Learning names for feelings - like fish learning what water is

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voicelessagony2

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Learning names for feelings - like fish learning what water is
« on: December 12, 2014, 03:55:00 PM »
That's exactly where I'm at right now.

The difference between those of us with early childhood trauma, and those whose traumas happened at a point in time that they can remember, is this: feelings of "anxiety" and "depression" (those are mine, others may have different predominant feelings) are internalized and accepted as just part of life, like breathing and walking. I don't remember learning how to walk; I also don't remember the first trauma. I remember intense emotional pain and fear, as far back as my memory goes. I remember nothing about my father, but my mother's irritation and rage made my world a landmine full of terrifying booby traps that I could never begin to understand or avoid.

I'm sure there were moments of love, there surely must have been, even if I believed the worst case scenario in which she put on a show for others. But I don't believe that; I think she did love her baby, deeply, but I now believe she was also living in a state of unresolved trauma.

So here I am, nearly half a century later, learning names for feelings. I'm sure I added the word "anxiety" to my vocabulary many years ago, but learning the definition of a word does not always make an instant connection to a feeling being experienced first hand, especially when there are multiple feelings mixed into a soup of misery. 

So throughout my life, I have struggled and failed to explain to doctors, therapists, and others, that something is wrong, but without having made that connection I had no labels for my feelings, no vocabulary to express myself in words that others could relate to. To make matters worse, there were always plenty of seemingly isolated recent traumas, that provided an easy and obvious explanation for them.

I just finished Bessel van der Kirk's "The Body Keeps the Score" and WOW. I am overwhelmed with gratitude that somebody, somewhere understands and is dedicated to finding solutions for this very problem. If you have not read that book yet, please, don't wait another minute. Put aside whatever you are reading or working on, and read this.


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marycontrary

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Re: Learning names for feelings - like fish learning what water is
« Reply #1 on: December 12, 2014, 08:22:29 PM »
You know, about 3 years ago, when I started this process, I went through and looked up all the precise definitions for emotions and it blew my mind. Like how depression and anger are both reactions to loss, only depression in turned inward, and anger, out. Both they are the same stem reaction.

Please keep at this, it will pay rich, rich dividends.

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alovelycreature

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Re: Learning names for feelings - like fish learning what water is
« Reply #2 on: December 13, 2014, 12:42:53 AM »
Having the words to express yourself totally changes your world! Do you feel like you still just walk around depressed and anxious all the time? Or does it come up during certain situations?

I remember when I learned what dissociation was and was totally shocked that there was a word for my experience. I actually just started The Body Keeps Score! Glad you liked it. I'm liking it so far.

I think they do this exercise during tapping, but have you tried that give your emotion a shape, color, etc? When I have trouble identifying something I try to do that and try to see where in my body it is. Sometimes when I think I'm angry, I'm actually scared. It's like a strange new world!

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zazu

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Re: Learning names for feelings - like fish learning what water is
« Reply #3 on: December 13, 2014, 09:44:32 AM »
Hi, VA (sorry, I can't bring myself to abbreviate your name to "voiceless" or "agony"!)
I'm glad you are beginning to be able to put names to your feelings. Knowing the name is  perhaps the first step to handling it. There are lists of "feeling words" online that may be helpful. One of my kids has alexathymia related to Asperger's syndrome, so we talk about feeling words quite a bit.

This is something that's been on my mind recently. I'm usually pretty good about identifying emotions, but there is one thing that happens to me that is apparently unusual. I came up with what I thought was an appropriate word to describe it, but when talking about it to others, no one seems to know what I mean.  :sadno: I'll describe it here, because it may be part of C-PTSD.

