When We Feel Hopeless

As human beings, we are gifted with two brain hemispheres: the left and the right. The Left hemisphere is usually based on fact and logic, is useful when we need to plan, problem solve or come up with a strategy, whereas the right hemisphere is much more fluid and connects us to our feelings, empathy and nuance.  

The self-critical, hopeless, and devaluing part of us CAN push us into action, but it’s not very helpful in the long-term.  Essentially, what this does is creates alarm and cortisol in the body (as stated by interpersonal neurobiological expert Sarah Peyton), which will shut down the frontal lobe of the brain (the part that can make decisions, plan, and essentially “think”) and we enter a state of reactivity without our thinking brain online.  

That self-critical voice may not always be conscious.  It can often become the “default mode network” (Sarah Peyton) that our brain takes on, or the “tone” of our thoughts and perceptions.  We can also run into the problem of thinking that if we’re not critical enough of ourselves, we’ll end up a lazy slob who will amount to nothing. Yikes! 

So, what do we do?

We bring in self-understanding (Sarah Peyton) when we’re worried about ourselves and focused on feeling “not good enough”.  It is VITAL that we recognize that self-compassion and self-understanding are not the same thing as “permission to do nothing”.  Certainly, that can be an option if you’re needing to truly unplug, but the majority of the time self-compassion is about being kind to ourselves as we struggle through life.  It’s about saying, “Of course you need a break today, work was crazy!” and taking a minute to breathe and reconnect to the present moment. 

If we are working toward a long-term goal that requires our mental energy and perseverance, we might take a minute to recognize that: “Yes, I’m tired.  Yes, I am afraid (of failing).  Yes, I want to distract and play video games.  Yes, I also want to succeed at X goal”.  

So, what do we do? 

We connect with our values and our needs.  If you value success, career, and relaxation, you may need to be conscious about how you allocate your time.  That might simply mean, coming home from work, tuning out for 30 minutes to an hour to relax, and then dedicating 20-30 minutes towards that career goal.  

If you have a true need for rest and recuperation after a really difficult day and that immediate need is outweighing a long-term goal, that might entail tapping into some radical acceptance of “this is what’s happening right now” and honoring your body’s intrinsic need to rest up.  

We all have “internal boundaries” that we exercise on a daily basis.  For instance, I have a part of me that does NOT want to do extra work and only wants to binge watch Outlander.  I also know that if I don’t get that extra work done, I’ll fall behind and be miserable. 

I have to be able to take in the whole picture of who I am and who I want to be.  I am someone who has opposing parts of myself, one that wants to laze about and the other that is committed to my work.  Because I care about my dreams and goals, I set an internal boundary that doesn’t let the “lazy part” of me to take over all the time. Does this mean I need to eradicate it altogether or scare it into submission? Hell no! That would be engaging in a fantasy and will ultimately lead to disappointment when I realize that this part of me is here to stay.   

Think of another example that’s a little more cut and dry:  You wake up in the morning on a Monday and feel tired, annoyed that it’s so early, and all you want to do is sleep.  You could simply call in sick and stay in bed all day, but in considering the person you want to be and the values that are important to you (like paying rent, affording basic needs), you have to set an internal boundary to not let that part of you take over.  

So, what do you do?

You remind yourself that you have a need to keep a roof over your head, your long-term career goals are important enough to be at work, and you make a deal with yourself to prioritize relaxation after work (and in some cases, after you’ve dedicated a small portion of time to that thing that’s important to you).   

These concepts are often met with, “I get it on paper…it makes sense, but how do I actually DO this stuff?”

One antidote is to recognize that we are NOT the part of us that goes to a hopeless, critical place.  That part certainly exists within us, and in many instances, we can default to believing that what it has to say is the only truth.  How scary, huh? Imagine living in a world where that was the case, that we may only find success if we beat ourselves into submission and shame ourselves into “sucking it up and getting it done”.  That really doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for nuance or connecting to a kinder, more flexible option.  

 Another antidote lies in checking out the facts of our critical and hopeless beliefs.  Can I know for absolute certainty that if I’m not hard on myself I’ll just become lazy? Might we be able to see that we are MORE LIKELY to default to distraction and mindless impulses when a self-critical part is waiting for us just around the corner?  

