Thursday, April 23, 2009

Blog writing and the connection of emotions

Some of you know that I've been working on some trauma-related issues in therapy (read here, here, and here). Currently, I'm on exercises five and six of this CBT approach my therapist and I are using. In the last two exercises, the assignments were to write in detail a traumatic incident, focusing on sensory perceptions, like sight, sound, and smell, as well as the feelings you felt. At first, I procrastinated the assignments (okay, still have a tendency to), but I find that once I make myself write, the words easily flow to the page.

During each session, I am supposed to read aloud my account. I think in some ways this causes me more anxiety than the actual writing bit. The first time I did this, I was incredibly nervous and read through it like some maniac in a speed reading contest. C. noticed this and asked if I could reread it and try to "feel" the emotions. The second time around, I still didn't really "feel" the emotions, but apparently, it must have affected me more than I thought. Right after I left, I had what I call mini panic attacks. It's not the first time this has happened when broaching this subject, and it will unlikely be the last.

At this last session, I knew I would have to read aloud what I had written. I had already warned C. that I didn't remember a lot of sensory type details, only the facts of what happened. After listening, C. said she felt like she was listening to a story. In essence that it really wasn't me, my story. This is very typical "dissociation"-like behavior that many of us do when we are hurt or something is too painful to cope with/discuss. And I'm certainly not immune to it. Even in the past, various specialists have told me that I talk about the ED in a third person-esque tone, despite using "I" statements. So obviously, I'm pretty good at this technique, albeit it is not the best at times.

Then, C. posed a theory, saying "I wonder if this could be related to your blog writing--that you're so used to that type of writing you aren't fully able to connect with the emotions."

In some ways, this could be a possibility. When I blog (though it is ultimately for myself), I am well aware that I am writing to an audience. Even though I talk about my feelings and emotions, there is still a kind of guardrail. This is improvement from a ten-foot tall wall which would have surrounded me years ago, but the guardrail continues to leave an element of distance, of protection of sorts. Sometimes, I wish I could be like other bloggers and be raw, intense, thought provocative, really displaying my emotions. I'm not saying that I haven't at times, because I'm sure if I look back through the archives, there are some that tug at the core. Most times, I think it is more due to insecurities, but that is a post for another day.

C. thinks that maybe we should drop the writing a bit and try to "talk," that maybe that way I could feel more of the emotions. While this is true, this does lend to feeling more emotions in a sense, it also is very hard for me to talk about (10+ years of never really talking about it). The last time I tried, I went into a dissociation state, almost shutting down in therapy and then reverted to a bad ED cycle of restriction and what felt like effortless running.

So I don't know what to tell C. I'm really not sure how to completely "let go" if you want to call it that. Maybe dealing with this crap
trauma issues is just not for me. Maybe I'll never really be able to be in a full, complete, intimate relationship with another human being. Or then, there is the theory that maybe I'm just unwilling to push the envelope, too scared to see what is inside.

Curious do any of you feel like blog writing deters you from connecting with your emotions, or does it do the opposite and enhance it? Or has it not changed a thing?

Note:--*image is from Garden State Highway Products, a company who supplies traffic signs and safety products. I liked this image since it shows a guardrail around a dangerous curve, something I can metaphorically speak of.


Kristina said...

I really admire the work that you are putting in and doing in therapy (just wanted to say that!). I would find it extremely (in bold) difficult to read an assignment like the ones that you are writing out.
I think it's an interesting question - how private and intimate are we in this very public forum of blogging. Even those who have set blogs to private are still connecting with some form of a public. I am definitely a bit detached from my "emotional self" when I write. And probably in general, sad to say. I don't believe that detachment is a product of blogging, however.
One last point - I think it's okay to not know how to let go and to be okay with it. Perhaps that is what therapy is about - teaching you HOW to get there first, and then giving you a safe forum where you can let go.

Kim said...

Tiptoe, like Kristina, I think it's great that you're doing this work in therapy. Blogging is a tricky thing. Initially, I did it for myself, to express feelings. When I noticed that people actually read the thing, I got a little insecure and shielded some things. I think that's only natural. I mean, I have a positive outlook on recovery, for the most part, so I don't share every nitty, gritty, negative emotion on my blog. I journal about that stuff. My journal is just for me. Maybe you can try keeping a journal for more personal things, if you don't already...

