Breaking Free From The Pain Of Having Your Emotions Dismissed & Finding Your Truth
Have you ever experienced a time when you were really interested in, or passionate about something but as you spoke about it to another person, they dismissed it as trivial or irrelevant? Perhaps you were talking about how you felt about something important to you and it was demolished by the other person? If you can relate, then you will know what I am talking about in this blog…
When Our Emotions Are Dismissed
When someone dismisses or fails to see the significance of how you feel about something important to you, it is not unusual to feel deeply sad or angry. It is even more insidious if we continuously experience this reaction as we are growing up throughout childhood. It is “insidious” because we still experience the emotions associated with being dismissed as adults, but we have often forgotten the actual memories and therefore do not understand why we feel the way we do. This leads to what is called “shaming”, and eventually results in low self-esteem and self-worth.
There are three levels of having emotions dismissed that I will discuss. They are the ‘adaptive response’, the ‘childhood emotional wound’ and the ‘identity’ associated with having your emotions dismissed over a prolonged period of time.
Adaptive Emotional Response to Dismissed Emotions
The first level is the adaptive response to shaming emotions which a healthy and balanced adult may have when they experience this boundary violation. By ‘boundary violation’ I am referring to having something important being dismissed. The hurt, anger and/or sadness resulting from this experience are actually telling us that this treatment is not OK. The other person may be unaware of their boundary violation and unintentionally hurt the other, therefore it is important to communicate assertively. Communication which is compassionate, understanding and assertive can lead to positive learning for other people. Ultimately, this aims to be empowering for both parties. So this is an example of adaptive emotions at work and how we can respond to our emotions in ways that open up learning opportunities and mutual respect. The emotions, sadness, hurt and anger are felt and are appropriate and proportional to the event, and yet the person choses how to best respond because they are aware of their feelings and actions.
Childhood Wounding of Dismissed Emotion
The second layer is emotional wounding from childhood experiences of having emotions dismissed, misunderstood, ignored or trivialised. This layer is difficult to work through because as I said earlier, conscious awareness associated with the emotional reaction is rarely present, and the exposure to this treatment is often prolonged. This will result in the development of unconscious patterns (of thinking, feeling and acting) with a real emotional need at its core. To heal this layer will require some inner-work to increase awareness, compassion and understanding for everyone involved.
As we look deeper into this layer, we often discover parental shaming, or a significant other dismissing a child’s emotional needs. Western society has traditionally been largely inept at promoting emotional safety, therefore this is not uncommon. It is not about blaming parents or earlier generations, but rather acknowledging the wounding within while understanding that significant others did the best they could with what they knew. Of course this can be difficult if there has been active child abuse on top of the neglect, however this is outside the scope of this blog. Please seek trusted therapeutic assistance if you are worried about powerful emotions resulting from child abuse. In a nut shell, often our parents’ generation and generations before them, simply did not know about the damaging effects of dismissing emotional needs. And it is highly likely that they did not have their emotional needs met either. Our job with this information is to increase our self-awareness, to heal ourselves on the inside and to learn new skills that honour emotions and personal boundaries.
Dismissing Our Own Emotional Needs
The third and most insidious layer of dismissing emotions is when we learn to treat ourselves this way. I call it “insidious” because it is hard to see. Our relationship with ourselves becomes toxic when we learn to dismiss our own adaptive emotions.
Our adaptive emotions are our guidance mechanism system. They will indicate what is safe and what is dangerous or a violation to our body, mind or soul. It is only through disconnection from our natural emotional balance that we could possibly put toxins into our bodies, or use substances to obliterate ourselves, or stay in destructive interpersonal relationships. It is easy to begin to see just how out of whack our emotional guidance is when we look at Western Society. That horror and action movies are best sellers says something! That drug and alcohol use is so high says something! That approximately 30% of intimate relationships in this country experience violence says something! Our emotional guidance mechanism system has become largely useless because we simply do not know how to use it. Instead we have learnt to doubt ourselves, dismiss our deeply held body wisdom and personal truths, and base our decisions on rational thinking. We have forgotten who we are!
Over the next four blogs I will share some stories that demonstrate the process of coming into emotional awareness from childhood wounding and conditioned patterns. In these stories, I will focus on the emotions of anger, guilt, fear and sadness. Following those blogs, I will then begin to look at healing solutions for emotional wounds and how to reconnect with healthy adaptive emotions.
What has helped you to recover from having your emotions dismissed?