Imagine if that self-critical part of us was an actual person.  Could you picture it as a roommate who WILL NOT leave you alone? Who would want to start on a personal project if they knew that their critical roommate was going to plop next to them and start railing on what they find wrong or annoying about them?  I know I certainly would make every attempt to avoid doing that very thing, and might simply decide to binge watch a show or start a scroll fest on Instagram instead. At least that voice (or roommate in this analogy) wouldn’t be so noticeable. 

So, what do we do?

Well, first of all it HAS to be our will to make this change.  If we’re only halfway committed to making this change while still believing that our only hope for success is to listen to our inner drill sergeant, it’s going to be a lot harder to let that go.  It’s only when we can see that letting that drill sergeant take over every time actually prevents us from accomplishing our goals (because it puts us in a fight-flight state), that we have a chance of making a course correction.  

 Imagine what you would say to a close friend, sibling, coworker, roommate, who came to you with the exact same problem: “It’s hopeless”, they say.  “I’ll never be able to make a change.  There’s no point in me even trying”.  First of all, what do you notice happening inside of you when you imagine that scenario? I know for me I can feel tension in my stomach, a tight feeling in my throat, and a real tug to want to help this person feel less shitty. 

What I might want to say is, “I’m so sorry this is happening to you.  I see you very differently and know that you’re capable of a lot of things.” I may choose to stand by their side and be a gentle observer of their pain, holding them with warmth and care.  

If you’re experiencing a similar reaction, that is your self-compassionate part.  It can so easily be accessed when we are witnessing someone we care about who’s in pain, and often times we think that there’s no way we can direct back towards ourselves.  If it exists and it can be directed outward, then it most certainly can be directed inward.  We just have to practice and see the point in doing it! We also have to redefine what self-compassion is, because if it stays in the realm of “permission to do nothing” or “not holding ourselves accountable” it won’t be very salient. 

Can you take a moment to just connect to yourself right now? Remember, you’re a living, breathing, feeling human being.  You react to the world around you and that includes what’s happening on the inside as well.  Can you recognize that you’re not static, rigid, or fixed to be one thing or another? Might you also acknowledge that you are always surrounded with choices, and that to be a human being means having to make them on a daily basis? 

It’s also imperative to remember that simply making one choice doesn’t automatically make another unavailable (most of the time).  You may decide, mid-way through a choice that you’d rather do something else, like I did yesterday when I decided to make a smoothie for dinner and then four sips in said, “this is gross, I’m going to make stir-fry”. 

When that hopeless, self-critical, and somewhat nihilistic part of us is in full swing, can we at least be compassionate towards ourselves and recognize that this part of us is doing the only thing it knows how: Be critical and when nothing changes, default to hopelessness.  If we can see that hopeless feeling and witness it, that tells us that another part of ourselves is also online. What does that other part want for us?

In the words of Jeff Lebowski, I might respond to that critical and hopeless voice with, “that’s just, like, your opinion, man” and connect to the more helpful and flexible part instead. 

What If You Don't Like Me?

If you’ve ever seen the show Seinfeld, then you’ll know that George Costanza hates it when people don’t like him.  So much so, that he was willing to break up with his girlfriend who loved him to pursue a woman who loathed his very presence.  

A relatable story, no?

Okay, you’re probably not going to break up a perfectly good relationship to make others like you, but if you’ve ever struggled with people pleasing then you’ll know how irresistible its call is.  

Explain This To Me

Why do we go to great lengths to please other people? An evolutionary psychologist might tell you that it stems from a primal place of needing to fit in with the tribe so we don’t get left behind.  A cognitive behavioral therapist might say it comes from a distorted core belief about the self. Both are actually right!

I believe people pleasing is borne out of early life experiences that made us look towards others for how we’re doing, rather than from within ourselves.  While that’s not an unusual phenomenon, for some it can become habitual and a learned way of creating safety and predictability.  

If I believe that I can control how you feel about me by pleasing you, then that means I’m good enough and our relationship will survive.  If I’m spontaneous and reveal my own emotions (like anger, sadness, or jealousy), then I put our relationship at risk and my chance for feeling good enough is annihilated. 

 That’s usually the inner workings of a people pleaser’s mind.  While many things contribute to people pleasing, some common life experiences include:

  • Growing up with a narcissistic or emotionally abusive parent

  • Being part of a big family that felt chaotic and invasive

  • Distrust in one’s emotions or bodily cues

  • Being raised in a highly strict or religious household 

  • Having high levels of empathy  

The list is not exhaustive, but it does put into perspective why some individuals use people pleasing as a coping strategy.   Shame underpins much of people pleasing behaviors and beliefs. When we are crushed, and consumed by the weight that shame brings, we don’t have much of a sense of self left.  If our worth remains outside of us in the form of other people’s approval,  it will propel us to find someone, anyone, to like us.  

