Emotional Self Protection = Safe healthy ways to express our emotions to ourselves and others; emotional connections with ourselves and others

Series: Care Protection Expression Part 3 – Emotional

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

My goal with this series is to:

Show you learning paths that empower you to feel secure and safe in who you are so that you can go out in the world, be your authentic selves, and achieve your goals without feeling the need to hide or be held back by your past experiences.

Writing This Series Scares Me – But I’m Still Doing It

Emotions scare me. They feel overwhelming most of the time. Except for the last 10 years, I was emotionally and physically numb (walled in) – disconnected from body sensations and sensory information that would help me identify and cope with feelings. Numbness felt safe. Emotions and any kind of sensation created vulnerabilites I couldn’t afford – not with my lifestyle back then. I was 27; living on my own; working at a good job; and back in counseling for anxiety/depression/anorexia – but not trauma.

Then the wall crumbled unexpectedly. Counseling can do that sometimes, and neither my counselor or I were prepared for the flood that came next. I honestly thought my mind had finally cracked. I going straight to insanity and death. The sensory information was that overwhelming.

Can you imagine 27 years worth of emotions and trauma suddenly spilling into one’s mind and body without pause? Neither could I until it happened.

It was during these months before and during my group therapy sessions at the partial inpatient program that I learned how interconnected my mind, body, and spirit truly are. More, they taught me how enmeshed with others my concept of self was – to the point where I couldn’t separate who I was/what I felt from other people in my life.

And that control is an illusion. So is separation between parts of the self – at least for me. I survived by learning, embracing, and customizing Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) techniques and concepts to suit my needs.

Emotional Protection Starts with Self Awareness
(left) My interpretation of DBT concepts. (right) Marsha Linehan’s 4 Modules of DBT

I don’t know if this is true for you too, but controlling, separating, denying, and rejecting my emotions got me into that mess. Doing the opposite saved my sanity and helped me learn to love, accept, value, have patience with, and be kind to all parts of my self.

The struggle to cope with these emotions and sensations still exists. Not until the past two or three years did I finally learn how to reconnect my emotions with my body and spirit wtihout triggering pain, panic attacks, flashbacks, nightmares, etc. Don’t get me wrong, they still occur – intense and paintful – but not as often. And not for extended periods of time like before.

Emotional Self Protection Strategy

Empathic Struggles with Emotion

In the first paragraph, I mentioned being emotionally and physically numb. Here the main topic is about being an empath. Let me explain:

  • For all of my life I could feel (and sometimes experience) emotions. As a child, I expressed emotions and was punished or hurt each time.
  • Intellectually, I could identify, mimic, and understand emotions.
  • Training taught me how to express emotions as body language and facial expressions to make others believe I actually felt them.
  • Eventually, I stopped expressing or displaying emotions for others to see because pain is an excellent teacher.

But those emotions I felt and learned to identify? They weren’t mine. They belonged to the people around me.

When I tried to identify and experience my own feelings – I came up empty. That is until the wall crumbled when I turned 27. Then I couldn’t stop experiencing my own feelings. Nor could I separate what was mine from what belonged to other people. Or stop my body from losing control of its natural functions – like vomiting, elimination, and cramping – when feeling overwhelmed.

Since then, it’s been a struggle to learn how to separate my emotions from others and keep myself from absorbing/holding on to others emotions too.

Emotions Affect Our Senses

Back then, I didn’t know I was an empath, let alone that empaths were real and existed outside of fantasy fiction novels. It wasn’t until I moved across the country that I found a teacher and mentor whose guidance and learning style resonated with my questions. I was new to the city and found a spiritual learning bookstore that offered workshops and events with empaths, spiritual mentors, astrologers, etc.

That’s how I met Dave Markowitz, author of Self Care for the Self Aware and Empathipedia: Healing for Empaths and Highly Sensitive People. I attended one of his group workshops about empathic healing and learned a different way of thinking about emotions that allowed me to experience my own emotions while staying safe from other people’s emotions. He taught me that shields don’t always work because they keep the positive and negative emotions away. Then demonstrated alternatives that worked.

