“I’m paranoid,” my friend told me with a smile on her face and sadness in her voice. “I’m probably already really mentally ill.” Since a more “grounded” and emotionally stable person is difficult to imagine, I was surprised. In recent months, many have been “taken out” by the alarm. But still it was difficult to believe that in her case we could talk about a serious illness.
It turned out that her husband was repeating these words to her due to the fact that the spouse continues to constantly wear a mask, regularly wipes her hands with a sanitizer and tries to avoid contact, refusing to go with him to visit numerous friends. He himself, like mutual friends, practically gave up on all the precautions. Not recognizing himself too careless, he hastened to brand her “paranoid”.
Pathologizing other people’s emotions
It often happens that for one reason or another, those around them pathologize the personal experience and experiences of another person, in a hurry to brand him as a “psycho”, “sick”, “pervert” or “prude”, “atheist” or, conversely, “Orthodox” and so on. … This usually leads to a devaluation of the feelings of the other.
The desire to instantly hang a label and thereby deprive a person of “legal grounds” for their own emotions is a common reaction for many people. This is usually followed by an attempt to “correct”, to persuade that the “correct” feelings in a given situation are those that the critic is experiencing or would experience in such a situation. This is how the ego’s defense mechanisms work.
Children’s experiences can also play an important role. Those whose emotions were devalued by their parents, already in adulthood has to go the way to respect and understanding of their own worth. But not everyone does it. The parental pattern of behavior can manifest itself in them and in relation to others.
Unfortunately, such an attitude of close, significant people cannot but influence a person. Therefore, the friend, accustomed to listening to the judgments of her husband, was ready to pathologize her own feelings herself, to take them lightly.
It is much more difficult – but more correct and with great respect for a loved one – to show curiosity, to try to understand why he perceives the situation in this way, even if in this he is very different from us.
The flaws of this approach
It is important to remember that emotions are not what we do. This is what arises in us. We have to deal with the fact of their appearance. And everyone has every right to experience everything that he feels in response to the situation, other people’s words, actions.
By acknowledging and realizing our feelings, we understand what exactly is wrong in the situation that caused them. Not trusting ourselves, joking or accepting the stigma of “abnormal”, we cannot influence the circumstances, change them for the better for ourselves.
How do you learn to trust your feelings? In-depth work with childhood experiences and other reasons for this self-perception can be done in sessions with a therapist.
But there are questions that you can try to answer yourself. Written practice, where answers are recorded on paper, preferably by hand, will help build confidence in your own feelings.
- Describe what happened – how you would tell an independent observer about it.
- Remember when the feeling that you are experiencing arose. What was happening at that moment in your body?
- Who said it was wrong to feel this way? Was it someone from the outside, or was it the voice of an inner critic speaking?
- Re-read what you wrote in step 2. Tell yourself that you actually felt it. “Legalize” these experiences for yourself. Perhaps the power of feelings has already subsided. The goal is not to call them again, but to recognize your right to them. Every time a voice inside you or someone from your environment convinces you that you are reacting “wrong”, “think up” that this is “abnormal,” reread what you wrote down.
- Ask yourself, what could this feeling tell you? If it is fear, what aspects of security are you worried about and where do you see the vulnerability? If anger, where exactly were your boundaries or interests violated? Without trying to define your emotions as “good” or “bad,” “normal” or “abnormal,” try to understand what they are telling you.
- Reread everything you wrote in a day or two, when you calm down. Perhaps a fresh look will provide more understanding. Based on self-confidence, try to find ways out of the problem situation.
- Find those around you who are willing to listen to you without judgment, show respect and empathy. Rely on these people when others question your “reality.”
Working to start trusting your feelings is not at all about stirring up conflicts and arguments with others. Its value is to understand yourself deeper and, focusing on your emotions like a compass needle, try to find a direction to improve your life.
As a result, the friend became convinced that prudence seemed more justified to her than her husband’s carelessness. Taking sensible security measures, she felt calmer.
Moreover, she conducted a “test” of her strategy, focusing on logic and statistics. Having regained confidence in her own feelings, she did not begin to prove to her husband that it was he who was “abnormal”. Perhaps the more we learn to trust ourselves, the more we recognize the right of others to their own feelings.