I call it feeling haunted, because that seemed an obvious choice. Most people have heard of a haunting melody, or of being haunted by memories, and the feeling seemed to be in the same vein, but when I tried to describe feeling haunted, even my therapists drew a blank. This is the most evocative way to explain it -

Does anyone remember soap operas, back in the day? My mom and sister used to watch them a lot back in the 70's and 80's. Well, on American soap operas (I don't know about other countries) when a character was remembering a sorrowful and/or dramatic moment, the scene would go misty, the remembered voices would echo and there would usually be some sad, yet slightly ominous music in the background. The type of feeling evoked by such scenes is what I call feeling "haunted".

Well, back in my teens through mid 20's, I would feel this way quite often - sometimes for days. If I had been lost in memories of a tragic love or something, this would have made more sense, but it would come out of nowhere, seemingly be attached to nothing, and stick around making me uneasy. Had my life been a soap opera, that sad and ominous music would have been following me around everywhere - walking to work, doing laundry...

I mistakenly thought most people had a similar experience, that it was an ordinary emotion like "happy or "sad", but apparently not. After having a round of successful therapy in my mid-20's, I stopped getting this feeling in daily life, but it's still attached to certain memories from the pre-therapy years.  Recently, while working through some old memories, I realized that this haunting feeling may have come from an unconscious awareness of something that my conscious mind couldn't accept or understand at the time. A sense of something being wrong, but not knowing what it was.

I thought I'd mention it here, because it really does seem like it could be C-PTSD related.

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voicelessagony2

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Re: Learning names for feelings - like fish learning what water is
« Reply #4 on: December 14, 2014, 10:34:17 PM »
lovely, to answer your question, I feel depression and anxiety every waking moment. It's relentless. I just started taking zoloft, and it has started to help a tiny bit. I just saw the dr. again Friday, and he increased my dose, so we will see if that helps. I love the idea of using shapes and colors for emotions, I am going to try that!

zazu, I think I might know that feeling. I don't know your trauma history, so I can't say for sure, but I get that feeling when I hear certain songs - not necessarily sad songs, but when I am in one of my obsessive relationships, whatever song I hear a lot when I'm with that person, if I hear it after it has crashed and burned, I can't handle hearing the song any more. It overwhelms me with this feeling sort of like you describe, I would almost call it a longing or yearning, but much much worse, because it is so intense it makes me want to die. I read somewhere that it's abandonment, and I think there might be some truth to that. I was abandoned at age 3 by my father, he left and I never saw him or heard from him again. I don't remember him at all, and never consciously thought about it until I started having all these emotional problems and "train wrecks." Is it possible this might be similar for you?

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zazu

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Re: Learning names for feelings - like fish learning what water is
« Reply #5 on: December 15, 2014, 07:41:21 AM »
zazu, I think I might know that feeling. I don't know your trauma history, so I can't say for sure, but I get that feeling when I hear certain songs - not necessarily sad songs, but when I am in one of my obsessive relationships, whatever song I hear a lot when I'm with that person, if I hear it after it has crashed and burned, I can't handle hearing the song any more. It overwhelms me with this feeling sort of like you describe, I would almost call it a longing or yearning, but much much worse, because it is so intense it makes me want to die. I read somewhere that it's abandonment, and I think there might be some truth to that. I was abandoned at age 3 by my father, he left and I never saw him or heard from him again. I don't remember him at all, and never consciously thought about it until I started having all these emotional problems and "train wrecks." Is it possible this might be similar for you?

Yeah, I could see how certain music could trigger intense feelings of abandonment. I guess the trick is knowing what "abandonment" feels like - probably a lot of us just feel a severe something, a distressing feeling, but have a hard time putting a name to it. And music creates such strong emotional responses. Sometimes certain songs will make me cry, but not because it's a sad song, or sentimental, but something - perhaps it's some form of grief?

I suspect that my "haunted" feeling is related to grief of some type - it feels almost like someone has died, that I've lost someone beloved - but who it is, I don't know. That makes it a little spooky. As if I should know who I grieve for, but that information is lost.

