Not All Your Feelings Are Yours
At a certain point in my therapeutic journey I was confronted with numerous self-beliefs that were stopping me from allowing myself to live fully, experience fully and achieve to my full potential (real or imagined). Often, I was surprised to uncover these ‘road block’ beliefs – such as not being good enough or feeling guilty for having life when others have death (I include these because they are such common hidden beliefs). Some were not that surprising, like things you know you have but haven’t ever looked at them closely. But others were shocking. There were a few things I uncovered that not only was I not aware I believed, but also were things that felt contrary to who I knew myself to be. “What’s that doing there?” I wondered, “I don’t believe that! I believe the other thing.”
It’s very disconcerting to find beliefs lurking around in your psyche that you feel aren’t really yours, yet there they are activated and causing havoc in there. Like random meteors. I had to accept that they were there and that they were mine, because there they were, yet these discoveries really rocked my self-understanding. I remember thinking, “They feel like mine and yet foreign at the same time – as though they were superimposed onto me”. It was a bit weird and I didn’t know what to do with it.
In hypnotherapy the therapist might ask the client whether the feelings or thoughts in a situation are coming from the inside or the outside. In other words, are they actually yours or are you as a child perceiving the emotions of those around you and understanding those perceived feelings to be your own. Disturbingly often, on exploration the client can distinguish that the feelings that led to detrimental self-beliefs are in fact emanating from those around them.
Likewise with my own process, many of the negative understandings I had of myself were not mine to begin with. That’s why they felt both mine and foreign. I had taken them on, assuming that what I could feel at the time were my own feelings. Confusing? Let me put it another way. As a child, if you can feel something, you assume it’s yours. That makes sense, doesn’t it? Except that it’s not always true. Children are perceptive beings, especially when it comes to strong feelings their parents are having, so sometimes, even though they can feel something, it is not theirs.
What finally brought it home for me was a conversation with my mother. I had been trying to process some very painful feelings about being alive and it was hard to get my head around them because one of the things I think I know about myself is that I love being alive and this stuff felt so different. Unnatural to who I am in essence. I tentatively disclosed to her some elements of what I was struggling with because it had to do with the time of my birth – I was nervous raising it with her but hoping to gain some clarity. The conversation took an amazing turn when my mother took up the topic and shared that around my birth and early infancy times she had been feeling all of the things I was describing.
That in itself is interesting but the jawdropper for me was that, as she described how she had been feeling at the time, I got a very weird feeling of déjà vu because she was saying all the things I had been saying in therapy. She was using the exact same words! As I sat quietly, listening in wonder and she told me her story it all made so much more sense to me. All those feelings and thoughts were hers, not mine. I had just absorbed it all like a sponge. That was why it had seemed like mine yet contrary to how I know my inner nature to be.
A deep sense of relief came over me when I understood these feelings were hers all along. After that things shifted for me on those issues. She hadn’t known I had taken the feelings on and built my self around them – and she wouldn’t have wanted me to carry that stuff. I too didn’t know it had happened or why. All I knew was that I felt that stuff so it must be me.
This experience also validated again for me the relief that happens when a parent owns and takes responsibility for their own stuff. It left me free to live my own life – with excitement – the way I know I innately do. Owning your own feelings is the most powerful thing you can do for your child and for yourself – from pregnancy onwards.