The challenge in identifying a feeling

“It is so many years before one can believe enough in what one feels even to know what the feeling is.” ~W.B. Yeats

I’m still amazed to discover that this feeling I’ve always called pain is really fear and anxiety. It seems unthinkable to me that I could be so incredibly familiar with this feeling and not know what it was. The quote above brings me much reassurance in finding that perhaps there are others who take years to discover what their feelings really are.

When I think in terms of believing enough in what I feel, it’s not as surprising to me that I would have taken years to reach that point.

I have always had strongly empathic tendencies. As a child, I remember often being overwhelmingly aware of what people around me were feeling even though they would deny these feelings to me because they thought me too young to understand them. Now that I am an adult, I can see that they did this in an attempt to protect me, and I can appreciate that. At the time, however, it was disorienting to be told that these feelings I could so clearly feel did not exist.

I find that this still happens today. Many people will tend to deny even powerful feelings to others because they do not wish to share personal matters or because they believe that what they are feeling is inappropriate, so they wish to keep those feelings hidden. I understand that, but it continued to make the comprehension of feelings difficult as I got older.

How can I know what a feeling is when I have so often been told that I’m not feeling what I am feeling?

I still find it challenging sometimes to separate how much of what I am feeling in any circumstance is really my own feeling and what it someone else’s emotion. They feel very much alike in my body, so it is not always easy to know what is mine and what isn’t. I’m getting better at it, but it still takes practice and awareness to sort out.

How can I know what a feeling is when I don’t even know if it is mine?

With all of this confusion around feelings going on, it really is not surprising that it would take me a long time to believe enough in anything I feel to know what the feeling even is. Therefore, it’s really not as shocking as it seems that I have spent so many years mistaking intense anxiety for pain.

And in the end, it doesn’t really matter. Now that I have recognized it for what it is, I am amazed at what a difference it is making in being able to deal with the feeling. It’s much easier to address it properly when I know what it is that I am addressing.

A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a fragile and vulnerable place to be, so I am committed to keeping this a safe place for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight are not welcome here and will be deleted.

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