brain and heart literally cannot handle the turmoil... so it just shuts down. Its like my heart says, "Instead of being destroyed by more than we can handle, how about we compartmentalize and just choose not to feel? That way we can go on living." True. The problem is, in order to survive, I have to continue this "not feeling" in other areas of my life as well. But humans can't live for long that way. Spouses notice. Friends notice. They want my heart... they want the real me. It's dangerous, it's risky... but it is VERY worth it to feel again, to jump-start the emotions and get the blood pumping again. The best part is... God made me to feel. I am safe now, and I can make safe space to process all this pain. Once I name my pain, and feel it, I will be able to have the best gift of all... reunion with those who love me. If I choose to feel, abuse no longer holds the keys to my heart. Instead, my family and friends, my safe people, can have access to my heart. And my heart is VERY worth knowing and loving.

I think choosing to feel is the greatest rebellion against evil that I can enact as a survivor. It means that I regain agency and choose not to live as a captive to the effects of profound harm. Instead, I can make those wounds a deep well of fellowship and feeling with other safe people. Those deep connections spit in the face of evil's intentions.

Unknown said...

I remember when I was young I would almost feel like someone else, it was kind of out of body experience. Today, I just check out. My mom is in the stages of dying & I find myself just
checking out & wanting to sleep - Not feeling
Thanks Cec for the prayer -
"Caring God, teach me to feel and to accept my emotions.
You made these feelings, and I want to honor them."

Unknown said...

Preston, Thank you for "feeling is healing." Never heard it said that way, but like it. And yes, we do have to use discernment in revealing ourselves. But it gets easier as we continue.

Larry, so sorry about your mother. Just be kind and patient with yourself. Allow your feelings (even no feelings) to take over while you're in this terrible time of what I call pre-grieving.


Anonymous said...

Hi, I have been researching online all day today after my husband told me that he was abused as a child. And I came across this blog and I really think it would be helpful for my husband.
He came home last night after having few drinks with his mates and he said he remembered that he was raped when he was 11. When I heard that I didn’t know what to say or what to do. I know I am the first and only person he opened up to. I want to do the right thing for him but I don’t know what to do. I am devastated for him and it makes me feel so sad to think that he had to go through that and keep it a secret for over 25 years.
He is a great husband and a great father. His parents always found him too emotional and too weak and they’ve always been open about it and told everyone what they thought of him. That is why he hasn’t got any support from his parents.

I am so desperate to help him but I don’t know what to do. He told me that he didn’t want to tell me because he was scared that I’d be disgusted of him. I told him that he needs to get help from a professional as I can only be there for him but I couldn’t give him what he really needs.

Please help me to help him. He is in a really bad state now not wanting to leave the bed and constant crying.
Thank you.

Unknown said...

I'm not sure why I didn't receive this, and apologize for being slow in responding.

After 25 years of marriage, he finally remembered his abuse and opened up to you. It's not that unusual. Many of us men first come to terms with our sexual assault many years later. I had been married almost 30 years before my memories returned.

1. He trusts you. That's important to realize and it's not easy for a survivor to speak to anyone.

2. My best advice: Love him (as you obviously do), stick with him. As I often tell women, they can be his support or they can try to be his therapist. They can't be both.

It IS his battle. If you remain his support and he realizes you won't let him down, you can be the pillar of strength he needs.

I'm delighted you found this blog and hope you read things by other men as well. Many of us have gone through the painful healing process. Just to have at least one person who believes in him and who won't tell others without his permission is more important than you probably know.
Be there for him. It may not sound like much to you, but it's more than that you realize.

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