Imprisonment and liberation

In 1998, Dr Graeme McGrath, who had helped my trans friends, decided I was not trans. It is hard to know what to feel about that, twenty years after transition. He said I talked about strong feelings then adopted a mask of ironic detachment as a defence of my fragile sense of self. Even if he could provide the depth of psychotherapy I needed it might just threaten my defences. I was too messed up for psychotherapy to work.

I’ve been feeling “a bit” sad. And, I hate that “a bit”: it is minimising. Like I have “a little” poem I would like to read: little, slight, not really worth noticing, I crave your indulgence. Don’t do yourself down, I think, though Steve said, Spanish uses diminutives, eg “Conchita”, as terms of endearment.

-How are you?
-OK I suppose.

OK. Being below par is a bit frightening- no, terrifying. Less than OK is unbearable. So there is a depressing burden of alrightness, where unacknowledged pain builds up.

-Share your heart, if you feel safe to do so. (I do, with you.)

I don’t know. A feeling I am missing something, stuck in old patterns. If I am feeling hurt, I want to explain and articulate that, rather than simply being “hurt”. That distances me from the feeling. This feeling of being only just OK might be ameliorated by a sense of being loved, but I need constant reassurance of being loved and loveable. This makes me terribly vulnerable.

I hurt, feeling unloved. I don’t want to say that to other people, because I am an adult and do not want to appear vulnerable. In some way that causes me to be unable to admit it to myself. The imprisonment is that I cannot admit my misery to myself. The causal link locks me away.

My retreat to my living room is an attempt at emotional regulation. It calms my fears to bearable levels for me, and means that I don’t show unacceptable emotion- misery, fear, despair- to others. Out in the world, my feelings burst out, undammable, and so I feel too vulnerable, but even retreated I am still tortured by stress. My retreat is a waste of my gifts, but not the cause of my isolation. If I must conceal my feelings and never be open with anyone, then I am isolated from people even when I am among them.

Then, another’s love is threatening: it could make me emotionally incontinent, admit that I am not OK. I am not receptive to Love because I cannot show that part of myself.

I could not feel that delight fully without feeling my sadness. Delight alone would have been inauthentic and incomplete- it was delight and sadness commingled. My back tenses as I realise this, then releases as I write it down.

I want to let feelings flow naturally, I say, but I don’t want to pause to feel them. I want to hold them in myself and not show them. I can’t admit this is difficult. I am emotionally constipated, and fear incontinence, but if I feared my feelings less-

Could I learn to feel? I could cower, cry, or rage (or just gurn) as a way of processing the feelings through my body. I wish I had learned that as a toddler, in my family, before going to school.

I know that if I feel the feelings I will show them to others and that is Death. Possibly, you could help. You would tell me it was safe to feel and even express emotion. Or, the ghosts that I keep in my head, and use to talk things through, could tell me that. (I am in control of the ghosts in my head.) I want to be mothered. I come to you with my emotional problem, you help me find a way to deal with it.

First this made emotional sense to me, but having written it out it makes rational sense, and that is far more comfortable. I could never have explained it to my mother. She just would not understand. So it all became unconscious. I could not see the prison bars, or love, the file to cut them.

Imprisonment is feeling unsafe to feel fear, sadness or anger. I am convinced that if I feel them I will express them and then I will be judged, and suffer. Liberation is to let the feelings flow, feel them fully, accept them as part of me that needs my Love.

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