On my blog entry entitled Do Sexually Abused Children Enjoy Orgasms from Rape or Sexual Abuse?, a reader posted the following comment:
Just so afraid to let go because last time I did I ended up very suicidal and admitted inpatient. I don’t have the skills to “control” those parts. Not quite sure how to get those skills though if I can’t safely work with them. I am losing time and can feel myself fighting the “darker” parts. I have wonderful therapist, but I just can’t let myself feel. So unsure of what to do. ~ DIDdenial
Allowing myself to feel the pain in those “darker” places was one of the hardest things I did when trying to heal. I survived my childhood by being in control. I kept each memory and emotion under lock and key, rarely feeling anything other than anxiety and depression. My therapist and the healing resources I read all advised me to give those feelings a voice, which scared the h@#$ out of me. The deeper I had repressed an emotion, the scarier the idea was.
I was especially afraid of giving my anger a voice because I had buried my anger so deeply inside of myself. I feared that I would lose all control and become a raving lunatic who could no longer control her rage. Better to keep my anger safely stuffed down inside than risk not being able to control it.
What I learned through experience is that you only make the emotions stronger when you fight them. When you invite them out, they lose their power. As hard as it is to believe before you have given your “darker places” a voice, the path of fighting them is much, much harder.
Emotions were made to be expressed. As abused children, we were not permitted to express our emotions, so we had to find a way to lock them up inside. Emotions that have not been expressed outwardly turn inward. In my case, I had a lot of repressed anger which turned on me in the form of anxiety and depression. The day I started expressing my anger is the same day that I experienced a dramatic decrease in my day-to-day anxiety level. I still wrestle with anxiety, but it is nothing compared to the level I used to manage every minute of every day.
Whether you hold your emotions compartmentalized into alter parts or have them safely stuffed down inside in another way, trying to “control” your emotions only makes you miserable. Emotions were meant to be expressed, and giving them a voice is one of the keys to healing from child abuse. Don’t be afraid of them. Instead, invite them out one by one. There are many ways to do this, from expressive art to writing about them to visualizing letting them do whatever they have dreamed of doing since they were triggered by the abuse. Different tools work for different child abuse survivors. What matters is that you stop pushing your emotions away and give them a voice. When you silence your emotions, you silence yourself because your emotions are a part of you.
An analogy that really helped me was this: Imagine that you are a fire hose and that your emotions are the high-pressure water coursing through the hose. No matter how powerful the water becomes, you are not the water – you are the hose. You are not going to lose yourself in the water – you are simply the vessel holding the water.
Photo credit: Hekatekris