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Thawing Your Feelings

Emotions are meant to be felt and valued. When they’re not encouraged, validated, supported and understood, we think they’re bad and that we’re bad/wrong to have them.
We learn to conform to the family value: don’t think it, don’t say it, don’t feel it. If your parents or primary caretakers frequently demeaned, ignored, humiliated, invalidated, teased, or in any way squashed your feelings, you adapted by numbing out emotionally. Witnessing others suffer as a child can also induce a deadening reaction.

Emotionally overwhelmed and lacking the internal resources to manage your pain, you tried not to feel hurt, pretended not to care, and covered your feelings so well that no one knew you had them (even you!). Eventually those feelings became stuck or frozen in time and you adapted to feeling as little as possible. Emotional numbness may have been a conscious goal, but more likely it was a state that simply evolved over time as a protection against experiencing or witnessing ongoing emotional wounding.

If you can’t feel very much or avoid uncomfortable emotions, understand that you chose this path because you’re trying to stay sane and functional. Although there are now people in your life and the world who will be sensitive and respectful of your feelings, you’re not sure who or how much to trust anyone. It’s too scary to think about prying open the lid of your feelings box and letting them out. You may not even be sure you want to feel very deeply. After all, connecting to emotions only brought you pain in the past: what happens if you open up and go under! So between lack faith in yourself and not trusting others, you stay frozen and seek numbness in focusing on food and weight.

If you take it slowly, you will heal. You did what you needed to do back then and now you need to do something different. If you want to defrost, recovery from food problems, and learn to feel again, start with baby steps. Unless you suffered severe (often repressed) trauma, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll start to connect to feelings, then crack open. You might fear falling apart, but people rarely do. You are not Humpty Dumpty! This time, you’ll have your internal resources (better judgment, understanding of your history, self-parenting capacities) and trustworthy people to help you bear the pain. So slowly, test the waters with yourself and others. Share your fears of feeling, become a little vulnerable, tell your truth, your story, allow yourself to get comfort. You might think that when you unfreeze, all that will be left is a puddle, but nothing could be further from the truth. On the contrary, most of the hurt will evaporate and leave all the rest of your wonderful, stronger self.