Blank Page

Two friends who I went to college with showed up at my door unexpectedly.  I had kept in contact with them since leaving college but hadn’t seen them for a couple of years.  I was surprised and excited to see them once again. They spent a couple of days with me and as they were leaving they asked me a couple of questions.  Were you surprised to see us? Were you happy that we came?  I was taken aback by what they asked and I told them I was very surprised when they showed up unexpectedly and was also very glad they did so.  I have pondered this over the years.

Tonight my t and I were discussing friendships once again.  She asked me what do I want from a friendship.  I didn’t really answer the question because I wasn’t really sure.  I told her that most of my f2f friendships except for a couple were all mostly one-sided.  I like giving and giving of myself but I rarely ever ask or take from another.  I tend to set up all my relationships in this way.

And as we were discussing this my mind flashed back to the above incident and I suddenly realized something.  I looked at my t and said you know what, I think that I only give and give in a physical way.  I give of my time, my abilities.  If someone wants me to do something for them I will usually do it if I’m capable of it.  But the thing I suddenly realized is that I don’t give to them emotionally even if I’m feeling it.

When my friends came to visit I was really excited to see them but nothing about my manner or expressions indicted those feelings.  My t told me it was something I learned to do as a young child because it wasn’t safe for me to express any emotion good or bad.  I learned how to become a blank page.

As a child it was safest not to show emotion no matter what was going on, no matter what I was feeling. Apparently I have carried it on into adulthood.  It still has kept me safe but it keeps me so safe that I can’t connect with people on that deeper level and in all honesty how can they connect with me?  People can’t read how I’m feeling about anything.  And I think this is where I have a problem with professionals.  I could be doing really bad but it doesn’t look any different than when I doing really good.

But here’s the problem.  I don’t know how to put what I am feeling on the inside into my body language, onto my face.  I have lived my entire life like this. I know I don’t have to become something I’m not but I do have to learn somehow to show what I’m feeling (in a safe way to safe people) even if it’s just in a small way.  How do I unfreeze my body?

And most of all can I be vulnerable?

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10 Responses to Blank Page

  1. I guess it is a bit of becoming comfortable with risk (i.e. believing that it is worth showing some of what you are feeling even though it is risky) and a bit of practice (hopefully with safe people!)

    I know one of the things that helped me was seeing emotion (often an empathic response to me, so an emotion I ‘should’ be feeling and expressing myself) on my T’s face. I was learning by observing and experiencing. But it takes time and a safe environment.

    xx

    • lostinamaze says:

      Yes I need to remember that will take time particularly since I have been this way most of my life. It’s hard to ‘do’ what I know I should be feeling at the appropriate times. But you’re right, I need to observe and practice. Although I think the practicing will feel a bit weird. 🙂

  2. theemptytraveler says:

    I have the exact same problem. For the last year I’ve been trying to be more emotionally honest with others and it’s absolutely terrifying but, there is a small warm feeling of connection and liberation. I’m still scared to honest about little stupid things like asking people for favors. One night when sleeping over a friend’s house I got terribly hungry in the middle of the night but instead of asking if I could get a quick snack in the kitchen so I could fall asleep–or even just going myself because I’m sure they wouldn’t have minded– I laid in bed awake for 8 hours until sunrise.

    It’s really important to to take of yourself emotionally, and that means showing your
    sadness, anger, hunger (lol), excitement etc. regardless of what others feel. To me, being vulnerable is a form of trust, and trust is the foundation of relationship.

    Best Wishes,

    Sienna

    • lostinamaze says:

      It’s so automatic for me not be be honest emotionally that I will have to pay attention to how I am when interacting with people. It will take some effort and practice on my part to show how I’m feeling to others. But like you say, it is how I will start to connect with others. Thank you for stopping by and sharing.

  3. Hey Lost,
    I hear your sense of discovery as you write about why you cannot ‘show’ what is on the inside, and, having read some of your story, it comes as no surprise that you got so used to having to hide everything… to keep ‘safe’.
    I also hear the sense of frustration with the ‘frozen-ness’ of your expressions and emotions… and I can’t imagine how that must feel for you.
    I wondered (and please feel free to shoot it down if it’s ridiculous) if it would be too silly to perhaps try practising small things like facial expressions in the mirror… On the net there are numerous ‘facial expression’ illustrations (some I use for work when I am looking at body language with some of my more (shall we say) ‘aggressive’ young people… Some of them are really quite cool but also can suggest an interesting array of emotions.
    You could just take your cue from them and see if your expressions bear any similarity?!! Doesn’t have to be taken too seriously! Might even be a bit of fun!
    Just a thought.
    Thinking of you lots. xx

    • lostinamaze says:

      My t suggested practicing expressions to me me well. Thanks for letting me know that I can find some of this on the net. Also doing it in a fun way is a great way to think of it. Part of the frustration is not knowing my lack in this area while it is happening. We discussed this last night in therapy. Thank you the suggestions, I’m going to try them out. I’m thinking of you lots as well.

  4. Just Be Real says:

    Lostinamaze thank you so much for sharing Have not been around in a few days. Going through my own valley. Appreciated your encouragement though on my blog, thank you. I like what others have replied here. Just being truthful with myself was hard enough, but then when I had to expand and step out and be more honest in who I am when it comes to relating to others, that is difficult indeed. Emotional needs are hard to come by. Most of the time when I show expression of excitement or something that should make me feel worthy, a sense of shame envelopes me. I even fight it at times now to not get over zealous. But, really I should not fight this, but I still do. I hope I made sense.

    • lostinamaze says:

      You make perfect sense. I worry that I will go from no emotion to over the top emotion. Especially negative emotion. I’ve seen that in action as a child. But regardless of how I think about that I need to learn to be honest in relating to others. And to know it’s not a bad thing and that people won’t necessarily reject me because of it.

  5. One long journey says:

    I understand what you say about the physical and not the feeling – that part is almost numb. I have been amazed at times at the emotion my T can show on her face at different things. One that comes to mind is when I told her my mother died – I saw her the day after. She showed more emotion than I think I had felt to that time.

    Correct me if not true, but it seems like you are covering some good ground with your T.

    • lostinamaze says:

      I’m am doing some good things in regards to learning about myself. The trouble is there is a disconnect between my head and emotions in the learning. I’m not sure if it matters or not though.
      I have been surprised when my t shows some emotion about something I tell her when I haven’t felt that emotion myself. I can relate to what you’ve said.

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