Feeling versus acting out

by tamarjacobson

Sometimes, when emotions become too intense or uncomfortable, I feel the need to run away, rather than hold still and confront them within me. I am probably not the only human being on earth who feels this way. Some people call that "fear of confrontation." With me, it is also a fear of confronting my own feelings – especially anger. And so, if I sense a twinge of anger rising in me, my first and most immediate reaction is, "Get out of here!" I do that in numerous ways: taking myself to the kitchen to wash dishes, cleaning the house, running to the bathroom, going for a walk, calling up a friend to help relieve the discomfort, jumping in my car and driving around for awhile, taking myself to my room – like a sort of self-punishing time-out – and crying alone. More often than not, I solve the whole thing by sinking into self-hatred, and turn the anger inward toward my self. 

That is why therapy can be excruciating for me at times. When feelings of anger rise up during the course of the session, I have nowhere to run. I am forced to face them, hold still, and experience them head on. When I try to flee toward self-hatred, my therapist points that out immediately, and I have no recourse but to express outwardly to him what I am feeling within. If I am able to get that far (which is not often), the result is followed by enormous relief accompanied by a surge of energy that invariably produces feelings of love and forgiveness. It is quite magical!  Because, in those moments, no action has to be taken. I am able to experience the anger, understand it is just that – a feeling – and it does not translate into my being a bad human for having the emotion. Once I accept that, I find the space to take control of my actions. I can decide: Should I react? Will it help to "Get out of here?" Is it better to talk it through? And so on.

Growing up I was rejected or abandoned for expressing my anger, so it is understandable that those emotional memories haunt me as an adult, and make me want to run for my life from even experiencing the feeling. But, I'm thinking that at age 64, with all I have accomplished, it is time to shed that fear. Rejection at my age is disappointing, but not a catastrophe. It is sad if someone cuts-off from me – even for years – and a loss for all of us – but not the end of the world. Besides, saying I want to leave is different from actually doing it! Lots of us at many different times feel like we want to cut-off or run away – and might even express that wish. That includes me – a style I learned as a young child imitating significant adults in my life. But, I realized recently – almost like a revelation – that very few actually act on it. As I age, I understand that those who act it out are probably afraid of confronting emotional discomfort, and their action has very little to do with the person they are cutting off from.

So, I am heading into a new era – and it couldn't happen at a better time. After all, at my age, there is no more time to lose. Yes indeed. I am practicing shedding my fear of rejection, and who knows? Maybe one day, hopefully before I die, I will actually not fear it for real.

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Exercising my writes