Working Through Unwanted Feelings
From hurt to love
Dare to examine ugly feelings to develop deeper love
Recently I was about to give up on my relationship with my dad. It took me a while to figure out why I was hurt. My upsetting event seemed like nothing important because it appeared to be “just a change in plans.” But when I considered my feelings over a period of time, I realized the incident triggered layers of deep-seeded hurt.
The Hurtful Event
I called my dad three days before a family wedding and made plans to ride with him. He called me an hour before we were to meet and said, “Hi Sweetheart, I just wanted to make sure we’re still going together.” I was happy he checked in and anticipated a meaningful time with just the two of us. Then he added, “I thought we could meet at eleven at my place and then pick up my girlfriend.” This was hurtful because I miss having time with him. So when he started to share his new plans, my reaction took me by surprise.
I quit listening. I had a bodily reaction and was angry for no apparent reason.
· Take a moment to think of a recent event where you were_______(a feeling) and had a bodily reaction you didn’t expect.
· What about that event triggered your feelings?
· What deep investment did you have that appears to have been snatched away?
At first I thought I was jealous of his girlfriend, but I like her. When I called Dad initially, he said he wanted it to be “just the two of us.” I was thrilled. When he suggested including her, I was hurt because I wanted some time alone with my dad.
I didn’t know about this change nor agree to it. Immediately I felt confused and irritated at myself because I was having angry feelings. But with further investigation I realized I was hurt because I was left out. I was left out of his plans that I believed were “our plans.”
Sometimes it is not getting our way that precipitates becoming upset, but rather the process in which the information is shared.
· Can you write out a perfect way for you to have been let down in the scenario above? Hint: Is love, care, or mattering a part of the perfect script?
Dad didn’t ask me how I felt about the change. I had no idea why he changed our plans. I felt he didn’t care about me.
Yet I knew this wasn’t true. He unconsciously hurt me and did what is normal for him. He had a goal and made changes to accommodate his goal. We had no process, or discussion, which is what I needed to experience to feel being a part of the decision. Because we had no process, we weren’t relating to each other. That caused me to feel slighted.
You need your process. I needed to let out my unwanted feelings with safe people who supported my opening to these feelings I didn’t want either!
· Make a list of people you can talk to who will listen to your unwanted feelings and still love you, care about you and respect you.
· If you don’t have anyone in whom you can confide these feelings, consider calling a professional for just this incident. If you want to make the relationship ongoing, fine, but you might need only an occasional meeting with a professional who won’t judge you for having a full spectrum of emotions.
To his credit, when I spoke from my heart, he responded from his vulnerable heart. He gave me all I needed when he said, “I understand.” I felt complete because I mattered to him. We both knew we mattered to each other. Our deep conversation lasted more than two hours, and it could have continued much longer if we had the time. We all want to matter.
Does the person in your life who disappointed you matter enough for you to become vulnerable and ask for a deeper connection?
· What do you need to change so that you can have an opening to ask for what you need?
My personal process
When my father shocked me with his change in plans, I made a weak attempt to speak up. I hesitated on the phone, hoping he would get the hint I was not happy. Maybe he didn’t notice, but I felt ignored. He plowed right over signals I thought were obvious. I sort of felt like the girl who thinks she’s screaming when you can barely hear her voice because she is frozen from pain.
In the scenario you described above, what part did you play in feeling _____?
Did you speak up as an equal? If not, why not?
The hurt I felt that day triggered a place of accumulated hurts. To vent, write this piece, read about anger, and vent some more took me nearly a month. In the anger I have built up since I was a little girl, I wanted to hurt the father I adore. At one point in my process, I thought talking to him would be fruitless. In those helpless little girl feelings I felt like I had no relationship with him and couldn’t have one. I thought, “I quit. I’ll just give up on having any worthwhile interaction with him. I’ll just pretend we have a healthy relationship. ”
But then I acknowledged I love my dad. He’s worth fighting for. Our relationship is worth fighting for. I knew speaking to him from the place where I wanted vengeance would never work. Time passed. I calmed down. My love for him grew.
And you know what? The perfect opportunity arose. Over the phone I let slip, “Dad, I feel like we have an emotional Grand Canyon between us.” I told him I had entertained pulling away from him but instead wanted an honest relationship. Putting his love into words, Dad said, “The ball is in my court. You matter to me.”
The point I want to make is we can have our strong feelings and then learn from them. I had my anger, my hurt and my sadness without hurting my beloved father. I allowed myself to have what most consider ugly feelings.
Ugly feelings are generally “socially unacceptable” or unacceptable to you. But these unacceptable feelings are the bottle stopper for many other feelings including acceptance and forgiveness. Love manifested because I did not hold a grudge about mistakes and misunderstandings. Forgiveness made room for the hurt to change/soften/dissipate/heal.
I let angry feelings guide me to read and learn about my anger
My loving feelings for my dad rose. I could love him more because I loved all of me, including those disturbing feelings.
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Stephanie Rauch has a Ph.D. in Counselor education, is a licensed professional counselor and a licensed massage therapist in North Carolina.