This is part 1 of a 2-part feature on emotional issues. These articles are meant to be a stepping stone to healing, but are by no means a cure-all. It is best to seek professional help to guide you on your journey.
Face it: We’ve all got stuff– emotional hangups, unresolved traumas, complicated grief. It’s all there. It starts accumulating when we’re young and it builds as we age. Some of us have a lot, others have a little, but we’ve all got it. And if we’re not careful, it will destroy our lives! *Cue thunder and lightening strike and evil diabolical laugh*. Okay, I admit that was dramatic, but so are you when you let your stuff cloud your thoughts and actions.
We’ve all met people who say things like, “I can’t help it. I’ve got issues, okay?” or, “Sure, I could use a therapist or three.” These comments are usually made in jest, but behind them is an awareness that 1.) they’ve got stuff and 2.) there is enough of it that it causes problems in their everyday lives. This realization is wonderful if it is followed by action (an attempt to examine and manage the stuff), but it usually isn’t. Most people stop at the realization, assuming that merely knowing somehow makes it okay, or at least less impactful.
Not true. Knowing is just that: knowing. It is the first step in “stuff recovery,” but it is powerless by itself. In fact, when unaided by action, knowing can actually make things worse because it encourages you to feel entitled to and justified in your skewed thoughts and actions. “Yea, I poured bleach all over his clothes! So what! I got anger issues!”
And that’s one way our stuff takes over our lives. It convinces us that we’re supposed to be thinking and behaving that way. Because we were hurt, shamed, abandoned, discarded, angered, mistreated, and/or lied to, we now have the irrevocable right to behave this way, and anything less would be uncivilized (said in a most proper British accent).
Well, you got me. You definitely do have the right to your thoughts and behaviors (as long as they don’t break the law), but you also have the right to happiness and healthy relationships. You have the right to break old patterns and to step into a new light. You’re not going to do that if you stay where you are. To experience something different (and better), you must do something different. Take it or leave it. No way around it.
If you’re the type that’s good (like, really good) at picking up on other people’s issues, but never has a word to say about your own, you’re probably unaware of your stuff. People who are unaware usually have an “other” focus. They see the problems in their lives through a lens of finger pointing and blame. “He did it.” “It’s his fault.” “He’s the crazy one (not me).”
People who are unaware often think quite highly of themselves but can’t figure out why everyone they get in a relationship with turns out to be so WRONG. If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. If I had to choose, I’d say there are far more people in the unaware group than the aware group. Then there are those floaters, the people who are aware of certain issues and unaware of others. Truth moment? I think I fit in there. I admit that for two reasons:
1.)I want be real and relatable. (Aint no Photoshopping and airbrushing up in here!) and
2.)It is important to note that there is always work to be done, even if you’ve already done a lot.
So, how can you go from not knowing to knowing? And if you’ve already done that, how can you move on? First, you’ve got to uncover what your issues are. Look back over your life (your childhood, relationship with your parents and other important figures, insecurities, romantic involvements etc.) and look for overarching themes. You shouldn’t be too concerned with actual events. It’s more about the themes those events represent. You may have many different themes, but the ones that are most prevalent should be your primary focus. Most likely, these are the ones interfering with your interactions and thinking.
In the next installment, we’ll discuss common themes and what they mean.