Melody Beattie, a noted author in the recovery-personal growth field, suggests that we learned how to deny a situation, or certain people and their actions, because of the way it felt to us. We trained ourselves; to deny or ignore how we felt because we had no choice or no say in the matter.
Why? The answer is pain. Rather than continue to feel pain, disappointment, rejection, we develop a way to cope until we could escape the situation. Or, mistakenly, we think we’ve escaped.
My thoughts are this applies especially, but not exclusively, to men raised for the most part to deny and avoid feelings. “Big boys don’t cry, Men don’t cry.” Ring a bell?
One day while sitting with a group of men in recovery, someone suggested we talk about feelings. Gino the Razor started singing, “ Fe-e-e-e-l-i-n-g-s.” Several guys laughed, others groaned at the dreaded song, but we didn’t run, we talked at gut level openly and honestly about our feelings regarding death. It was a powerful and rewarding hour.
Stuffing your feelings, denying them, leads to a lot greater pain.
Addiction and/or obsession to food, alcohol, drugs-street and/or prescription, work, sex, are some of the ways we deal with feelings. If life hurts—eat. Life hurts—drink. Life hurts, don’t feel, focus instead on work, shopping or… .
One of my most exciting moments came a few years into recovery when I realized it was OK to feel OK, to take care of myself. And, with those feelings came a stranger knocking . . .grieving.
I realized that years before, when my father died, the shock stunned me into numbness, a numbness that stayed for 30 years. Oh, I was sad, but it felt almost like and actor playing a role of sadness. I controlled the degree of feelings and stood tall with a stiff upper lip.
I was raised believing that fear was to be met, lived with or buried. You thought about it, then either charged head-on into it or you lived with it.
I buried and avoided those feelings, only to contribute more to self-destruct. Like someone who finds food ease’s the pain, I drank.
For a lot of folks that solution doesn’t work, because when the fear or pain gets too intense, they turn to the medicine—food, drink, drugs, shopping—anything to feel better, to help cope, to deny and avoid the feelings.
Sadly, I heard Gino was back in prison somewhere in Florida. He apparently couldn’t deal with all of his fearful feelings and emotional pain because he went back to the monkey, heroin. While in an altered state I heard he did something that sent him back to prison.
Here’s a guy awarded two Silver Stars (our country’s second highest award for bravery) while in combat in Vietnam. Today, at fifty something, Gino sits in a cell.
I wonder where Gino would be, if he’d learned during those years of support groups, how to deal with his feelings rather than make fun of them.
Ironically, Gino used to say, “A lot of people create the illness to get to the medicine.”
Turns out he was talking about himself. Or, could he be talking about you?
Feel life; embrace solutions that come from feelings—then celebrate your victory.
© Jerry Stanecki
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