To begin the journey of easing the fuckery of misophonia, it’s good to understand a little bit about emotions because basically, this whole thing started because I spent a lot of time confused about my feelings.
After all, we are just big bundles of emotions and feelings. Our families and cultures and other places we get information, hand us out invisible maps of appropriate responses to different situations, and when our insides don’t understand the maps or don’t agree with the maps, we try and re-shape ourselves to match the message. We don’t yet know that the maps can be wrong. We need help finding our way and take what is offered to us, interpreting the maps through a perspective of a world where we rely mostly on our parents to guide us and then we make up what it all means.
The map I was given about anger was only that it wasn’t acceptable. Like most people, my map didn’t tell me that anger was my body’s way of letting me know that something bad had happened, or that it may have been a response to the suppression of a different emotion like guilt or disappointment, fear or embarrassment, and also that it was ok to feel it. In fact, like most people, I didn’t really learn much about emotions when I was a kid, what I did learn was mostly from a reaction from someone around me. If I got mad, it wasn’t cool. It made an elder mad. If I got sad, it was pretty annoying. Eye rolling response. Any dealing with any of the emotions was done alone behind closed doors.
It was the era of “grin and bear it”. And because I was Catholic, basic guilt for being alive and being a sinner and being a girl was a constant companion that I didn’t know much about either. Shame was another thread that worked its way across the generations of my family down to its youngest members, but it was not to be spoken of, only put up with. The emotions that were valued were the quiet kinds; not noisy joy, but certainly a fixed smile on the face so no one knew of your troubles. Overall the message was that big emotions needed to be sucked down. People my age were being raised by the “keeping up with the Joneses” generation of the 1950s. It wasn’t cool to stand out, you needed to fit in, and holding your emotions in check was something to be valued. Maybe this hasn’t changed much for a lot of people.
An interesting thing that my therapist said to me is that often we learn that anger is a good tool to control other people. We learn this, for example when our teacher comes into the room where previously we were mucking around and having fun, and with their loud-voiced-anger, they demand silence and obedience and we step into line. I can see too how I used my angry reaction to sounds to try and control other people as well, without having any awareness of what I was doing. And if I felt angry, I would then feel guilty. Next comes a feeling of “woe is me” when we make ourselves into the victim. Life sucks, poor me, I can’t enjoy anything, everyone else is having fun. Each part of this is disempowering to the person who is inside of us who is a creator, someone who is able to be joyful and calm and supportive of others. The victim is a life energy sucker.
An amazing author who talks about emotions is Emily Nagoski. Her books on overwhelm (Burnout: How to Complete the Stress Cycle) and sexuality (Come As You Are) are scientifically based (and the world loves science and reason, none of that emotional stuff) and she writes about how emotions have a beginning, a middle and an end and compares them to tunnels. When we feel an emotion we have to be allowed to journey with the emotion from one end of the tunnel to the other, feeling all the feels, rather than suppressing it and storing it in our bodies. If we store it instead of journeying with it, through masking it, we don’t know when it might come back later, and this time it may have transformed into something bigger like overwhelming anger. Or into something like misophonia.
So the first activity I was given to complete was related to mindfulness and emotions, and in particular, guilt. People who have misophonia feel guilty all the time; guilty because the noises of your sweet children or husband or wife or mum or dad or anyone you love, make you want to run away from them at best (and punch them in the face on your way out the door). You feel bad that you can’t hear anyone because your headphones are on, or that you told that person to please not sniff/chew gum/breathe/live around you. You feel bad because you ruin so many moments because it is impossible to enjoy any situation when you have been triggered.
In order to practice mindfulness, see if you can find a quiet place for 5 minutes. A cupboard will do. Sit there and breathe. Try and quiet your mind as much as you can, noticing what comes up and being aware, but not giving it any attention. The first thing to do is allow yourself to feel the guilt by practicing mindfulness related to the emotion. Start by taking deep breaths and remembering a specific situation you feel guilty about. Feel all of it. Go right into the tunnel of guilt. Feel where it is stored in your body. Once you have felt it, give yourself some compassion. Remember that feeling guilt is a part of being human. It’s hard to feel guilt, it does not feel good. Hug yourself a bit and let it go. Come out the other end of the tunnel. Shake it off.
You made it through the tunnel. Well done. The first step of any change is awareness, and then self-compassion, so once you practice this the healing has begun.
Next week, NLP will begin, starting with creating an Anchor.
Feel it all!