This comes at a tremendous cost to the self.  It diminishes our own voice, dismisses our feelings and values, and leaves us profoundly vulnerable to self-attack (criticizing, bashing).

 Let Me Out

The path out of people pleasing is not easy.  Most often, individuals who are on this recovery journey experience one of two things: Tremendous anxiety and/or distrust that they will be okay in the face of authentic relationships.  Fortunately, the way out is absolutely possible.  It has to start with a desire to learn how to give caring attention back to the self and spot the ways in which shame or anxiety show up.  Without the will to do this, the results will be flaky at best. 

Why do we want to give caring attention to the self? Without knowing how we feel, we can’t know what we want.  The self will have nowhere to go and we will end up stuck.  For people pleasers, this is essential.  It’s like giving water to a plant; It will not grow when it’s deprived of something fundamental.  

Our emotions have been hardwired into us since day one.  People pleasers have learned to turn off their feelings and beliefs out of fear that it will jeopardize their relationships.   

Our emotions want to be known! When they have no place to go because we’ve blocked access to them, they turn into symptoms.  The person who can’t feel his anger will likely experience physical sickness, muscle tension, and may actually act out by becoming cruel and passive aggressive. A far worse experience than if he were to simply feel his anger.  The child who suppresses her sadness may develop an eating disorder to starve out the rest of her needs.  

The world of physics shows us that matter (energy) cannot be destroyed, only transformed. The same applies to our emotions. We can’t actually destroy them, but we can block them which will means that they will be transformed into anxiety and we will attempt to assuage that anxiety by people pleasing (or really any other coping strategy). 

 What If?

Many people pleasers worry that if they feel an emotion it will be the same as acting on it.  Not so.  It’s usually when we don’t pay attention to our feelings that we are more likely to act on them.  Consider the person who isn’t paying attention to where they’re walking and they end up slamming into a wall or tripping over a child’s toy.  Had they taken a minute to slow down and bring their attention to what they were doing, they would have saved themselves pain and frustration.  

While you’re going through your own recovery, consider for a moment why your people pleasing tendencies make perfect sense.  I always encourage my clients to look at their behaviors through this lens to reduce the tendency to self-blame and increase self-compassion.  

Your strategy may be making you miserable, but before you can change that, it’s so vital to understand why this strategy was important in the first place.  What need was it trying to meet? Safety, connection, predictability? Then you can start to move into a place of helping that need get met without needing to please everyone around you.  

I Don't Want To Feel

 What do we do when we don’t want to feel our emotions? We think, distract, avoid, numb, analyze, and do literally anything that might take us away from our emotions. Why do we invest all of this energy into doing the opposite of what our feelings are telling us? Because we learned, at some point in our life, that our feelings were either “too much”, not be to trusted, unimportant, “in the way”, or dangerous.  

This post is not about blaming our parents or caregivers for potentially instilling this message in our brains.  Nor is it about putting the blame on ourselves for not being able to cope differently.  This is about recognizing that we had experiences that our parents or caregivers were unequipped to deal with and bringing the choice back to ourselves to either continue doing what we’ve been doing or try something new.  

 What are emotions?

Emotions are physiological reactions that take place inside of our bodies and transmit their messages through physical sensations, images, and impulses.  They are no different than the thousands of other physiological responses our bodies doll out on a minute to minute basis.  Gotta pee? The body will let you know.  Car hurling down I-5 towards you? Fight or flight will take care of that.  Mom making it all about her again? Anger is knocking at your door.

All of these responses give us information and 99% of the time the information is not wrong.  It’s how we interpret and act on the information that can often times get us into trouble.   

Let’s use the example of ignoring your body’s signal that nature is calling.  You may be able to get away with it for a good 30 minutes, but soon after that you will either be peeing your pants or running to the bathroom. Could you imagine believing that your body’s signal to relieve yourself of bladder pressure was somehow stupid or wrong?  Yet we do this with our emoitions.  

What happens when we believe that our anger, sadness, jealousy, or fear is unimportant, stupid, or unwelcome?  We start to experience symptoms.  Why? Because the feeling has no where to go, so it get channels another way. 