Tiptoe said...

Kristina, I like your last statement about therapy teaching you how to get there and providing a safe place to let go. ultimately, I think that is what therapy is about when dealing with tough issues.

I too don't think all of my detached emotions are from blogging, but I do think I keep some distance.

Kim, blogging always depends on the person. I read some blogs that are incredibly detailed and intimate. I think the majority of people who have personal blogs aren't that way, but instead give aspects of their life in an overall picture, provide information, or concerns about a certain issue.

I do still think whatever you are blogging about, there has to be an element of doing it for yourself. Otherwise, why really blog. In whatever you do either positive or negative, there is always some kind of pay off whether you see it consciously or not, at least that is my take on it anyway.

As for a journaling, I have done it in the past and have a number of journals. I go through phases of journaling but most times I find I'm just writing the same things over and over. So it doesn't feel very productive in the end.

Sarah said...

In general, I tend to be a vulnerable person. I feel pretty comfortable sharing what I've been through and the things that I have struggled with in my life (not with everyone, but with select people I have really want to get to know or who I feel have been through their own stuff.) I use my experiences as a point of connection and a way of being known and understood, because I don't do well if I feel like people don't truly know me.

That being said, I'm pretty comfortable sharing past experiences, but I am really bad at admitting to "real" people in my life what I am currently struggling with--even the people who I feel DO know me well. I feel bad asking people to help support me in a current struggle, and I don't like to say "I need something." I've also always felt a little weird sharing struggles/progress with AN with someone who hasn't been through it.

My blog has been helpful with that, because I feel like they have "chosen" to read it, so I am not burdening them with the obligation of listening once I begin talking about it. They can choose to stop reading and I am never the wiser about it, while in a conversation if I think I am burdening someone it really hurts my feelings. Self-protective, yes; but it also helps me IDENTIFY what problems are happening, since I'm not really apt to talk about them and I am definitely someone who processes verbally. Once I blog about it, I feel more comfortable talking about it because I've shared it and I know better where "I'm" at, if that makes sense?

Sarah said...

Oh, and I wanted to echo Kristina and applaud your hard work in therapy. I know it can be really difficult to focus on things you'd rather ignore and, well, disassociate from. You must be a strong person, and one who is dedicated to her recovery, to do all the work you're doing. You're really inspiring.

Just Eat It! said...

It is so good that you are working on past traumas in therapy. I have a very difficult time even bringing things like that up.

I think, if anything, my blog is a healthy outlet. When I write, I can connect what my feelings are with what my thoughts are. It's easier for me to see when it's "down on paper" rather than when I'm trying to uncomfortably talk about it with my psychologist.

Gaining Back My Life said...

Tiptoe, I doubt one can ever completely let go of their feelings, whether to write or talk about them. We will always retain a fragment of the feelings we have experienced. They give us our own unique frame of reference.

I 'blog with caution' constantly, more because I am worried about triggering someone else. I don't see it as being emotionless, more like its polar opposite, 'sensitive'.

I've always enjoyed your writing, and the stories that you have shared about your past have come across very real to me. By that, I mean I can feel along with you as you write. Does that make any sense?

And last, like I learned earlier this week - as long as you make an effort, you are succeeding. And as long as we continue to works towards fine-tuning our efforts, that is the best we can do.

Tiptoe said...

Thanks for all the feedback. It was very interesting to hear your perspectives.

Sarah, I really like the what you said about blogging--that it is their choice to read or not. That's a really healthy way of looking at it. I'm glad blogging has helped you see you whatever place you are in. For many people, seeing it written out is so helpful.

Thanks also for the compliment. I'd say I am dedicated but do have my slip ups and less than stellar recovery thoughts at times, but I guess we all do really.

JEI, yes, past traumas are difficult to bring up. There are just so many components that it feels hard to know where to start.

It's good to hear blogging has also been helpful to you. There's a lot to be said for a visual-like presentation of viewing something versus strictly auditory processing.

GBML, you're probably right in that no one can completely let go. I just wish I could let go a little more--almost in a sense of allowing myself to feel vulnerable, a feeling which is very discomforting.

It makes sense to call your blogging "sensitive" versus "emotionless." That's a good way of seeing it.

I'm really glad that my writing comes across as "real." I always worry about that, not sure why though.