From How I Feel to Who I Am: A Paradigm Shift (part 2)

This post is part of a series. Read the first part here.

Common sense and years of reading self-help books had told me that the best way to get over the blues was to simply ignore the negative emotions. If I could just steel my heart somehow and do whatever I had to do, they would eventually go off by themselves.

I used to admire people who could go through emotionally wrenching experiences and still be able to stay focused on whatever life required of them. Like my dear friend Sarah, who lost her mother to cancer during a major high school exam but was still able to lock herself in a room and immerse herself in revision, putting her immense sadness on the backburner to emerge the top student.

Me? One argument with a boyfriend and there went all my ability to focus. It still amuses me that I could easily laugh off things that would rattle most people – like the traffic, unsolicited criticism from casual acquaintances, rude salespeople. But when the people I cared about push my buttons, the downward spiral was almost always a given.

The grip of my emotions was just too strong, or maybe it was just me who was weak. Growing up I knew my negative emotions were a stumbling block. Over the years, attempts to understand and discover ways to break the cycle resulted in slow and gradual progress.

As a Christian, I read the Bible, sought advice from church leaders, and prayed. It didn’t occur to me to seek professional advice until two years ago – and that was when I learnt about negative core beliefs.

“You lose your ability to function and focus because a negative core belief you held about yourself was triggered, so the key is to identify this belief, challenge it because it is untrue and then replace it with a positive core belief,” said the wise shrink.

I felt like I had been given the key to the prison door and eagerly did the homework she gave me – jotting down descriptions of the thoughts that ran through my mind whenever I felt down, and soon the thought pattern became clear: that I actually had the belief that I was not worthy! Beneath the strong and confident and go-getting fa├žade that I presented to most of the world I actually I felt I was not worthy: unworthy of unconditional love and acceptance, and that I had always had to prove something to myself.

(to be continued)

 

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From How I Feel to Who I Am: A Paradigm Shift

According to my MBTI profile, I am an INFP. And the problem is I scored 80 on the F (for feeler) and only 20 on the T (for thinker). So I used to joke that I didn’t use my head much. 

Joke aside, Myers-Briggs was spot on about me. I am just wired to be driven by emotions, even in school some friends observed that my grades seemed to fluctuate according to my mood! 

But over the years, as my responsibilities in life grew and my aspirations grew along, the yo-yo started to get tiring. My emotions were great when they swinged towards the positive: I had signed up for law school, a marathon and fund raising, beauty pageant, volunteer work, written heartfelt letters, quit a job to pursue my dream career, cooked for my grandma when I felt great about myself and that there was nothing that could stop me. (Right now I am feeling pretty jolly and am contemplating returning to law school, but oops, that’s another subject altogether). 

But when they took a nose dive for whatever reason or trigger – an argument with a loved one, or some disappointment – I got hit pretty hard – words just wouldn’t flow when I had to write, I would want to hide at home and not face the world when there were people I had to meet, and there would be a sense of frustration standing like a wall between me and all that I wanted to do and be, the feeling that “if I could just get over this sadness and heaviness, then my heart would be light again and I could chase after life again.” It was frustrating, exasperating, and depressing – until I got out of it and snap back into my happy self. It felt like a vicious cycle I had little control over – not serious enough to cause a dysfunction, but bad enough to cause a lot of frustration and opportunities. 

Until I finally got a revelation this morning. 

(To be continued)