 How Symptoms Begin

For most of us, experiencing symptoms are the reasons why we usually start therapy.  Suddenly, our lives become punctuated by chronic anxiety, back pain, migraines, depression, brain fog, IBS, trouble concentrating, and relational distress. 

Reducing these symptoms is one part of the equation, but the bigger picture is about working on reducing the shame, guilt, and anxiety we experience around feeling our emotions.  These three barriers to feeling can often times be so strong that they overwhelm our bodies past the point of tolerance.   

When symptoms like the above become everyday occurrences, we inadvertently make them worse by getting into the habit of moving away from, denying, or straight up repressing our feelings AND the barriers to our feelings (guilt, shame, anxiety).  

Many of the issues we struggle with are a blend of conscious and unconscious drives.  For instance, to avoid her grief, a woman may engage in compulsive shopping to distract herself from her pain and give her a sense of false joy. On a conscious level, she may be aware of this.  Unconsciously, however, she may be repeating a pattern from childhood, one that garnered her praise for being “so strong” or for being “so productive”.  

A strange kind of reward for her ignoring her feelings and “moving on”.  This may be in operation now as she attempts to get that same reward via treating herself with shopping.  However, it’s no longer working.  In fact, it’s making her feel more depressed, fatigued, and reinforcing her need to detach from herself.  

The Pain Of Metamorphosis

As we start to become aware of the patterns we engage in to distract ourselves from how we feel, it can, not surprisingly, trigger feelings of sadness, loss, anger, and a slew of other reactions within us.  This part of the process can be painful, but it can also reignite a sense of empowerment to break the chain of repression and misery and fully step into our real feelings.  

This is a crucial moment of coming to terms with who we are and acknowledging that our feelings serve us.  They may bring with them pain, discomfort, and physical reactions, but they also bring about joy, lightness, expansion, and self-actualization. We fear often that our emotions will last forever or become out of control when we let ourselves feel them. I don’t know a single person where this was true. Our feelings become out of control when they’re not felt.

Think of the person who suppresses their anger: It is not uncommon for them to have moments where they explode and turn all of that previously healthy anger into aggression. When emotions are truly felt, they last only a few minutes and are often expressed in their healthy and adaptive form. Take that same person who suppresses their anger: If they learn to honor, actually feel, and express their anger when it originally strikes, they have the opportunity to channel it into healthy assertion and set appropriate boundaries with others.

Will You Acknowledge Me?

The process of returning to feelings is, at times, difficult, but once you get the hang of it becomes quite natural.  The truth is that children know how they feel and what to do with their feelings; it’s until they become adults when these defenses against feeling become routine. We absolutely can get to know our feelings if we want to.  In some cases, I ask my clients what they’re feelings want to do.  It’s a reminder that our emotions have a will of their own and only want to be heard, understood, and felt.  

Are you willing to give your emotions some space to teach you about yourself?

What Use Are Feelings Anyway?

This question comes up a lot in therapy.  Why would I want to focus on my feelings? What good would that do?  Such a normal and common question to have! For many of us, we learned two things about our emotions: 1. They’re irrational and 2. They’ll burden others.  

How unfortunate for us because emotions, in their purest form (a physical impulse, reaction, and sensation in the body), are never wrong and only serve as indicators to what’s going on inside of us. 

  “Never wrong? Really? What about that time I got angry at my girlfriend for taking the wrong turn on our way to dinner? That certainly was irrational.”  You might be thinking something similar, or pulling up a memory in your mind where your feelings felt inappropriate.  

Let me make a helpful distinction here.  What I’m talking about is the feelings themselves, what you’re likely thinking about is the behavior of the feeling, or rather acting them out.  In the example given above, the individuals feeling of anger was not wrong.  He was frustrated at an event that deterred their journey towards a chosen destination. His decision to act out this frustration by verbally lashing out, turned out to be more harmful than good.  

Having the feeling of anger, for instance, is not the same as acting it out.  For instance, take a recent political event (doesn’t matter the political orientation) where some injustice took place or a law passed that could potentially affect millions of people.  It would be no surprise to feel anger at this.  

The feeling itself actually isn’t hurting anyone if you allow it to be there.  In fact, it’s actually giving you vital information on what is important to you.  You would not feel angry if you didn’t care about the person, place, situation in question.  

To go back to childhood for just a moment, most of us in some form or another learned about what feelings were “appropriate” to have and which ones should be hidden in darkness. For some, anger was tantamount to being evil.  For others, they learned that happiness was a sign of laziness or self-indulgence. Whatever emotion was devalued or condemned, we as children, learned to censor.  We did this in a variety of ways, mostly completely out of our conscious awareness.  