Unfortunately, I was not yet ready to keep learning from Dave back then. Nor did I have the money to pay for a lot of healing sessions or lessons not covered by medical insurance. So I continued on my spiritual journey – meeting with other practitioners about how they used their gifts and exploring different paths – until early this year when I had the time and money to pay for Dave’s books and individual healing sessions.

I read some of his books before scheduling the individual healing sessions. That gave me a good idea of what to expect during our phone call. The first call was intense for me. Dave helped me let go of so much grief (mine, my mother’s, and collective) that was stored inside and struggling to get out. Before the call, I spent so much time sad, feeling like a beast of burden struggling to move one step at a time, and crying all the time. After the call, I felt so much lighter, at peace, and joyful about myself, life in general, and my ability to cope with current challenges.

Integrated Self equals Protected self. Spirit, Mind, Body
Separation blocked out pain, but also everything else

In the second call, I experienced energy healing from the Source or Spirit. Dave always refers to himself as a channel or conduit for healing energy and not a healer. He uses intuition from the Source to identify what is needed each session and follows instructions to help his clients heal.

For me, that meant channeling healing energy into all parts of me to facilitate healing on many levels. At the end of the session, I felt tired, at peace, and tingly throughout my body. The next day, I started my menstrual cycle (without cramps and with less pain than normal) after not having it for over 3 months.

But what I did not expect and am so grateful for are the additional answers Dave provided as I asked questions about being an empath, identifying gifts, and my fears about how I experienced emotions (mine and others) in our session. These days, I feel more confident and less distracted when I leave my apartment to interact with others. I feel more able to protect myself from the bombardment of emotions coming my way and the negativity people sometimes direct at me without hurting myself and others too.

How do You Experience Emotions

Emotional Self Protection Coping Strategies

Emotional self protection is both similar and different than physical self protection. You can use grounding objects, but they work best in combination with routines and rituals you can take with you. Education helps too. Self-Help books, psychology books, fiction/non-fiction, movies, audio – however you prefer to learn and wherever you like to learn – it all empowers us to make our own Self Care and Protection choices.

Routines & Rituals equal Copng Strategies
Here are some strategies I find most effective and easy to use in difficult situations

Pulling It All Together

How many times were you punished, embarrassed, or teased for talking about your emotions? How often were you told that your feelings weren’t real? How often did you feel guilt or shame for feeling something different/more/stronger than the others around you?

My answer to those questions: ALL THE TIME.

Emotions are often ignored, rejected, and disregarded in favor of logic, intellect, and rationalizing in modern culture. Emotions are considered vulernabilities and weaknesses we can’t afford to have if we want to thrive in the world. Our parents, teachers, and caregivers weren’t hurting us on purpose by teaching these lessons – they were trying to help and protect us by sharing what they learned.

That means we are not taught how to safely identify, ackowledge, express, valdiate, accept, cope with, or discharge our emotions as we grow from childhood to adulthood. Especially when those emotions are strong and overwhelm us. Curiosity, self-study, and psychology classes in college combined with mental health counseling taught me what I know about emotions.

They taught me how to “talk about” my emotions as one way of expressing them. But that’s not the only way…

How do you express emotions?

And I point this out because people often tell me “I hate talking about my feelings” or “I’m uncomfortable talking about my emotions” or something similar. That is part nurutre as I dicsussed above and also part nature. Imogen Lamport of Inside Out Style blog discusses this in her new wesbite called 16 Style Types – where she and other experts discuss the “psychology of style” and how personality types directly influence self expression.

Can you understand how self-protection is part of self care and integrates all parts of our selves? Our senses interconnect mind/emotion with spirit/faith and body/physical sensations.

I hope maybe it’s starting to make sense and thank you for following me on this investigation into the different connections. Next week, I’ll share thoughts about ways my alters and I protect and care for our spiritual self too.

