Do your emotions have a floor? As in, something to stop them falling into a bottomless pit? I ask because my emotions didn’t until this year when I finally finished therapy. It was a bizarre and joyful experience when I realised I had the ability to control my emotions, I suddenly understood the phrase “pull yourself together” because for the first time in my life I actually could.
I use the metaphor of a floor because I experience my feelings vertically down my body. Before therapy they would plunge from my head down through my core to my stomach, but now they stop around the chest area where they’re much more manageable. When I think about what stops them going any further down, I like to imagine a set of solid wooden floorboards bearing the load.
Before therapy I used to experience “the spiral”, where something small would set me off in a downward spin that would last for days at a time. I would have a small disagreement with someone and that would lead to a few hours worrying about what I’d said, then progress to thinking about how I always say stupid things and from there I would start to remember all the things I’d ever said that ever offended someone. Once I was in that place I’d inevitably conclude that I was a bad person, because of all the offensive things I’d said. I would start to withdraw because there was too much danger in being around other people, I was a bad person and I didn’t want any more people to see how fucking terrible I was. The more time I spent alone the more I’d start to think that people couldn’t be trusted, that I was better off and safer alone. Love, intimacy and friendship became dangerous things to me. Those were the times I’d use my worst ways to cope.
This would happen about twice a month, it was an exhausting cycle to go through and it impacted heavily on me and everyone around me. Eventually I’d get to a place where I could look back and recognise that the thoughts I’d been having weren’t true, but I could never be that objective in the middle of a spiral no matter how many times I went through it.
The fact that I can now stop that from happening just by using my own conscious thoughts feels like a superpower. To be clear this isn’t just a change in my personality or being a bit happier, my mind has an entirely new ability that it never had before. And now I think, why does no one talk about this? Why aren’t there words and language to differentiate between the people who have an emotional floor and the people that don’t? Because there’s a fundamental difference between those two states of mind and, take it from someone who knows, if you have an emotional floor your life is much much easier than if you don’t. If this was common knowledge I might have understood what was going on inside me, I might have got help sooner instead of relying on coping mechanisms that damaged me.
This is how the silencing of traumatised people impacts in the real world, it means we lack the knowledge to even know what is happening to us, let alone know that we can change. There is plenty of shaming language to describe people whose emotions plunge uncontrollably, but little that evokes empathy or kindness. There is a real push to blame the individual, to say the problem is their personality, there is very little willingness to see the issue as something someone needs help with, something that was likely caused by the actions of others. It seems as though many people would rather see us fall than help build us a floor.