Many people that come to therapy are terrified of feeling. They suffer from anxiety and/or depression. When we finally identify the root of their present dilemma, the feelings associated with it start to surface, and many times clients’ defenses start to emerge: rationalizing, intellectualizing, changing the subject and in more severe cases, dissociation.
The fear of feeling emotions stems from a belief that they can’t handle their feelings, that the feelings will overwhelm them, that they will fall apart and not be able to pull it together again. The individual, consciously or unconsciously is now trying to avoid feeling the intensity of old unresolved emotions.
The goal of therapy is to guide and assist clients in making sense of what has happened to them, how they felt, and how they processed their feelings at that time. When difficult situations or events occur, clients may not have the resources, mentally or emotionally to deal with them at that time. People make sense of situations and accommodate their emotions the best they can in order to survive.
Unfortunately, when present day events occur that are stressful, they trigger those unresolved emotions making the individual feel overwhelmed, confused and anxious.
The best way to overcome the fear of feeling, is to first acknowledge the fear and what it would mean if they allowed themselves to experience the feeling. Making clients aware that today they are different people and can handle the feelings in the safety of my office is key. When clients see that they can process difficult emotions and that they can leave the session functioning, then they are more confident in themselves and their abilities to deal with emotion.