dealing with uncomfortable emotions

Dealing with Uncomfortable Feelings

Every child yearns for the freedom and independence of adulthood, but not everyone is ready for the responsibilities. When children grow up, they may realize that looking for a job and paying the bills may not be so fun after all, but what about responsible communication with important relationships? Being financially responsible is hard, but being an emotional adult is even harder when you are dealing with uncomfortable feelings. Nowadays, there are plenty of ways to escape uncomfortable emotions, such as social media, video gaming, and alcohol, but when it comes to facing difficult emotions that are stirring up inside you, it would be much easier to go off on someone in a text message than to have a real conversation in person. Driving round and round the block or working super long hours to avoid coming home feels more comfortable than having to face that person after a fight. For those who are accustomed to turning to alcohol or drugs, working through visceral discomfort may feel like drudgery, but in the end, it will emancipate them from emotional slavery.

Why do emotions feel so uncomfortable?

If you have grown up in an emotionally tumultuous household in which you were never sure what to expect, it would be hard to process your emotions appropriately. Children need to learn how to manage their emotions as they grow up, but this is only possible if their parents are emotionally available and able to teach their children as they face different scenarios in school, with friends and at home.

Did your parents struggle with alcoholism or drug addiction? Chances are that they were unable to provide the proper guidance for you. Instead of receiving validation and reassurance from your parents, you were trying to protect yourself from them, and most of the time, your young mind was often in survival mode in order to preserve your sanity. Once you’ve reached adulthood, the years you’ve spent running from your parents or other toxic situations are now spent sprinting from the gigantic elephant known as conflict. When you can’t tolerate certain emotions, those uncomfortable feelings become your master, and numerous studies have shown a strong association between substance use and emotional regulation, suggesting that drug and alcohol abuse is one of the most common forms of escape.

What kind of childhood factors contribute to uncomfortable feelings

You may have discovered in adulthood that what you thought was normal is really not typical in other families. For example, you might think that just because someone doesn’t like your ideas or opinions, this means that you are not worthy to be heard or valued. Perhaps you want to say something, but you afraid to speak up for fear of rejection, ridicule and shame. Mental Health America identifies some basic emotional needs of children, including unconditional love, encouragement from parents and other role models, safety, security, praise and honesty. However, you might have experienced some of the following if you had a dysfunctional upbringing:

Your parents were not very involved in your life

Parental neglect in early childhood is considered a form of child maltreatment. Child neglect comes in various forms, and it’s most noticeable when children appear malnourished with poor hygiene. To the child, a negligent parent seems dismissive and uncaring, putting other priorities above the care of their children. Work, friends, or other family members seem to come first before the kids. When holidays and birthdays roll around, there is no celebration for any special occasion. If the parents do think of giving a holiday or birthday gift, they don’t even bother gift-wrapping it. Everything feels like “whatever,” making the child feel insignificant and insecure. Whether the kids are at home or gone for hours, the parents hardly notice the difference.

You were told that you would never amount to anything

Healthy parents encourage their children to follow their dreams. Toxic parents may compare you to your siblings or cousins, pointing out how successful they are in school and why you won’t amount to much. Even if you did do well in school, as a child, your attention is shifted toward the negative aspects of yourself (real or imagined) rather than your strengths. As an adult, you constantly find yourself comparing your life to other people’s lives that appear to be much more fun, fulfilling, and filled with love. You compare yourself to others who are more attractive and successful, so you find ways to fill the void in order to suppress uncomfortable feelings of inadequacy or incompetence, even though evidence has shown you are an excellent worker and are much appreciated by everyone around you.

Your parents never took responsibility for their hurtful actions toward you

We all make mistakes and parents teach children how to take responsibility for hurtful actions by apologizing for their mistakes. When parents dismiss their children’s feelings by sending them away or yelling at them without hearing them out, they are sending the subliminal message to their kids that that their emotions are not valid. In adulthood, when a close friend, companion, colleague or significant other hurts you, you find it difficult to express your emotions in a healthy manner because you don’t believe you deserve to be heard, so you hide, explode, or resort to substance use or other addictive behaviors to suppress anger and hurt.

Your parents were never satisfied, no matter what you did

You excelled in school, did all your chores and worked hard to earn your father’s respect, but none of that seemed to matter because every time he came home in his drunken stupor, he targeted you as the object of his violent temper. He imposed impossibly strict rules, but you didn’t know any better. You just wanted to obey the rules out of fear and also out of a desire to be recognized and admired, but you only received criticism instead of praise. Your mother tried to help but she was also fearful of your father, and you often (unfortunately) witnessed domestic violence at home, so you sought solace at a friend’s house or somewhere else.

The Connection between Shame and Substance Abuse

Childhood seems so long ago that you have probably forgotten what it’s like to be your true self – being able to express the wide range of emotions that are rightfully yours, from sadness, anger and hurt to happiness and excitement. As an adult, you have conditioned yourself to be well-liked by peers and colleagues in order to gain approval and acceptance, but when the rubber meets the road in your intimate relationships with close friends or partners, you experience roadblocks in your communication. You find yourself unable to express difficult emotions such as hurt and betrayal, because you’re afraid that your true emotions will create a distance between you and the ones you love the most. The pain of potential rejection is so keen that you’d rather sweep everything under the rug rather than face them, but when your loved ones express their difficult emotions, you are unsure what to do but the feeling is so uncomfortable that your relationship reaches a stalemate. What do you do?

Before you find the right words to express yourself, understanding how shame works will be crucial to self-awareness and overcoming barriers in your relationships. Research shows a strong association between substance abuse and shame, which is linked to low self-esteem and poor self-image. When you feel like you don’t measure up or that your feelings don’t matter, you are less likely to open up about uncomfortable feelings because you don’t value your own emotions. The childhood messages you’ve received from your parents, subliminally or explicitly, play like a broken record in your mind and it requires assistance from skilled professionals to break those chains.

Building Self-Esteem at the Best Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center

Low self-esteem has been linked with non-compliance to addiction treatment. What you will find at New Method Wellness, one of the nation’s best dual diagnosis addiction treatment centers, is a comprehensive program that deals with the root of substance abuse addiction so that self-esteem is no longer an issue after clients complete a treatment program. Handpicked by Dr. Phil, New Method Wellness has been recognized for the success of its numerous holistic therapy programs and evidence-based practices. Licensed and dually accredited, New Method Wellness constantly strives to deliver the highest caliber of quality care for all who seek help for substance abuse addiction.

For more information about our dual diagnosis treatment programs, please call 866.951.1824

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