Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sitting In It

I used to be held static by my emotions, unable to grow and doing myself a major injustice by justifying my emotion-driven attitudes by saying, more or less, "I don't care what the facts are...I just know how I feeeeeel. *sniffle"

In my late 30's and early 40's, I knew that my knee-jerk, emotional reactions to life were causing me and others unnecessary pain. I figured it was past time to grow up and entered a treatment program. It was there that I first heard this comment and it is now, one of my favorites, crude though it may be.

"Many people," said my friend in the program, "sit in a warm pile of shit until it becomes so comfortable they start ignoring the smell." I learned how true that was because changing my thinking and adjusting my emotional responses was scary. Change is scary, but the rewards are worth it. I learned, then, how to link my head with my gut. Practice, practice, practice. I had to look myself in the mirror, every day and tell myself that I WAS worthy of happiness and that I WAS a decent person and had NOTHING of which to be ashamed. I could forgive myself my missteps and stand tall.

To anyone who defends holding on to stinking thinking by saying that emotions don't respond to logic, I have to say you are both right and wrong. Emotions are not logical. And, being illogical, we have to be careful that we are not ruled, in our actions and attitudes, by emotions that are illogical and erroneous. And yes, emotions can be changed if we are willing to work at it.

I spent a big part of my life hating my father who abandoned us when I was 5. I mistrusted men, yet wanted, desperately, to find a male of the species who would counterract the message I received as a small child...that I was unworthy and a cast-off. Those feeling were exacerbated by the deep pain my mother lived with, day in and day out, because she really loved my father. Then I was abandoned by the father of my firstborn and raped by the father of my second child. I came to see all men as selfish, untrustworthy and out for only one thing. I lived by a "use first before you are used" mantra..very emotional and how I, indeed, felt, but neither right nor productive for a good life.

Unfortunately, for my first husband, I brought those feelings into my first marriage. That we lasted as long as we did, to raise two fine children, was a miracle because I treated him very poorly based only on an old tape, running in my head that said he and all men OWED me. He wasn't the right man for me, any way, but I wanted respectability and children I could keep so I used him for that. It wasn't fair or right for either of us or our children, who were actually relieved when we divorced.

Funny, I am now married to a wonderful man and I have male friends and I no longer tar them all with the same brush. Gee, I actually changed my thinking AND my feelings. I did it by practicing fairness and compassion and a lot of other really neato spiritual values. (*note that I said spiritual...not religious.) I actually was abandoned, not once, but twice, yet I managed to not see all men as "abandoners" and stopped acting like they owed me something for the way my father and a couple of them used my innocence and naivete'.

I decry the kind of "counseling" that allows people to sit in their pain (shit) and spin their wheels without ever reaching a better level of feeling and understanding. I did some inner child work. I embraced her, forgave her, comforted her and then slapped her on the butt and told her to grow up. She appreciated the comfort and the spanking.

So, when it comes to emotions, how we perceive others, what we feel we should expect from others and how we express that, it seems that feelings can respond to logical thinking if you keep at it and really want to feel better about life, in general. It is very simple but it isn't easy. It takes WANTING to grow and learn and feel better. It takes recognition of the fact that you can't judge every member of one group of people by the unfortunate actions of a minority. It requires fairness and compassion and rejection of stinking thinking. Mothers and adopted people should be in the fight together, but for some very stinking thinking, from adoptees and other mothers who are sitting in their own warm piles of guilt and self-righteous martyrdom.

You can overcome that kind of thing. Or you can sit in your warm pile of shit until you can no longer detect the stench and your butt-print is embedded in the crap.


Anonymous said...

This needs to be published everywhere.

Anonymous said...

Excellent, Robin.

Kitta here:

Emotions not only can be changed by logic, but they can be created by logic. Isn't the "logic" of demonization towards targeted groups one way that hatred spreads?

People who never gave it a thought before, will suddenly "decide" or "realize" that a certain group of people are "evil" and that they "deserve" to be hated. I have seen people change this way, and it is frightening.

But, this also proves the point, that people are just as capable of changing how they feel by learning the truth of what caused their emotional response in the first place.

Some emotions are based on real events...but a false understanding of the meaning. Like, a child may have been told "your mother abandoned you." The child grows up hating and fearing the "abandoning mother." Years later the mother was found, buried in the back yard...a murder victim....of one of the relatives who lied to the child.

These are true stories, and they happen often, though maybe not as extreme as murder.

Robin said...

Thank you, Kitta. For a few adopted people, I am sure that the feelings of abandonment have some basis in fact and for them, I feel compassion. But when an adult finds out that what they have been told or assumed is not what actually happened, then they need to re-assess their feelings on the matter.

My father left us, but I was loved and protected and cared for. Pity parties are a no-win situation. I still can feel the sadness of the losses in my life, but I also know that the loved ones I have lost didn't "do it" to me.

Even though we were being pressured and lied to, most of us only wanted our children to be happy and thrive. It seems our broken hearts are OK because we weren't babies. Yeah, right.

Chris said...

I once sat in that 'warm pile of shit' for quite a long time and not solely for adoption issues sake. Yes, in fact that 'warm pile' did get quite comfy. But I never did quite get use to the smell, even though I would try to convince myself, that after awhile I would get use to the 'smell' and I wouldn't notice it anymore. The problem with that 'pile' ferments and the smell gets worse, than other creepy-crawly things start living in that 'warm pile'. Those 'creepy-crawly' things multiply, they grow larger, they move around and then that 'warm pile' isn't so comfy anymore. You jump up to see what has been quivering underneath you, you really see what you have been sitting on/in for so is putrid, it is disgusting, it is horrifying and you wonder how for so long you didn't realize what really was living in that 'warm pile of shit' you were sitting on and within for decades. Then one has to realize why was I sitting in that horrid crap pile, how could I have ever led myself to believe that the Crap Pile was comfortable, that it couldn't hurt me, in countless ways? One then decides to find out why she felt so comfortable sitting in a warm pile of shit for so long. She finds out and the reasons she finds are just as horrifying, just as troubling. But at least now she has some real answers as to the she can see the 'warm pile of shit' for what it actually more than a 'pile of shit'. She bathes and bathes and bathes some remove the stench. And for the most part she is pretty successful with the removal of stench. Still every so often something will trigger the memory of the 'warm pile of shit' and the acrid stench of it..that memory unnerves her, may even cause her to stumble, to waver. But she tells herself...never again, never again will I allow myself to sit in that 'warm pile'..for it is filled with dis-ease and can only cause her harm, in more ways than one. I chose for myself to be dis-ease free.