For years, I have struggled and failed (sometimes miserably) to develop emotionally. My therapist says that more than likely my emotional growth was stunted early in my childhood, out of necessity and a need to protect myself from the trauma around me, while my intellectual side was given free reign to develop. My emotions have been struggling to catch up ever since.
Growing up, my intellectual side developed to the point that I became almost a walking, talking game of Trivial Pursuit, even before the game was ever created. My cousins teased me, calling me "Professor," not realizing how much it stung, nor was I able to tell them. Instead, I tried to laugh it off, even while realizing the label meant I did not and would not fit in with the rest of them.
That does not mean I never expressed emotion, but because of the ways in which I developed and did not develop, emotions were only expressed when reaching the highest peaks or the deepest valleys. In other words, the emotion or feeling had to be so strong it could no longer be held in check; emotion was never something I freely expressed otherwise.
My lack of emotional development meant feelings had no place, no room in my everyday world because they were not on the same plane as my thoughts. It has been much like a right-handed person trying to do something predominantly with his or her left hand; it is extremely uncomfortable, and the effort usually ends after a short time.
For the past 14 months, I have been trying to uncover repressed memories and feelings and to free myself up emotionally. I feel I have made some real strides in that time, but occasionally things happen to remind me of just how far I still have to go.
Tonight, I lapsed into defensiveness when Teresa asked me whether I had taken care of something she had asked me to take care of on several previous occasions. For one reason or another (forgetfulness, procrastination, or a combination), I had not completed the task. I suppose that at some deep level I have an imprinted memory of coming under attack as a child, to the point where defensiveness is almost a reflexive reaction. Teresa called me on it, I recognized it, and we were able to defuse the situation before one or both of us was hurt.
This episode was a stark reminder of how much work remains to bring my emotional and intellectual sides into balance with one another. However, writing this actually helps to bring the two sides closer together.
My therapist this week said that this blog serves as a connecting thread between the intellectual and the emotional side. Here, I am able to write about things I have great difficulty expressing verbally, thereby getting the emotions out and not keeping them bottled in. At the same time, I am able to think about what I am trying to say and about how I want to say it, thereby exercising the intellectual side.
The thread connecting the two is tenuous at times, but there is a connection. I feel at times like a car whose wheels are out of alignment. But now, at least, the wheels are all turning in the same direction. Usually, anyway.