I have experienced all of the other emotions over the past 40 months.
Having been introduced to the change triangle by a therapist. I now refer to it, but I don’t always think about it, even when it would be most helpful. Anyway, here it is again in case you haven’t seen it in my earlier blog posts.
I have spent a lot of time in sadness.
We are on a first-name basis. There is not much sadness does not know about me and my life. Using unhelpful thinking, I can time travel back to any sad situation. Once there, I can wallow in woulda, shoulda, coulda, until I want to give up trying anymore.
But I continue trying and eventually get my bearings.
One recent time travel excursion took me back to one of my birthdays. Not valuing my own life, I worked that day. And when I got home around 7:30 PM, my children had planned a birthday party for me that included a birthday present. It was a rollout putting green about 6’ long, with different cups at the end.
I was so wound up in something that I didn’t open the gift that night.
We ate and had cake and it was time for the kids and I to go to bed. I have often felt sad that I didn’t make the time to open up and share my gift with them. I have never asked them about this. Maybe they weren’t upset that I didn’t open it until later. Maybe I am the only one feeling sad about this.
But I am too chicken to hear the truth by asking them, so I occasionally visit that memory alone and feel sad.
I have written much about shame and guilt. Having been alive for 66 years, I have seen shame and guilt more than once. And while these emotions “inhibit” or block the core emotions, there are very powerful in their own right. However, their job is to keep you away from feeling core emotions. And mine does a great job of that.
Or should I say, I allow them to block my true feelings?
That is really the rub. Without these inhibitory emotions, I would be right there in the thick of disgust, fear, and sadness. I’m not sure I spend much time with anger, although we do have a history. Road rage has been my trigger. I have finally figured out how to let that go, instead of letting it get to me.
I would drag that anger either to work or take it home.
Even as I would attempt to ignore it, it would fester and come out in a totally unexpected way. I would explode over the ketchup bottle if it wasn’t shaken first so that little dribble of tomato water wouldn’t soak my bun. Or at work, I would find myself agitated with an employee whom I normally can handle. All I hear is “look at me, look at me, look at me.” In those moments, I miss what they are really saying.
Excitement I have seen once or twice in the past few months.
Booking my ticket to trek to the summit of Kilimanjaro (19,432 feet above sea level) gave me a bit of a thrill. And when we put down the 10% deposit with the guide service, I was pretty excited. And I do have an app on my phone that is counting down the days, hours, and seconds until our trip begins. Getting to show off the countdown to others is exciting.
But I am not sure it is joy.
I wish that joy and I were better friends. We used to travel in the same circles and have many of the same contacts. Just getting up in the morning used to bring me joy. After all, “I love getting up in the morning because I always learn something new.” There was a time when I would say that at some point every day. And I would point out that I knew I was going to learn something new, I just didn’t know when or how it would happen.
Surprise is probably a better description of what I feel in these moments.
I suppose for the change triangle to work, it could be excitement, but it is not joy. In fact, since spending four days in the hospital in April of 2019, I do not remember an occasion where joy was the principal emotion I felt. Yet according to the written record, I should be experiencing joy.
Maybe it is just my mindset, and I should be” faking it ‘til I make it.”
After all, I do that at work all the time. I am cool calm and collected when the stuff hits the fan. This is true whether it is an upset customer, an upset employee, or an upset senior officer in the company. I excel at staying calm, working through the issue, and solving problems within company policy. The solution often surprises both me and the individual, but the surprise is generally positive and makes everyone feel heard and respected.
Being positive often means putting on my “officer of the company” hat and viewing the issue from that perspective.
So I have talked about joy, examined other emotions, and managed to not address the fact that I am feeling little joy in my life. I have thought of examples of other core emotions including sadness. Yet I cannot find examples of true joy that have happened in the past 3 ½ years.
Maybe I should be joyful that I am alive.
It is possible that not being alive was an option at the time. But as I have said, I am too chicken to commit suicide. And the whole thing about doing the same thing and expecting a different result was to me, just crazy. So, this led to my seeking professional medical treatment. And because I am so good at concealing and high-functioning depression, I had to fight to get the professional medical attention I needed at that moment. I glossed over fear, also.
Most of my fear is about stigma, the ever-present: “what will they say?”
But once again, this is leading me to more excuses about not feeling joy in my life. Why must other emotions rule me and block out joy and almost always, excitement? In these moments, I feel I deserve to feel joy, but it has been so long that I don’t really remember what it feels like. As a child, joy was the fall Sear Roebuck Toy catalog coming in the mail. This marked for me a time of joyful patience because Christmas was on its way.
Oh, to feel that again.
So, I will review how I am framing my concept of joy. I will look at what is holding back joy and why I do not feel that I can express or feel joy. This is most likely a long-term project that would go faster if I had a talk therapist. I have managed to distance myself from the last 3 who I have worked with.
My employer is now offering virtual talk therapy.
I need to make the time to get that set up. I am sure that a professional can give me insights into my lack of joy. I’ll write more about this later. But now, I must go to work.