From the youngest age I compartmentalized everything. I can actually remember when I really got determined to not feel anything. It was during one of my fathers beatings as he did what was typical and screamed at me about how he would keep beating me until I stopped crying about the pain. There came a time when I did stop crying. I was determined, dead set on, and using all that was in me to not feel anything no matter how bad the beatings got. It was a switch in my head but I visualize it more as a shelving system with billions of boxes neatly organized and labeled accordingly.
A point before I was ten years old actually came that I was intent on not giving him the satisfaction of my pain. I ate the pain with a knife and fork and a smile on my face. He would beat me until I was covered with welts so bad I couldn’t move and I wouldn’t flinch anymore. Did all of the beatings, burns, shoves hurt? Yes… I think in some recess of my mind they really did physically, emotionally, and mentally hurt. It was destructive but I didn’t feel it anymore!
What a lot of people don’t understand is that sooner or later all of those boxes need and I mean they NEED to be dealt with. They need to be opened, explored, expressed, and thrown away. Every person only has so much mental room for boxes. They were taking away from my ability to have memories of good things. (I honest to goodness have only have a handful of positive memories from my childhood after the abuse really started before I was six) <— This is embarrassing because I still have relationships with a lot of people from my childhood and they remember doing things with me that I WISH I could recall. The memories were thrown away to protect my self and compartmentalize what I couldn’t emotionally handle.
As I pieced together some assemblance of a life after my abusive ex and I split the boxes were teetering and ready to come crashing in on me. It was time to start opening these boxes of miserable shit and work on getting right with myself. What does this mean for a person who put every emotion on hold at a very early age? This meant I was an adult with 5 children who had no idea how to have feelings. Yes, I know this sounds silly because aren’t feelings fundamental? They are for most people who grow up in a home without all of the abuse! I am different! I experienced so much abuse and trauma that not having feelings was the way to live.
I can honestly say: in order to open these boxes that I had so tightly held in lock down in my brain for year after year I would need to learn what feelings were. All I knew going into my 40’s was anger and sadness. And both terrified me. Around this time I saw an emotion wheel:
When I saw this emotional wheel I was overwhelmed! Are there really so many different types of feelings? Holy hell, this got me excited and I started to use the wheel in my every day life. I started to stop myself when I was feeling overwhelming emotions and look at my wheel to see if I could identify what my feelings actually were instead of the standard anger or sadness. This process took me a long time to really get a hang of but it was wonderful and therapeutic. It helped me grow mentally and emotionally more than I could express. Now I am working on opening my boxes slowly and steadily. This is a process and could take me a lifetime.
The process has begun and is sickeningly emotional and triggers so many different things. It has been a hard road.