Remember when you were a child and you used to say that "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me"?
Even little children instinctively know enough to hide their pain when someone has hurt their feelings. This instinct is good, even when the enemy isn't really an enemy - just a friendly opponent in a tennis match. Don't let the emotional effect on you of bad things show. It encourages the adversary.
But keeping them to yourself doesn't get rid of those feelings, does it?
Children, however, live in very different minds than normal adults do. Like Alice and Peter Pan, they don't distinguish between fantasy and realty, preferring fantasy, where they learn the (delusory) power of magical thinking. In some cases this pretending goes so far as to imagine into existence an imaginary friend, expecting Mom to set a place for her at the dinner table.
So, children have no problem getting rid of unwanted feelings. They just pretend them away. They just pretend their feelings aren't hurt.
They aren't really altering those feelings though. They're just repressing awareness of them to the subconscious and pretending to have other, good, feelings instead.
You can tell, because their behavior is such as proceeds from bad feelings, the repressed ones, not the feelings they pretend to have. In other words, those repressed feelings are still there and having their normal motivational effect on the thinking that controls conduct.
Unfortunately, however, the child is unaware of those buried feelings and therefore unaware of why she's doing what she's doing.
When feelings are repressed, it takes a good deal of of introspection to get in touch with those feelings again, so that you know why you're doing whatever you're doing.
I'll never forget this little exchange between Sister Mary Peter and a budding sixth-grade narcissist who had done something vicious that was totally inexplicable and whose mother was there and totally snookered by the conning brat. Seeing that the mother was willfully obtuse, Sister Peter got blunt...
Sister Mary Peter: Why did you do it?
Narc: I don't know.
Sister Mary Peter: Do you know what we do with people who don't know why they do things?
Yes, people who don't know why they do things are seriously mentally ill. And when you bury your natural feelings, that is what you are doing to yourself. You will soon NOT know why you are doing things.
But narcissists aren't the only people who refuse to grow up and quit clinging to the cherished myth that they can make unhappy feelings go away and make them into happy ones instead. Many people cling to this belief that "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" because I am strong and I have high self-esteem, when really all I have is a habit of lying to myself.
One thing I remember about the Bible is how virtually anything can be "uncircumcised." Like your heart. Your eyes. Your ears.
In fact, according to the Bible, things that are circumcised can suddenly get uncircumcised. Kinda calloused-over with some crusty shield.
So, I had a hard time figuring out exactly what this figure of speech means. But, like a dog with a bone, I kept at it till I got it.
Nothing uncircumcises a head faster than stating the simple, self-evident truth that we cannot control our feelings, that feelings are not conduct and therefore cannot be right or wrong.
Just state that plain truth to many people and you can almost see it happening: that person's forehead suddenly gets thick as a brick. Reason bounces off it like missiles bounce off an Abrams tank
They act like they didn't even hear what you said. They just come back with, "But" and a reply that assumes you can control your feelings and that certain ones are sins.
How's that for being blockheaded? They can't even give you an answer - just nothing but this complete dodge all the time.
Which is absurd. Feelings are sensations, emotional sensations. You cannot alter sensations (except with hallucinatory drugs and hypnosis). If you get burnt, you should feel burned. If you don't, something is wrong with you. If the narcissist punches you in the face, he is responsible for your pain, not you. If he forces you to your knees and shoves your face into garbage he threw all over the floor, he is the one responsible for your anger, not you.
To think otherwise is incredibly stupid. The cause of a sensation is the stimulus that produces it, not the mind of the person who experiences it.
The worst thing about repressing unwanted feelings is that burying them locks them inside. They never go away then! Just as normal physical pain motivates action and then passes, normal feelings motivate action and then pass whether action has been taken or not.
But denied pain paralyzes and then just festers in the subconscious, motivating negative behavior (usually passive-aggressive behavior) like an unseen puppet master. And not just against the abuser - but rather against any available target, people who had nothing to do with the person who abused you. Hence we see many people subconsciously getting even with a parent by mistreating their spouse decades later.
So, the very premise that codependency therapy rests on is invalid. Manifestly invalid. Of course people swear by it, though. But that doesn't mean that codependence "therapy" works. It just means that they think they have made their bad feelings go away. But they have merely brainwashed themselves and were conned into doing so. Sooner or later the price for doing that will have to be paid.
The pain of narcissistic abuse is sheer torture. I have no doubt that it drives many mentally healthy people all the way to suicide. And often without the narcissist even laying a hand on the victim. It's THAT bad when you're bludgeoned with it day after day after day.
But in my own experience, I found relief when I stopped trying to fight those feelings off. When I asked myself why I was angry, sad, outraged about this or that. When I accepted my feelings as having a valid cause and owning them. I could see that my feelings were a natural human reaction to what had been done to me. I no longer felt like a pressure cooker about to explode. I could bear it. And it got better - just a little better - every single day.
Feelings are nothing to fear. Felt feelings motivate behavior, but they don't rule it. And felt feelings never killed anyone.
By Kathy Krajco
2 weeks ago