Trapped is another one of my therapy boxes that I have been working on. I don't think I realized until I started working on feeling my emotions how trapped I felt. I had trapped all my feelings inside from a very young age. I felt like I had to lock up my emotions and not let them out. My mom had a way of letting her emotions out too freely and it was scary for me as a child so I felt like it was safer for everyone if I held mine in. She was one extreme and I was the other.
I remember only feeling real anger once, I was probably around the age of 10. I was at a friend's house and her cousin was there and he was being mean to us and hitting us. I don't know to this day what happened, but the next thing I knew I was standing there with his shoe prints on my thighs (I was wearing shorts and I could literally see all the lines from the bottom of his tennis shoes imprinted in my skin) and he was yelling that I was crazy. My friend told me that I just started screaming, yelling and hitting him. That was such a scary moment for me to not even remember what I had done that I decided to never let myself get angry again. I don't know if that is what my mom went through when her anger was unleashed, but as a child I imagined that it was and I never wanted to feel like that again.
As a teenager, I would find myself being angry with my little sisters when I would find them in my nail polish with it spilled every where, or some other situation, and I didn't like the feeling of yelling at them so I made a goal to tickle them instead when I felt anger toward them. I suppose it was a good plan in many respects, I wasn't yelling at them and was turning my anger into an action, but I still wasn't finding a way to face the anger and then release it. I had felt like it was safer to not feel my feelings or voice them as I didn't want to hurt anyone or make anyone feel the way I did when my mom was upset.
I had such a desire for peace and calm growing up, I sought it every where I could, but I felt like I couldn't get it, physically or emotionally, anywhere at home. With a large family, lots of kids and a worn out mom, our house was usually a huge mess. At the age of 17 I finally got my own room which, as a neat freak and previously sharing rooms with different sisters who didn't share my same senses of neatness, was a huge deal for me. Even though I finally had a room to myself, my sisters kept going into my room and messing with my stuff and messing my room up so I still didn't feel like I had a space to feel the peace I craved. Then one day my dad gave me one of the best gifts I have ever received, a door knob with a key. I would lock up my room and none of my family could get in there and mess it up while I was gone. When I would come home, I would unlock my door, go into my clean room only to turn around and find my family right behind me. One day my mom said that it just felt so good in my room. I agreed, I felt so trapped in the rest of the house with all the mess, but I didn't feel that way in my room.
Another way I trapped myself, was by feeling like I had to solve all my family's problems. Many years ago one of my sisters told me that they all thought I was judging them. I told her that wasn't it at all, I felt responsible for them, I felt like I had to help them, to save them. In my head, I was the "2nd mom" and I needed to take care of them. This was a role I had adopted at a very young age. I remember in my early 20's telling my current bishop that I felt like I was hanging off a cliff and my whole family was holding onto my feet and that I was their only hope. I realize now that that was just my co-dependent thinking, but at the time, it felt very real and very exhausting. Many of them did reach out to me to help them with lots of problems, but it wasn't until one day a few years ago when my Dad called about helping one of my sisters and I was up all night with worry about how to help that I realized how co-dependent I was being with them. I talked with my Dad the next day and we worked out a way to help without me being co-dependent about it which was a huge relief for me. Admitting to my Dad what I was doing and him understanding was a huge freeing experience for me.
I continued trapping my emotions through my marriage and with my children because I believed that I was protecting them from me, I thought I would hurt them if I let my emotions loose. I didn't realize that I was making things worse for all of us, because you can only trap things inside for so long and then the body refuses to do it any longer. My body started showing signs of anxiety through panic attacks and later depression. If I had had the skills to let my emotions out in an appropriate way as I felt them, my body would have had no need to shut down. It is entirely possible that the last few years of therapy and health issues could have been avoided if I had known how to properly feel my emotions.
I have learned that emotions need to be released, to be set free. I have learned that when I feel anger, I can let it out by hitting our punching bag and saying how I feel. When I feel sadness, I can cry and talk to someone or write in my journal, I know I will feel better when I am done. When I feel fear, I can write it down and then imagine the opposite. And when I feel happy, I don't need to feel guilty, I can recognize it and relish it. Emotions don't have to be wild and extreme, they just need to be felt, acknowledged and allowed to move through me and then I can move on. I know I don't have to trap them inside any more, I can set them free and freedom feels good!