Saturday, March 13, 2010
Sitting In It
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.