Avoidance of Feelings

Yesterday in my counselling session, we spoke about how I tend to speed up when talking a lot of the time. Of course, most of the time I don’t actually know when I am doing this, but it is something I have done for most of my life. This isn’t the first time we have spoken about it, and lately, I have been trying to be very conscious of slowing down my speaking and pausing between when someone else talks to gather my response and then reply. (It sounds like it’s a long process, but it is still pretty quick.)

My mind can work in this fashion too. It throws out a million things at once to distract me from the here-and-now and what I am really feeling. Both the speeding up of talking and the multipronged thought processes are away I have learned to avoid what I am feeling. It is rather automatic now.

Something like this takes time to unlearn. I may never fully unlearn it, but it will take a lot of practice and time to discover the best way forward for me. By doing this, it will help me live more in-the-moment and be more “present” to things.

This really struck home today when I was using a specific example of me taking the “path of least resistance” in my life. Instead of me facing something that will be sometimes difficult but in the end will be the best choice for me, I choose the path that I judge will be the easiest for everyone, even if that causes me pain or discomfort in the process. Typing it makes it sound pretty cowardly, I guess, but piling on years of worrying what other people are thinking / will think (or what I think they are thinking or will think) and being outcast for being gay in my younger years really pushes me to try to be as approachable and as pleasing as possible.  (I deep down am a nice person, and I try to be nice to everyone.)

In the example from my life, I was seeing someone I cared about very deeply off when he was leaving Chicago. I didn’t quite know when I would see him again. At the airport, he asked me to come with him for a while. At the time, I was a college student who needed to work over breaks to make ends meet, and I used this as an excuse, but he countered with he could pay for the plane tickets and all the expenses and even help me out during the semester to make up the shortfall.

When I had to decide, I thought about everyone else. How would my parents or my friends or my family or my co-workers or my boss react? What would they say? Would they be angry with me? What would the fallout be?

Then those thoughts (now, not then) turn to: was he kidding me? Was it some impulsive comment he made? Did he even like me? Was I reading too much into his offer? Why would he do something that kind? What did he want from me?

My mind at the beginning of my counselling session was all over the show, and I was back in that anxiety-fuelled haze I’ve lived with for too long. Here, now discussing this specific event from my life with my counselor, honed my brain into a plethora of emotions around this one tiny event.

Regret. Why didn’t I follow what I wanted to do and just do it?

Anger. Why couldn’t I feel I could let my guard down and trust him?

Frustration. Why did I second-guess myself and his motives? Why do I always second-guess myself and other people’s motives?

Sadness. I cared about him and I loved him, and in a moment where he wanted to spend some time with him and share his world with me, which I very much wanted to see, I let him down. In doing so, I let myself down.

All these emotions bearing down on me in the counselling session, everything clarified for me. I felt these feelings and so many more, there, inside me, ebbing and flowing, and I became whole again for several moments.

Then I made an off-hand comment about I wouldn’t have been able to go on the trip anyway because I probably didn’t have enough clean underwear to pack.

A joke to try to diffuse the tension, and with that joke, the emotions scampered back into the dark corners of my mind.

My counselor seemed dismayed or disturbed a little about how, rather quickly, I segued to a joke. There is a repeating pattern, he pointed out, that I sabotage my relationship with my feelings by making a joke, or going to a story, or waffling on quickly about some pedestrian thing so I can escape those feelings.

There is something about the gravity of those feelings, I answered, that makes some part of me uncomfortable, and I back away from them.

But backing away from feelings is not really an authentic way to live my life. No matter how painful they are, avoiding them is not good for me. And, the more I avoid them, the more I will have to deal with if and when I finally have the strength and courage to face them.

I spoke with my counselor about that fear — it’s been a fear I have had for very many years — that dealing with too much at once will force me into a deep depression again, or even a deeper depression that I will never recover from.

So, balance. I have to find and strike a good balance between all these things.

By confronting these events and the feelings associated with them, I give myself freedom and I grow as a person because of that. But I also want to give each part the space it needs to heal, and deal with it incrementally so I don’t overwhelm myself in the process.

I’ve been becoming a better person on this journey. One of the examples I used was of a friend we saw a few years back who had been quite ill and thought might pass away soon. In that last meeting — we didn’t live very close and happened to run into one another on vacation — I gave her a big hug, full of love and warmth and good vibes, and told her I loved her and we had such a great time together and to look after herself.

Sadly, she died a few weeks later.

No regrets for me, though. As my younger self might have been anxious about saying those things to her and then be full of regret after she passed away without those words being said — and being particularly harsh on myself for not saying them — the newer me felt I said and did what I needed to say and do, and that brought me the closure to our friendship that I wanted. The last things we did together let her know how special she was to me.

I used that example of how I have progressed as a person in being a more authentic me, and I acknowledged I had further to go, but life is a journey in itself to improve ourselves.

So, I have a bit of work to do, and maybe I’ll share with you my experiences on that journey. For those of you who help me in life, or even those of you reading my blogs, thank you in making me a better me.

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