Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Have you ever experienced intense feelings yet could not identify their source? Many Adult Children of Alcoholics have trouble knowing not only what they feel but WHY they feel certain emotions.
The answer may lie in your past. A current situation that triggers a powerful reaction most likely is tied to an old feeling. This feeling may have become almost like an instinct. It has become ingrained, like a reaction that happens without much thought.
Take anger for example. There are certain times when it is appropriate but often it is used as a defense. It is a SECONDARY emotion that is protecting something else. Many people get stuck in angry reactions because they are unable to identify the primary feeling- hurt, shame, fear, etc., that underlies the anger. So the the angry person continues being reactively angry and the true issue never gets resolved.
-"It may help to think of yourself as a child"-
The "Digging Deeper" exercise can help identify and manage emotional reactions in a more constructive way. As you continue to practice this exercise it will get easier and faster. There are five steps:
1. Think about what happened just before you felt angry. Did someone do or say something offensive? Did something remind you of a similar situation?
2. Identify the root of the anger- the primary feeling. This can be difficult because of the habit of reacting defensively and the tendency to our ignore the importance of our true feelings. It may help to think of yourself as a child. Picture him or her in your mind and try to feel what he or she is feeling. Are they sad, hurt, fearful, feeling guilty or shamed? You may need to meditate on this for a bit before you "get" the feeling.
3. Ask yourself when you have felt this way before. You may get a vague recollection or a very clear image of past situations in which you felt this way. There may be very old memories that reveal a repeating pattern.
4. How did you respond back then? Did you hold everything inside until you wanted to explode? Did you lash out, feel victimized, isolate, get sad or depressed? Is this the same way you are acting now?
5. Ask yourself what you really need right now. Asking for what we really want can be hard for ACOAs. Feel free to begin by verbalizing the sentence, "What I really need right now is_______________". It could be "to be listened to and understood" or "I need some reassurance" or "I need to know that I'm not alone".
Recognizing a need is the first step to becoming your own loving parent. The fact that your inner child's need was simply acknowledged helps him or her feel better.
After a while, you may begin to experience a sense of relief and an increased ability to communicate your feelings and needs. You may begin to feel closer to those around you. You will probably experience greater success getting your needs met and increased intimacy.
A side benefit of being empathetic with yourself is that you will begin to show more empathy and understanding for others. Don't be surprised if you discover others acting differently towards you as they respond to your increased warmth and understanding.
Check out the Orange County ACA website at: Orange County Adult Children