For example, if you were scorned for feeling sad and crying, you may as an adult experience a tremendous amount of anxiety when sadness emerges.  Then, to combat the anxiety, you may have learned to change the subject, think of something else, distract yourself, avoid the topic altogether, and a myriad of other techniques for keeping this feeling off your radar.   

So, going back to the original question: What Use Are Feelings Anyway?  The truth is that feelings give us vital information that can help us get our needs met, respond adaptively to situations, and provide us with a sense of direction.  If we constantly (again, we aren’t’ usually doing this on purpose) pushing them away or ignoring them, we are likely going to feel a lot of anxiety and discomfort every time they show up. 

 We actually cannot control our emotions the way we think we can. Emotions, much like clouds in the sky, just are.  We can control them the same way we can catch a puff of smoke.  In other words, pretty impossible.  What we can do, however, is allow their existence to be and make space for the important message they have to tell us. 

If we can allow our feelings to be there, our bodies won’t tense up and we won’t spend all of our time trying to avoid the tension or other uncomfortable sensations. Once all feelings are allowed, the reactive anxiety, guilt, or shame, essentially gets turned way down.  They may still be there in a low-lying way, but become manageable and less noticeable. In addition, we won’t need to engage in potentially destructive or self-neglecting behaviors to get away from the feeling at hand.  

Heartfelt Thoughts: The Root of Depression?

Do you ever wonder why you feel so depressed, suddenly and seemingly out of the blue?

The answer may be hidden in plain sight, but for most of us it’s not that obvious. Depression exists in an interactional space. In many cases (excluding major depression diagnosis), particularly in relationships, we learned early on that certain emotions or reactions would be met with hostility, rejection and judgement. 

From that, we developed shame, guilt, and anxiety around feeling our very natural and normal internal reactions (be it a “weird” thought, unusual impulse, emotional activation, or bodily sensation). For instance, you might have that very familiar experience of berating yourself for feeling angry towards someone you love or cherish. As if the anger you feel somehow discounts the love that you have, when in fact it is merely informing you of how you feel in that moment, not forever. 

When we don’t honor our feelings, where do they go? They are not like puffs of cloud that dissipate into the atmosphere. When a feeling does not get felt, noticed, or paid attention to it is very much like a car driving endlessly into a brick wall. The car will get nowhere and eventually die out and be stuck in place. When feelings continue to meet our own resistance, they too will be stuck in place often resulting in depression.

Often the fear of listening to our emotions comes down to the idea that we will be led astray, become “out of control” or be left alone with no one to guide us. 

The truth is that, in my experience, honoring and feeling our emotions brings great relief. Feeling an emotion and acting on an emotion are two very different things. Usually, the out-of-control fear is often associated with “if I feel my anger, it will make me act on it”, when in fact it will give you greater control and assertion, leading to improved relationships.

Last, your emotions themselves cannot guide you astray. They can only inform you. 

I always advocate for individuals struggling with emotion identification, regulation, and expression to work with a therapist who is versed in neurobiology and emotion focused therapy.

Heartfelt Thoughts: "Maybe I'm Unlovable?"

Beliefs about ourselves often come from communicated feedback, whether it was physical or verbal, from important figures in our life. For the child who gets punished for her anger, she may likely grow up to believe that her angry feelings are abhorrent and shouldn’t be expressed. The downside? She takes the anger that she feels towards those who harm her and turns it back on herself. 

What happens when anger is turned back on the self? Depression, low self-worth, and often a deep sense of feeling unlovable. 

When we take a feeling that is meant for someone else and turn it on ourselves, we lose our sense of emotional freedom. In addition, we run the risk of believing that only some parts of ourselves are worth sharing, while the other parts get punished and locked away. How very sad. 

Our feelings and parts of self want to be known. They want our attention and long to be felt and expressed. If we’ve spent much of our lives trying to squelch their very existence, it would be no surprise to find that we feel confused by their presence and do our best to not feel them. 

The greatest gift we can bestow upon ourselves is to work with a therapist who understands the value of bringing emotions into the light. You cannot expect to move toward a goal of greater self-awareness without inviting all parts and all emotions into the fore.

Heartfelt Thoughts: The Shadow

You've heard that expression before right? The one that says, "She was always afraid; scared of her own shadow". 

