When feelings are denied
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Veronica Grigore, BABCP (Accred), Member of BPS, division of Clinical Psychology
26th April, 20150 Comments
When feelings are denied or brushed aside people become increasingly conflictual with each other and themselves. What can we do to lower the likelihood of this happening?
When our feelings are denied, the fight and flight response or defence mechanisms become the main vehicle of communication and expression of ourselves. In this way, us as psychological individuals we become increasingly deformed. Some unhelpful responses are: giving advice, asking questions, judging, labelling, attacking, perfectionism/high standards, preoccupation with moral standards and avoiding. As these responses are activated automatically it is likely that we aren't aware of them, that we are blind to them. We never question the validity or helpfulness of what we do or say. We are more likely to pendulate between helpful and unhelpful ways of being with our close ones. It is a continuous journey of successes and failures to act in line with our goals and values.
It is not our beliefs that define our personality as long as they are fluid and able to shift and update with new experiences, but our values, passions and interests.
Self-awareness is the key that unlocks this unhelpful pattern accompanied by being concerned with validating our and others' feelings.
What does it mean to validate/recognise feelings and how do we do that? It is easier than it sounds: by naming or having a good guess of what feelings we/others try to communicate. For example, the statement 'the boss was really unfair' sounds like 'I experienced my boss as unfair on this occasion'. Guessing the feeling: 'feeling angry and disappointed that he did not make it fair', 'a colleague does not work as much as I do', 'you/I see that the colleague does not have the same working ethics'.
Guessing a feeling brings people together. It generates an environment of compassion and understanding. It reduces the temptation to make it better or solve it for the other. Expressing opinions and views does not require problem solving. We can't problem solve with our views or opinions as most of them are not facts. This is really hard to remember at times. However with practice, a new emerging rule is that there isn't a threat between us: we are just individuals trying to help each other and that the more we validate/recognise each other's feelings the more care we take of ourselves.
The moral/key message of these notes is that conflict means ignoring the obvious: our feelings. When our feelings are understood we feel more ready to respect each other. All feelings can be accepted, only behaviours can be limited.
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