This is an important phase of your journey. We neglect our feelings for very ‘good’ reasons—it can be very uncomfortable to face them.
But our assumption is that you are using Illness Explorer because you really are motivated to get physically well, and therefore you are prepared to face a bit of discomfort.
The following sections will help you a lot. The first ones set the scene and the later ones involve you working on your feelings.
There are scores of different feelings, both positive and negative.
For example, think about the anger spectrum: irritation, resentment, frustration, rage, bitterness, annoyance, and anger itself.
Think about the fear spectrum: frightened, anxious, apprehensive, dreading, and panic. We show these feelings in many ways.
Another thing making it difficult is that we use words which are NOT very specific with regard to feelings. Here are the common examples:
STRESSED. When people say they are stressed what do they mean? Well, a stressed secretary may be worried because of the boss’s disapproval at her slowness, or angry at a colleague for not sharing the load, or guilty for having taken a long break and then missed an important deadline, or frustrated at her inability to conquer the newly installed software, or in fact ALL OF THESE. The word stress is a suitcase word. We need to unpack it to find the feelings
ANXIOUS. Unpacking this suitcase word can be a big task. An anxious mother may have fears she is not a good-enough mother. This may be based in things like having had an impoverished childhood herself and a determination to set things right. She may be angry at her own background but unable to acknowledge it—that will make a person anxious. She may also be starting to see that being a perfect mother is impossible, and underneath may be dreading the possibility she is going to repeat history.
She may be enraged at unsupportive people (husband and family) who because of the way they react make it even less likely she will reach her ideal.
BUT WHAT SHE FEELS IS INTENSE ANXIETY, AND SHE SAYS SHE DOESN’T KNOW WHY. THE SUITCASE NEEDS UNPACKING!
DEPRESSED: This is commonly seen as a sufficient label, but if we unpack it we may find feelings like powerlessness, hopelessness, emptiness, greyness, feeling flat, pointlessness, even a desire to give up, or suicidality, and feelings of falling apart, fragmentation, lostness and so on.
If you have managed to write some sort of story regarding the BEGINNING of your illness, or regarding some FLUCTUATION in your symptoms, then have another look at it in terms of feelings.
If you haven’t got a suitable ‘story’ to look at, try choosing an event that occurred TODAY.
It could be anything, for example, how you felt when you arose from bed, or while having lunch, or sitting at home waiting for your partner to come home, or anything that pops up in your mind as you consider this prompt.
Now you have got something to focus on try writing notes around the following questions:
What was your main feeling at the time?
What were the minor feelings?
How did you express those feelings?
Did you speak them out at any point?
Were you direct or indirect in expressing them?
What reception did they get?
Did they cause conflict? Were they listened to?
Were they associated with any physical symptoms?
Were any of your feelings really intense?
Were you only partly aware of something but couldn’t define it?
Were you aware of faint feelings, but ignored or neglected them?