Despite studying Psychology in three different universities over six years, I still have a shockingly shallow understanding of the way that feelings work.
I did a self-taught session of DBT. I’ve been to a proper Psychologist. All of it makes this beast look too easy to crack.
Therapy tries to make feelings seem simple, straightforward. Take your negative thought patterns, analyze them, catch them when they happen and simply reverse them! Even assuming that thoughts fall into “patterns”, it seems that so rarely do feelings fit into those cute little boxes drawn up by psychologists to help us make sense of them.
Feelings tangle themselves into knots. They attach themselves to one another. Relief mixes with sadness. Heartbreak with happiness. Anger manifests out of love.
This is why so often I’m left unable to contribute anything to a one-on-one conversation: I’m too busy trying to untangle the world of emotions going on inside my conversation partner’s head. I’m probably seeing things that aren’t there: a tinge of irony in a smile, a hint of fear in triumph, a bit of doubt in certainty. I just fall silent, trying to match up everything that I see with everything that I imagine.
I know, though, that regardless of whatever I might conjure up on top of a conversation, feelings are not straightforward. The world inside someone’s brain is not made up of sadness, worry and happiness. It’s a beautiful and messy jumble of emotions out there.
Perhaps the best way to deal with them, though, is the way psychologists teach us. Kind of like fixing a bike. Take one feeling, identify it, and try to fix it by twiddling it around in a way that you think might make you feel better. If that doesn’t work, try again. And again. I don’t think we’ve figured out a better way yet. I usually go for the other options: stewing and/or denial. I guess they have their charm too.
I’m very glad I didn’t become a therapist.