Feelings. Complicated, messy things that I don’t usually know what to do with. Mostly because I was told to ignore mine. And because I’m highly empathetic (thanks to asperger’s, trauma, and being an INFJ on the Meyers Briggs), I don’t always get to control how much I feel. Or whether or not to choose to feel someone else’s emotions.
I’m going to attempt to explain why this is so difficult. I’ve been avoiding bringing this up but I think it’s time. It’s time we talk about Dr. James Dobson, Focus on the Family, and the lovely book Preparing for Adolescence–otherwise known as my mom’s version of sex education for myself and my sisters.
- Dr. James Dobson wrote and said a lot of problematic things.
- The things he said about homosexuality were particularly damaging to many people.
- What was damaging for me was what he wrote in Preparing for Adolescence about emotions. Specifically that you can’t trust your emotions or yourself. ever. You can only trust God.
- For someone who has a degree in child development, he sure as hell didn’t promote healthy emotional development in children, and churches and parents continue teaching their kids not to trust themselves or acknowledge their emotions in healthy ways.
- The things I read on emotions when I was 12 affect me still today. I thought about getting a copy of the book so I could take it apart. But honestly, I can’t handle it.
Let me take a few moments to deconstruct this:
It’s ok to feel all the things. In fact, it is more than ok. No one gets to tell you how to feel anymore. Or that you shouldn’t feel.
And for those highly empathetic out there, I know it’s hard to process your own emotions…let alone everyone else’s. Sometimes that’s impossible to not feel the emotions of those around you. So just remember that you’re not responsible for others’ emotions, and you don’t have to try to fix it. There have to be boundaries.
There’s no shame in setting boundaries for self-care or honestly emoting.
SPEAKING OF HONESTLY EMOTING, I wrote a poem about being in love, about no one person in particular, but just what I imagine it feels like from the few times I let myself feel stuff. Allowing myself to write it and even process what that feels like is kind of a major accomplishment:
You Made Me Stop
The first time I met you, I couldn’t breathe.
If that sounds cheesy, it probably is
I’m not used to allowing myself to feel this way. about anyone.
It was always forbidden so I had to keep
My attractions hidden.
Because I was trying to appease an angry God
Who wouldn’t let me feel anything that was good.
Or happy. Or gay.
But then I saw you and I couldn’t breathe.
I couldn’t breathe because I was too busy watching you.
The way you smiled, the way you laughed, the way you furrowed your brow
The way you looked at me when you thought I wouldn’t notice
Except I did because I was watching you too,
Wondering if it was ok to feel this way
Berating myself for feeling this way at all.
I’m so used to ignoring these feelings and yet
How you made me feel made me stop.
And I couldn’t ignore you.
You make me stop and take you all in.
You made me stop.
And I’ll never be the same again.