There is truth here. Our shadows scare us. Jung believed our unwanted, disgusting, and most evil parts of ourselves resided in the shadow. 

If you've ever felt a tinge of disgust towards someone who was behaving "badly", you're seeing a shadow part. Because these parts of ourselves are so unwanted, we forget that we have them in the first place. However, their ghosts remain and we see them in other people. 

The murderer, thief, liar, and cheat reside within all of us. They are our darkest parts. You may think that the answer then is to keep them hidden. Away. Gone. Lost. 

What happens when something is left unseen? It does not go away, but can actually grow. It's weeds become unruly and forms an ecosystem all its own. 

True freedom from our shadow comes in a counterintuitive form: to embrace, see, and acknowledge its presence. When we shine our light onto our darkness, it illuminates and casts the shadows out. In that form, we can see the truth and fear not what was once unseen.

Heartfelt Thoughts: When Children Become Criminals

It’s no surprise to discover that those who commit major crimes grew up in abusive, often terrorizing households. For many children, this experience is akin to being in combat. 

When exposed to these war-like environments for a prolonged period of time, the nervous system of a child becomes agitated and hyper alert to seeking safety. 

Without the proper recovery and safety net of a warm and understanding other, a child’s neurobiology becomes damaged. We’ve seen war veterans react to noises, sights, smells, and physical touch with violence and fear. A child’s response will be no different.

Like clay, children’s brains can be molded over time to expect violence and abuse from other people. When they jump into adulthood, this expectation becomes an absolute. 

What happens to children who cannot process or understand their scary environments or know how to channel their rage and sadness effectively? They develop ways to keep those experiences out of their conscious awareness by engaging in behaviors that seem to erase or cover up the fear they feel. 

Some use defenses like self-attack, intellectualization (keeping the mind separate from the emotions), while others resort to discharging their rage and violence onto others. Thus, nurturing criminality. 

Parents: If your child experiences terror, anger, fear, sadness, guilt, or grief, help them understand it. Let them know it’s okay to feel what they’re feeling. When a child says, I’m scared, don’t say, “no you’re not, you’re a big boy/girl”. 

Instead say, “Oh, honey I’m sorry you feel scared. What’s making you feel afraid right now?” Listen. Mirror healthy coping skills and self-attunement. 

Your child’s brain will thank you.

Heartfelt Thoughts: "I'm Afraid You're Judging Me"

Have you ever been in this situation: You’ve just revealed something about yourself and believe that the other person is now criticizing you in the privacy of their own head? You try to reduce their perceived judgements by minimizing what you just said or maybe use self-deprecation to divert their attention elsewhere. 

What’s going on here?

You’ve unconsciously stepped back in time where at one point you learned that those vulnerable parts of yourself were not acceptable to have, so you did your best to keep them hidden. All human beings want to be known on some level, so this striving to be seen by others is within you, but old patterns of self-censorship have come up to prevent that very thing. 

When a parent or caregiver tells us we’re worthless or unacceptable, we take that at face value. Children are very good at internalizing these messages and are even better at keeping themselves safe in the face of a threatening caregiver. 

As adults, when we do something vulnerable like let another person in, all of those old beliefs and fears of being judged come screaming back. To help yourself distinguish between the past and present, take a minute to explore what is happening right now, in this moment. What do you see when you look into the eyes of the other person? What is different this time around?

Heartfelt Thoughts: Relationship Drama

If you’re struggling in your current relationships, chances are that there is something being repeated from you past. 

Going to therapy to explore these issues might bring up similar relational issues. You might find yourself wanting to evade, ignore, and avoid the feelings that arise in a therapeutic relationship. That’s normal. A good therapist will see the self-protective strategies you’re using and help you identify the feelings and impulses that lie beyond them.

In your past, you learned that certain emotions and impulses were not tolerated and so intelligently found ways to keep those sensations at bay. Now you’re an adult. You don’t need those same self-protective strategies anymore, but your survival instincts override this logic. 

In therapy, you’ll be asked to examine how these defenses counteract your desire to engage in meaningful relationships. Through this deep exploration, you might discover that the ways you stayed safe in childhood relationships are now causing disconnection in your current ones. 

With the help of the therapist, you’ll start to gently let those defenses go so that you can get behind them and meet the feeling that lives there. This will help you connect more with your internal experiences and find healthier ways to communicate them to your partner, friends, family, etc, should you wish.