Breaking out of habitually intellectualizating my feelings - I'm looking for a how-to guide of some sort. Preferably not all about mindfulness.
I intellectualize my emotions to such an extent that I'm not even sure I have them, and I spend a lot of my time either trying to figure out what I should be feeling/how I should be reacting or criticizing myself for not feeling/reacting correctly (even though I never sorted out how to feel or react.) Are there self-help resources that specifically focus on this issue?
I've read a few AskMes on similar themes
, and the big take-aways for me were "mindfulness" and "don't feel bad about not feeling very strongly." The trouble is mindfulness exercises put me to sleep (this may be in part
a meds issue - we've yet to lick the fatigue thing - but I find them boring even when I'm not sleepy.) And it's all well and good to tell myself that I'm OK, but I'm nearly completely certain that I'm not OK. Besides, I'm really at the "not having feelings" level, even about things I should.
For example of what I mean by intellectualization: in therapy this week I said that I have a great deal of trouble (mind blanks out, can't make eye contact, can't speak up, flight-or-fight response, etc.) with unstructured interactions, conversations that have no point, and situations where I am expected to produce a response without advance notice. My therapist responded that she thought it was really that I have these problems when the question is of a personal nature. Like, I can "tell someone about my childhood" in the sense that I will, when asked, give a narrative of the events that happened between my birth and whatever age the person is likely to deem of interest. But I can't say that it was sad, or frightening, or happy - not even about specific incidents. The most I can say is that the question itself frustrates and annoys me, or that I'm upset when put on the spot with questions like that. All I can drum up is facts and generalized discomfort. I can't think of a "happy" moment from my childhood, for example, at all. Or a "sad" one, really. Of the linked AskMes, the "unfeeling robot
" one comes by far the closest to what I experience. The more thought-oriented feelings (annoyance, frustration) are about the only ones I can definitely say I feel
, and even there I wonder if it's more of a "I am annoyed because it makes sense to be annoyed" kind of experience. The only time I get carried away is when I'm crying hysterically about what a terrible person I am and how everything is hopeless. Sometimes (often) this is brought on by people trying to get me to identify how I feel about something.
I don't like being the focus of attention (except on stage with rehearsed material, where I'm fine,) and I don't like watching other people express emotions (weeping, kissing, arguing,) and I don't know how to accept compliments or criticism (I freeze up in exactly the same way regardless of which it is,) and I can't stand the question "how are you doing." I'm deeply embarrassed when I exhibit unconscious feeling behaviors (like wanting to hold a boyfriend's hand, in public or not.) This is probably the point where I say "and I still don't agree with my therapist about the PTSD diagnosis and my neglectful/difficult childhood, but I recognize she has a point." When I watched this episode of Star Trek
as a child, I couldn't figure out what was so bad about wanting to be just like Data. I also thought Lwaxana Troi was the worst villain (and most difficult character to watch) in the entire series.
I would like to be comfortable with my emotions and actually feel them and be aware of them and be emotionally competent overall, and I am none of those things right now. Googling around is finding me a ton of "use mindfulness" and stuff about Freud. I am especially interested in exercises
- like DBT, except for the part where what I experience is exactly opposite of having overwhelming emotions taking over your life. Books, websites, etc. are all awesome.
For those following the continuing saga of my life, the first week back to work went OK, other than the part where I had a meeting where I got a ton of compliments and "how are you" and "tell me how you are feeling" and froze up like I was facing a firing squad instead of helpful friendly people. And people wanted to hug, which makes me deeply uncomfortable in ways I can't begin to articulate. For those not following closely, my diagnoses are bipolar II, panic disorder, ADHD, OCD, and avoidant personality disorder. I see my therapist and psychiatrist and EAP counselor frequently. My therapist is a lovely woman but she stinks at finding me things like this - I'm often the one bringing books to her.