Make Room For The Stuttering

On Being Afraid of Emotions

Posted on: February 21, 2009

I have always been afraid of my emotions. I used to keep them well buried, for when they spilled out, they were met with negative reactions. My father yelled when I cried, I wasn’t supposed to cry. As the oldest, it was my job to be strong, to keep everything together, even at 9 years old. My mother couldn’t do that, so I tried to most of the time.

I felt like crying a lot, and remember being slapped across the face by my father. Crying became associated with something bad. Crying became another thing I tried to hide, along with my stuttering. Being slapped like that was stunning sometimes, embarassing sometimes, hurt most of the time. Being a fair skinned child, my face would remain red for a while, and sometimes you could see the hand print on my face long after I had stopped crying.

I took to going downstairs in the basement under the stairs when I felt like I was going to cry. It was a muffled safe area, and the heater right there always made me feel warm. I never felt warm around my parents, especially my father. I felt afraid most of the time, and tense and on edge. It was like I never knew what was coming next.

Sadness and anger are the other emotions that I have always been afraid of. It seemed that even at 9 or 10 years old, I knew enough to pretend everything was ok, and not let my sadness or anger show. I had to keep up this pretense for the other kids, at school, around my father. He was in a much better mood when I never said anything, just took care of things, made sure he had his dinner and the kids weren’t making too much noise. I remember constantly “shushing” everyone, to keep quiet, so we wouldn’t wake up my mother who was always asleep on the couch. My father would eat his dinner in the living room on a tray table. I don’t remember what we did. When my mom was functional, she would heat up spaghettios from a can, and we would all eat out of the same pot. Sometimes it was ravioli, never was it what my father was eating in the other room.

As I grew older, the habit of stuffing emotions was long ingrained. I was a master stuffer, and as stiff and robotic as they came. No wonder emotions remained so feared – I had never learned how to deal with them, they stayed hidden, deep down. I had also never learned how to identify what they were when they did finally start seeping out later on as an adult, when I no longer had the nook under the stairs to run to, or the little heater that I could press up against and feel the warmth I had always been looking for.

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2 Responses to "On Being Afraid of Emotions"

[…] was warm there. I went there to get warm. It was my safe little space. ( I refer to  this in an earlier post on emotions . Funny how these emotions just keep […]

Thank you for writing that.

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