The most confusing feeling I've ever had was after watching my eldest child's graduation from military boot camp. I was overwhelmed by feelings I could not name and spent the whole 5 hour drive home trying to figure out what they were. Of course I was proud, but also absolutely distraught. But judging by the faces of some of the other parents there, perhaps they were feeling somewhat the same. I just don't know the name for it.

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voicelessagony2

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Re: Learning names for feelings - like fish learning what water is
« Reply #6 on: December 16, 2014, 07:20:34 PM »
Well grief makes a lot of sense, and depending on how early in life you started having trauma, that could explain why it's so mysterious to you, and why there seem to be triggers everywhere. And of course it's more than just music. I don't have kids, but I also get strange emotions when I watch these videos that go around with super talented child prodigy musicians... not just the music, but there is a feeling of loss and grief that I never had the opportunity or encouragement that they obviously had to have in order to even find out that they are talented. Lost potential, I guess.

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Brandy

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Re: Learning names for feelings - like fish learning what water is
« Reply #7 on: December 24, 2014, 03:12:04 PM »
My therapist helped a lot with basic feelings. I remember one moment in particular when I said I had a bad feeling, she asked where I was feeling it, I put my hand on my chest and she told me it was "fear". ... That explained a LOT.

I call it feeling haunted, because that seemed an obvious choice. Most people have heard of a haunting melody, or of being haunted by memories, and the feeling seemed to be in the same vein, but when I tried to describe feeling haunted, even my therapists drew a blank. This is the most evocative way to explain it -

Does anyone remember soap operas, back in the day? My mom and sister used to watch them a lot back in the 70's and 80's. Well, on American soap operas (I don't know about other countries) when a character was remembering a sorrowful and/or dramatic moment, the scene would go misty, the remembered voices would echo and there would usually be some sad, yet slightly ominous music in the background. The type of feeling evoked by such scenes is what I call feeling "haunted".

Well, back in my teens through mid 20's, I would feel this way quite often - sometimes for days. If I had been lost in memories of a tragic love or something, this would have made more sense, but it would come out of nowhere, seemingly be attached to nothing, and stick around making me uneasy. Had my life been a soap opera, that sad and ominous music would have been following me around everywhere - walking to work, doing laundry...

I think I do know what you mean, maybe. Though I refer to this feeling as "longing" and though I don't know exactly what I am longing for, it can last for days. Weeks. It is almost certainly grief-related, but like many feelings it is hard to nail down and define.

It's often triggered by music. I'm really glad you posted this because I've been thinking about this and googling it lately. I know I know I know it's about something that is missing, but WHAT. How do I find out what is missing? What is the source?

It certainly doesn't help that people seem to have no blessed idea, so trying to talk about it is just like having the depression conversation with someone who feels sad sometimes but then they just watch a sunrise and everything is great again. No no, that's not what I mean at all.

You are lucky you "outgrew" it. I'm still missing whatever it is. It bugs me! I want to know what I'm missing.

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voicelessagony2

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Re: Learning names for feelings - like fish learning what water is
« Reply #8 on: December 28, 2014, 08:37:00 PM »
My therapist helped a lot with basic feelings. I remember one moment in particular when I said I had a bad feeling, she asked where I was feeling it, I put my hand on my chest and she told me it was "fear". ... That explained a LOT.

Now I'm curious... is this more or less universal, the locations in our bodies where certain feelings show up? It surprises me a little that your therapist was able to help you define the feeling based on where you felt it, in your chest. Does everyone feel fear in their chest?

Hmmmmmmm........ ???


It's often triggered by music. I'm really glad you posted this because I've been thinking about this and googling it lately. I know I know I know it's about something that is missing, but WHAT. How do I find out what is missing? What is the source?

I have discovered that answers are available, but asking the right questions is REALLY f-ing hard! The right question often brings answers with it. I've been trying to ask the right questions all my life, but when you don't know what you don't know, it's a crap shoot.

I'm still missing whatever it is. It bugs me! I want to know what I'm missing.

Keep searching! Keep asking those questions, eventually you will ask the right ones!  :hug: