This is not uncommon at least for a start. Some people find all feelings difficult. Remember the person with irritable bowel who got her symptoms when she arrived at work. Only with considerable effort did her counselor manage to uncover her anger with her boss for changing his mind, and not allow her to go to a different worksite for the day. People who have trouble with feelings to this degree are at great risk of physical symptoms because they don’t have many options in terms of discharging the energies from their unconscious feelings. If you are in this category you might consider asking a counselor to help you work on feelings. The capacity to experience feelings will gradually grow.
You are likely to experience many benefits. These may include reduction of symptoms (which is what you are here for), but others too. For instance, your relationships may change. People may notice that you are warmer, or more intimate, or may appreciate you more. Friends and relatives often complain that people who suppress feelings are to rational, logical, boring, predictable, cold, and so on. You will probably feel more alive.
Many people who struggle to feel often experience life as a bit flat, or boring, or empty. Sometimes they are puzzled because people complain that they are too busy ‘doing things’, or work too hard, or try to ‘fix things’ rather than really listen. In other words they are not used to handling their own or other peoples’ feelings.
Another type of feeling problem is where we will only allow certain types of feeling. We have already talked about the person who will only allow positive feelings. Some people have to work hard to begin to acknowledge that they like everyone have negative feelings. Though it is great to be positive, to be like this all the time is very restrictive, not very human, and dangerous to the health—especially if there are important underlying feelings to be resolved. The healthy way is acknowledge important negative feelings, resolve them where possible, and then return to the positive position.
For example, a very positive woman had abdominal symptoms for 25 years and when I saw her had had been investigated by gastroenterologists in 5 cities, and was on a very restricted diet. The first visit she denied any problems in relationships. In the second visit I enquired again and she reluctantly referred to her husband’ drinking, but this wasn’t a ‘real problem’.
I explored the relationship between his drinking and her pain and discovered that the pain came on 25 years ago the day after he had come home drunk for the first time, climbed into bed, and then urinated in the bed. She got out of bed with a sudden pain in the right fist. The next day her abdominal pain began. We managed to get him to face his drinking and the pain disappeared.
Another type of problem is the person who will only acknowledge certain negative feelings. Many men, for instance, will acknowledge frustration but not fear, or guilt, or anger and many others. Actually, if I ask these people to define their most common feelings they may say “frustration, and…….”and then stop perplexed. It is like they rule out sadness, disappointment, dread, and so on.
If you have health problems and have trouble with feelings like this then we recommend you do some work on them.
1. You may need a good counselor. You could go to the counselor and ask to work on feelings.
2. Try this exercise: sit down for half an hour per day, in a quiet place, and allow some events to come to mind. This may be something from that day. It might be the story of the beginning of your illness or a recent worsening of your symptoms. It might be an awkward moment at work, or an encounter with a neighbor.
THE OCCASION DOES NOT MATTER BECAUSE WE FEEL CONTINUOUSLY.
Once you have considered the facts of the event, consider what it meant to you. Then as a next step try and name the feelings associated with that meaning. Do this once a day for a week.