Emotionally Unavailable

Eva felt numb. She didn’t know how she felt and she didn’t care. She didn’t care about anything — her job, her family, her friends or herself. She didn’t feel like doing anything. She felt like “quitting” by avoiding and withdrawing.

In counseling, I asked asked, “When else have you felt like this?”
Eva replied, “I was very sick when I was seven. I had an operation. My parents would come and visit me. My mother would try to comfort me, but all she could do was cry. My father got upset with her crying. He would wait out in the hall till she was ready to go home.”

Eva continued, “After my operation, my mother and father fought, but they never kissed and made up any more. He was mean to her, like he didn’t care about her. He called her “stupid.”  He would slam the door and leave. She would cry for a long time. I was scared he wouldn’t come back.”

This memory was a confession that she held the following beliefs:
1. “I have no one to comfort me. I have to comfort myself.”
2. “I don’t want to be weak like my mother. My father despises her weakness and so do I.”
3. “Crying doesn’t help. It only makes things worse.”
4. “I want to be strong like my father. That way, nothing can hurt me.”

Eva used her numbing out as her way of preventing terrible things from happening to her. She thought she was “controlling” her emotions. She did not have any other example of control to follow, so she made up her own. It has cost her dearly. She has no close friends. She cannot enjoy life.

She thought she was being “strong.”  She did not know the difference between strength and avoidance. She kept wondering, “If I am so strong, why can’t I solve my problems?”  In counseling, she is learning how to correct these mistakes.

Eva is replacing these “solutions” with more appropriate ones. She is learning to control her anger by expressing it appropriately. When her co-worker took credit for a project she had worked on for a week, she said, “It makes me angry when you do that.” It took courage, but she did it. In that moment, she felt like she was coming out of a shell, a shell she didn’t know she was in. She had managed her emotions like an adult. She had taken the first step toward an identity as a mature human being.

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Shared by: Aaron Karmin, LCPC, Contributing Blogger

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