Thanks for reading

Alter Post: AlterXpressions – the host reveals herself

Hello Guests,
My name is TJ.  I guess you can call me the host of our expansive system.  But it’s not quite accurate because none of us is ever the host full time.  Not even in the past before anyone knew about alter personalities and Dissociative Identity Disorder.  I’ve always heard voices and made intuitive leaps that defy logic.  And I’ve always been different.
As a child, different meant being a target for bullies and racism.  It meant being too smart for my own good and labeled a nerd with no personality among my peers.  Within my family, being different got me excluded from group activities and punished or made fun of for being too slow, emotional, mouthy, disobedient, or ditsy.  Never for being smart or capable.
I had friends for a little while, but then they slowly disappeared.  As they left, I retreated to my amazing inner world.  When that didn’t work, books were my escape.  Crafts helped too unless Mom found out and decided to interfere.  Then crafts became a punishment.  Either I was with the cult, alone at home, or somewhere supervised by my mother.
The memories are fuzzy, but I do remember the following:
  • Climbing up high to hide from “monsters”
  • Crawling under sofas, beds, etc. to “escape” from something
  • Hiding in cabinets, boxes, closets, etc. and getting punished because no one could find me; then having my hiding places blocked
  • Lots of pain and fuzziness from “medication”
  • Lots of adults and secret games
  • Shame and despair and suicidal thoughts
  • Middle school hell because I got stuck with the “popular” kids
  • High school drama and worse because of “popular” kids, death of family members, being forced to go to prom, and graduation
  • Suddenly losing time  and being abusive and angry all the time without understanding what was happening or why
  • Hating my body and wanting to be invisible – aka negative body image and sense of self
  • Being a social outcast for most of my life because I never learned “proper” social skills
Who am I now?
I am one of many in our system and the face most people in the outside world meet or interact with.  I have a stable job in Corporate America, friends, and loved ones.  Lucky for me, I’ve had the same job for more than 10 years and earned the respect of my co-workers.  They accept my panic attacks and PTSD as part of working with me and value my skills.
The job provided me with mentors and an alternative family that taught me how to be a real person.  From those people, I learned how to be respectful, accepting, honest, and trustworthy.  They taught, through modeling and personal experience, how to interact with people and be social in positive, safe ways.  Without this job, I’d never have gotten away.
My favorite hobbies are: reading, cooking, writing, walking, and sleeping.
When not triggered, I also enjoy knitting, sewing, discovering my personal style, working with my hands, and learning about a variety of topics.
I am interested in alternative medicine, nutrition, personal finance, mental health, intuition, spirituality, wellness, and living a conscious, authentic lifestyle.  I am an empath, a highly sensitive person interested in learning more about angels, spirit guides, guardians, and energy healing.  I want to find ways to work with my alters and integrate so that we all can enjoy life in the outside world.
Personal relationships are difficult because most people can only accept part who I am and reject everything else.  Friendships take time, work, patience, and trust.  Do I want an intimate relationship someday?  Yes.  Will that happen in this life time?  I don’t know.  Do I have hope?  Yes.
Finding a man (because I am heterosexual) who can accept all parts of me sometimes feels like searching for a unicorn.  I mean who could ever accept, not only the darkness inside me, but also that I am a multiple?  Yet I still have hope and am open to all of the possibilities my future holds.  So maybe one day…
Thanks for reading.

Life Changing Moments: Sleep, Food, Shower, Meditation ;) – an Empath’s POV

Survival Mode

All parts of me still feel drained and off center right now.  Some unexpected challenges and expenditures for my new apartment combined with scheduling appointments around work and the owner’s schedule made this week rather interesting.

Home

general spaces:
I love the energy in this building.  In spite of the old windows that stick and have a hard time opening, quirky sliding doors, and electrical outlets that are not always grounded or placed in ideal locations, this studio apartment really does feel like home.  My neighbors are friendly, respectful, and quiet.  The owner and her management team are respectful, responsible, and responsive too.

