Thinkin’ Thoughts rather than Feelin’ Feelings

When I get agitated, I get stuck in my head. Oh, you do too? Not like me, I bet. I ruminate. In fact, so good am I at not feeling my feelings, and so competent am I at launching in to my head to avoid said feelings, I’ve literally been diagnosed with OCD by a psychiatrist in the past. Not recently, but, you know, in the past. (So I win.)

Crazy, huh? I coined a phrase that aptly describes this inner phenomenon: I’d rather think my thoughts than feel my feelings. Pretty good, ay? Catchy. I mean I’m pretty sure it’s my phrase. I haven’t heard anybody else use it before. Can I get that copyrighted? Thanks. It’s officially mine.

“I’d rather think my thoughts than feelings my feelings”
– Daniel, from Me, you and the critics in my head

james dean crying
What might happen if I feel my feelings, dramatised by notorious weeper, James Dean.

Naturally, I like this saying because it rings very true; it’s very me. Quintessentially Daniel. I get so caught up in how I am going to manage my circumstances, whatever they happen to be at the time, that I forget (or make an unconscious decision) not to feel my feelings. It doesn’t work very well for me, truth be told.

As you might have guessed, my knowledgeable, omnipotent, and few-and-far-between Readers, herein lays the unmanageability. I don’t like my unpleasant feelings. Fear. Resentment towards self. Resentment towards others. Uncertainty – which, by the way, manifests at times as liquefied shit, a feeling of nausea in my stomach, or just plain old irritability and agitation, felt everywhere from my neck to my face to my back to groin. It’s enough to make you crazy. These sensations are my feelings, and goddammit they don’t feel good. And I want to feel good all the time. I want certainty and clarity and I want prosperity without any of the hard work those idiot successful people talk about. I want a no-risk, win-win situation. Is that too much to ask?

All delusions aside, I do find myself coming back to some pertinent and seemingly urgent questions. When the fuck’s it going to be my turn to get ahead in this shitty life? When’s it my turn to be prosperous? Such are the anxious and frustrated ramblings of my at-times incoherent head. Such are the thoughts, too, that cleverly mask the funky feelings in my body. They’re not pleasant feelings, so why feel them? To my unwell-at-times mind, it makes perfect sense not to go near my feelings. It’s airtight logic – how could it be wrong? Don’t like it? Don’t touch it! Easy.

The only problem with this logic is that it’s the same goddamn logic that’s kept me very, very unwell these last 29-odd years. If I don’t feel my feelings, then I don’t have an accurate gauge of who I am. Without feelings, I have no compass to navigate my internal world – or my external world. Without my feelings, I’m lost. And without my feelings, I’m only a few clicks away from turning in to Dexter Morgan, ridiculously fit, good-looking in an understated, nerdy-kind-of-way serial killer. Except he seems more well-adjusted than me…
OK, not really. Although sometimes I just don’t know. What’s wrong with not feeling your feelings?! Says my Sicker Self. Well, a lot, Mr. Daniel, if I may. It’s important for me to know what I’m feeling. They keep me safe from danger and they let me know when shit ain’t right. My feelings, when expressed appropriately and in a healthy way to my loved-and-liked ones, help me stay connected to other people. And staying connected is crucial to my recovery. I would say it’s one of my values. Yeah, it’s one of my values. Let’s go with that.

Enter, though, my fear of intimacy with others. That flaming queen, Oscar Wilde, once said that he could resist anything but temptation. Likewise, I have a tendency to proclaim that I value intimacy and connectedness to others – but just so long as you don’t take another fucking step closer to me. That’s my version of intimacy, I say proudly and while smiling.

“I can resist anything but temptation” – Oscar Wilde, Irish dramatist, poet, and flaming queen.

But it doesn’t really work well, this approach, when it comes to friends and relationships. Demanding intimacy while at the same time dialing triple zero as others approach me makes for a very awkward, confusing dance. I’m sure it’s comical to watch…. But, no. It is a great thing, then, that I’ve developed some good friendships with people who can relate to this predicament. Or as Oprah might call it, fear of intimacy. In 12 step programs it’s called emotional anorexia. I can identify with that.

Anyway, what were we discussing? Pizza? No – wait. Emotions? Ergh. Emotions. OK. I’ve been doing it tough with emotions lately. On the one hand my recovery hinges on my practicing feeling my emotions. On the other hand my recovery also hinges on recognizing when my emotions are becoming overpowering, and when it’s appropriate for me to self-soothe appropriately. You know, make phone calls, meditate, pray, do tapping, do havening, do body scans, etc. (Not booze or sex it up, or ruminate or numb out with pizza or any other mood-altering drugs, like ice-cream or binge-watching Game of Thrones, which is a very effective way to numb out, I’ve discovered).

Feelings. Let’s talk about them, then. With my contract ending in February, I’m feeling threatened. I feel like my recovery is being threatened. And my sanity. And it feels as though where I live is also under attack, too, because how in hell will I afford this lovely apartment without a job? Am I well enough to apply for and work a job that is more mentally challenging without the fear of another terrifying flashback?

I don’t know. I’m sick and tired of not knowing. I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. It’s draining, and it’s not fair. But what can I do but keep working at it? Language is important here, too. The words I use to evaluate my circumstances are important. So I’m writing this post today not to preach about recovery, although that can be very fun. I’m reminding myself to take little steps. Teeny, weeny, itty bitty baby steps.

And I’m reminding myself to have faith. And courage. And to stay connected to myself and to others through writing about it, and talking about it, and complaining (in moderation) to others about how unfair it all is. These are the pillars of my recovery, the tools for success, that will see me through to the other side of this unpleasant shit-storm.


3 thoughts on “Thinkin’ Thoughts rather than Feelin’ Feelings

  1. I can relate to a lot of this. You’re definitely not alone in your struggles. Anger seems to be my default emotion and I tend to focus on how to fix situations rather than feeling the feelings so your quote really hit home for me. Good one!

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