FEELINGS in the MOMENT
Children show their feelings in the moment. If they are happy, you see their smiles. If children are sad, they cry.
Young children and older ones who are abused often learn to hide their emotions. I know I did. In my abusive family-of-origin, I was often punished if I showed happiness. I learned to hide my emotions – sadness, joy, frustration, etc.
When trauma occurs, whether a single incident such as one rape or constant abuse (including sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and spiritual abuse), we often deny the emotions that occur at the time. In long-term abuse, the victims many times choose not to let the pain and hurt show. As adults who have been traumatized, it is not uncommon to minimize the impact of the trauma.
Abuse and trauma have a huge impact in our lives. Once a person begins to deal with the trauma – usually with the help of therapy – the victim starts to feel the deep and intense emotions. These feelings include pain, disappointment, despair, fear, and terror (especially if non-state torture was part of the victimization).
Survivors may notice where in their bodies they contain the tension. Anxiety, panic, depression, and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) symptoms lessen as individuals heal. They learn to cope with what symptoms remain. Awareness of feelings that are noticed is usually the ones that people sometimes label as “negative” feelings. As we deal with these feelings, life often seems quite dark.
Happiness, peace, and joy may diminish. They seem to not ever be present in our lives. A dark cloud hangs over our heads, hearts, and bodies. Sun and light is blocked.
Therapy and processing (without being re-traumatized) helps. Communicating and sharing with friends who understand and who can hold a healing space for us is quite therapeutic also.
We heal …. It takes as long as it takes.
Light starts to enter the picture of one’s life. Looking back at the past year or week, you realize you were happy during moments. The awareness of the feelings of peace or joy or happiness may not be available to us at first.
Maybe someone tells you that you looked satisfied and happy when you were doing something. That occurred to me. When I was in Germany dealing with memories and the effect of the abuse that had ended recently, dealing with the courts for divorce and custody purposes, homeschooling and working, feeling happiness was not a number one priority. I was finally facing my past and present abuse as well as attempting to protect my daughter, Megan.
I worked at a bookstore. One time a person I knew said I looked happy working there. The pain was still strong. Life was a mess! You think … I looked happy. Was I? It is almost as though you cannot relate fully to contentment or happiness anymore.
As you once did not let yourself face the reality of the pain and the trauma – especially if you repressed the memories and/or were in denial – you are now so enmeshed in the pain that you don’t even realize you are experiencing moments of happiness.
I was forced as a child to hide my feelings. I became more and more robot-like. Having a poker face is a skill victims often develop.
Besides the abuse and torture I suffered at the hands of my former husband, Tom M., he would often give me the opposite of what he knew I wanted. A simple example is that if I wanted a specific CD for a gift, he would give me the one he knew I did not like. His excuse was usually “I forgot.” It took me a long time to realize the manipulations of a most likely sociopath. It was apparent I needed to hide my wants, my desires, and my feelings with my husband.
Later though, the skill of hiding one’s emotions is not needed and is a hindrance. Human beings feel emotions. When I was in pastoral counseling with Fr. Marcantonio, he once brought light to the fact that I was feeling happiness as I played ball with Megan, my daughter.
It is important that we do not neglect any emotions – positive or negative. Real joy and peace is different from what is felt when you are in denial or in robot-like mode. Drinking alcohol or using drugs or indulging in too much food or other things to experience “fun” is not genuine. It is not even a placebo. Life looks as though fun and happiness is included; but, that fun and happiness is so very different from true fun or true happiness.
Looking back, I was happy most days performing the job at the bookstore. My boss was compassionate and professional. I received the partner of the quarter acknowledgement.
Too often, I discovered I was happy after life changed. I was not able to experience my happiness in the moment as much as individuals who were not trauma survivors, especially not survivors of long-term trauma and abuse.
It is now safe for me to experience joy in the moment. I am free from abusers. If you are not a survivor or a victim still, it may be hard to grasp the depth of these statements.
Imagine being a child and punished severely because you enjoyed a certain toy or even a book.
Imagine frequently being treated the opposite of what you wanted by your husband in a long-term marriage.
Envision turning off your emotions (consciously or not) in order not to be hurt more or in order not to give more pleasure to a sadistic perpetrator.
I am free from abusers. It is safe for me to feel all my emotions in the present moment. Oh, I can choose freely and knowingly to contain the feelings and deal with them later, if need be. Freedom. Safety. Such gifts!
Recently I was at a grand opening of a local bank/coffee shop. It was a single occurrence – free food, coffee, music, henna tattoos, etc. A selfie camera was in one area. I was alone. The bank person asked me if I wanted a photo of myself. Sure. I smiled and pressed the button on the screen. The selfie photo printed. Lo and behold, I looked happy!
The realization hit me that I was happy. It was fun receiving my henna tattoo. The band was entertaining. I was alone and happy.
How many times am I happy and not fully aware of it? Am I allowing myself to feel joy, peace or happiness in the moment? It is easy for me to be aware of frustration, sadness, disappointment, and grief in the moment.
It was a wake-up call for me. I am asleep at times when it relates to being aware of positive feelings in the moment of occurrence. I want to be more aware of my moments of joy – peace – happiness!
Gratitude lists help to notice the good things after the fact. I shall practice being aware in the present moment more often. Since that day I make it a point to stop and notice what I am feeling. If it is happiness or joy or peace, I just smile to myself. It is rewarding, enriching, and satisfying to be able to experience joy, happiness, and peace in the moment those feelings happen.
As I walk further along on my healing path, the more I notice Love and Light entering my world. Now the Love and Light is shining more fully on the actual moments of these wonderful emotions.