Unexpected challenges

  • Changing home decorating and budget plans
  • Multiple panic attacks because I am changing my budget plans
  • Learning more about myself and my unique (but unacknowledged) skills
  • Understanding why strategies that worked before are not so helpful this time

The Coping Strategies for Self Care

After a session with my intern Chinese medicine/acupuncture practitioner this week, I decided to try and learn more about empaths and empathy.  She physically felt some of the problems I was experiencing during treatment and shared that information with me with calm acceptance.

It was the first time anyone had ever acknowledged and used extrasensory skills in a professional setting around me.  And it brought me back to face some facts about myself. I am an empath too.  What kind, I’m not sure exactly.  I don’t always or often experience physical symptoms of other people in my own body.  But I can and do experience energy changes, emotions, and other information about people and living beings through my senses.

All of this led me to a psychiatrist and self-proclaimed empath named Judith Orloff.  I’ve been listening to her book called The Empath’s Survival Guide and learning about my extrasensory skills.  This includes coping strategies and skills like – sleep, meditation, water, and food.

While I don’t subscribe to everything she’s talked about so far, her unique perspective helped me understand why these four strategies are always part of my “Back to Basics” plan.

Sleep
Before reading this book, I knew that sleep was essential – my body would knock me out if I overextended myself – but didn’t understand how or why it was so much more effective than taking a pill or using an energy drink to recalibrate like everyone else.  Now I understand that sleep is a time for reconnecting with all parts of myself and allowing those parts to relax and replenish energy levels while also healing themselves.

Food
Anorexia and almost a decade of severe food allergies/sensitivities taught me to be mindful of what I eat, how much I consume, and when I eat (frequency of meals) to stay healthy, energetic, and balanced.  While following these personal guidelines helped me maintain a healthy weight and feel strong, they sometimes frustrated me too.  After reading about how physical sensitivities are part of being an empath and why, I am practicing more self-acceptance and less shame about my unique eating habits & dietary needs.

Showers – aka baths, water, etc. (swimming not so much)
I love water.  I love being near water, smelling water in the air, drinking water, taking warm/hot baths & showers, and surrounding myself with the colors of water.  Swimming – not so much.  Being in the ocean, a river, or a pool – not so much.  Being on the water in a boat – absolutely fine.  But I’m also ashamed of this love for water.  The why is still unclear, but it exists.  The book offers an explanation about why I (as an empath) love water so much.  I am skeptical and keeping an open mind.  Some experimentation is required.  But I always feel amazing after a warm/hot shower with my favorite soap.

Meditation
I’ve practiced different types of meditation since I was 6 years old.  Maybe even earlier than that as the martial arts some of my relatives practiced fascinated me.  Our relationship has been rocky at times, but meditation never failed me when I needed help.  Now meditation helps me sleep better and wake up grounded in the present instead of stuck between the present and the past.  On public transportation or in crowds, a simple mediation practice helps me breathe easier and cope until I am alone again.  Throughout the day, meditation sometimes replaces my need for a nap or helps me get some physical activity (mindful walk or mindful washing dishes).

Conclusion

The next steps on my healing journey are to explore, grow with, and accept my empathic abilities and how they are influencing my current recovery practices.  I don’t know a lot about being an empath or an intuitive; what skills one might have; how to use  the skills without draining myself; or how to protect myself from sensory overload.  Before now, I couldn’t even acknowledge that my mind, spirit, body self even had these skills.

My parts and I chalked it up to having great instincts.  And suffered the mood swings, outbursts, and energy drains from certain people in shamed silence.

Now, it’s time to step out of the closet and learn.  Knowledge is power.  Power offers protection, insight, and opportunities.  Plus, maybe this will help us all integrate and align ourselves better.  And we can move forward with our goal for a second career sooner instead of later.

Thanks for reading.