Recently Sloane (not her real name) arrived late. Before our session she had an appointment with a realtor, who got a flat tire and was over thirty minutes late - which in turn made her late for the session.
“I’m so, so sorry,” she apologized. “I wouldn’t blame you if you were upset. It’s so rude and disrespectful for me to be this late.”
I wondered if she was upset at the realtor who kept her waiting.
“Not at all,” she shrugged. “It’s not his fault that he had a flat tire. I don’t have the right to be upset. I can’t be mad if there’s a good reason for what happened.”
Although she expected me to be upset that she was late, also for circumstances outside her control, she could not give herself the same right.
“You know what really upsets me? The bagel I ate for breakfast. Disgusting!” She went on to criticize her weight, her lack of control and various other perceived deficiencies.
Sloane did not give herself the right to be angry that she’d been kept waiting, whatever the circumstances, and instead expressed that anger and frustration by finding fault with her body and life choices.
She denied her anger, and then took it out on herself.
Feelings are not rational. Emotions are outside the purview of logic. If you deny and dismiss your feelings towards other people, it’s likely that you will turn on yourself in one of the following ways:
· Eating to express the feelings via the action of eating (ie, expressing anger by eating something crunchy like chips, an apple, pretzels).
· Using food for comfort (ie, eating ice cream, cookies, soothing food).
· Redirecting your feelings by attacking your body (as in the example above).
Here are some other ways people dismiss or deny their feelings:
· “I’m mad at the situation, not the person”
· “I shouldn’t feel that way. “
· “It’s wrong to be angry” or “It’s not nice to be upset”
· “I don’t want to be an angry (depressed/anxious/) person.”
· “So what if that bothered me? Other people have it a lot worse!”
Do any of these statements sound familiar? If so, give yourself the right to feel what you feel.
Feelings aren’t a reflection of your character or personality. They are reactions to situations.