Are you simply going through the motions each day and trying to ignore your emotions? Do you believe that if you start to cry you will never stop? Here are some ways to let your emotions be a part of your life and healing process.
Sometimes you might feel like the letter "V" (for victim) or "P" for poor is stamped on your forehead and that everyone sees your private pain. In your life, a serious issue will likely affect you or a member of your family. You may use denial to survive and continue to parent and avoid feeling overwhelmed. Denial can be a healthy way to cope for a short time. It lets you continue to act until you can process an event. Denial can also become a way to avoid pain, change, growth and seeing the truth. However, denial can be a safe haven that becomes a prison that keeps you from healing.
The world is full of the walking wounded or families trying to survive the daily grind, while shouldering serious traumas. According to the NCADV, one out of every four women experience domestic violence and a report of child abuseis made every 10 seconds. It is enough to make you want to close your eyes in denial and make the truth go away, but this cannot become your norm. For example, if you have family members to care for, you cannot afford to allow your denial to prevent you from meeting this obligation.
Johnny Depp, the actor said, "You can close your eyes to the things you do not want to see, but you cannot close your heart to the things you do not want to feel."
An article about denial featured on the the Mayo Clinic's website states, “In some cases, a little denial can be a good thing. Being in denial for a short period can be a healthy coping mechanism, giving you time to adjust to a painful or stressful issue. It might also be a precursor to making some sort of change in your life. Still, denial has a dark side. Being in denial for too long can prevent you from effectively dealing with issues that require action, such as a health crisis or a financial situation.”
When you avoid facing problems by using denial, the problems can grow until they demand your attention or cause permanent harm. For example, if you are a sexual assault survivor, you might be in denial of your discomfort with intimacy and avoid intimacy altogether. Your partner might be patient initially, but as time passes his patience could run out. By ending denial and facing your trauma, you give yourself and your partner hope that you can heal. Here are some tips for recognizing and overcoming denial.
Use friends and professional therapists as sounding boards. Choose friends who will tell you the truth with love. A good friend is a friend that points out when you, your spouse or children are having issues that you are choosing to be blind too. When you try to avoid or deny problems, an honest friend won't just tell you what you want to hear. Find friends who listen respectfully, tell you the truth and urge you to end denial and move toward changing for the better.
Look for repeat patterns
Do you and your spouse regularly argue about the same issues? Then it may be time to reflect and look for repeat patterns. Repeat patterns mean that there may be a truth somewhere that you are refusing to see, like addiction, or a past festering trauma. For example, if every teacher your teenager has identifies him as a problem, instead of blaming the teachers, look at the pattern. If everyone is saying something is wrong, there might be a problem like a hidden addiction or bullying.
The timer method
Choose an issue, goal or task that you have avoided thinking about or doing. Set a timer for no less than 5 minutes and no more than 15 minutes. Work on the task, or think about the issue until the timer goes off. Then set your issues or challenges aside until the next day.
For example, if you become overwhelmed by paying bills, set the timer and work on the bills for 15 minutes. When you do this, you allow yourself time to take problems in bite-sized pieces with a promise of guilt-free rest at the end of your time.
Use the timer method with your children
Small children get overwhelmed by big jobs, just like adults do. A sure sign is what I call a, "Nuclear Meltdown," which involves going boneless and crying uncontrollably. Children love taking toys out of a toy box. Putting toys away is another issue. Promise a story, walk or other special attention time if they work on picking up just until the timer goes off. Then stop when the timer goes off, even if the job is incomplete. A game of, "beat the timer," or racing your child to see who can put away the most toys before the timer goes off can be fun. Remember to cheer and celebrate if the job gets completed so your child will want to finish the next time.
Rewards for a hard job started
Sometimes the key to breaking through denial is realizing that you do not have to do everything all at once. Life is not a microwave, it is more like a slow wood-burning oven. True healing and change isn't fast. It takes time to bake and become a real part of you. Reward small accomplishments as you work on big things.
When it is time for bed, and day after day you realize you have forgotten something important, you might be in denial. Add things that you are avoiding to your calendar.
You have already begun your journey toward healing, changing and dealing with the tough stuff. You chose to read this and think about doing something different. Break through denial and enjoy happier and healthier times with your family.
Shannon Symonds, Author of Safe House due to be released July 2017 by Cedar Fort, has 15 years experience working as an Advocate for victims of domestic and sexual violence while raising 6 children in Seaside Oregon. She loves to write, run and Laugh