There is no such thing as a “BAD” emotion.

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“Emotions are neutral. They are neither good or bad. They are simply emotions.”

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This was our lesson this week in therapy.

It was a lesson Ozzie needed to hear, but also a lesson I needed to hear.

The therapy session began, as it always does, with a review of our previous week…

our struggles…our victories….our growth.

We were able to celebrate another successful week. This summer has been wonderfully easy and smooth. Such a difference from last summer when every day was a struggle. It is lovely to be in that season of calm that comes after the storms, and before the next trial. I am grateful for the calm seasons of life. I appreciate them all the more when they follow a particularly trying time. This summer has been the reward for a challenging 18 months. 🙂

This is the season of renewal and reward.

The season of reaping.

The season of rest.

The season of reconnecting.

This is the season of rebuilding and preparing for the next hard season.

This week in therapy we discussed Ozzie’s latest homework assignment:

A few weeks ago I shared with Tina a pattern I was seeing with Ozzie. We would have a couple weeks of near perfect behavior and then over something small and insignificant we would have a nuclear sized explosion. The explosion in relation to the trigger was out of proportion. I didn’t understand. It was then that Tina explained what she thought was happening.

She explained that she felt that Ozzie was trying so hard to be good that he was internalizing all the emotions he felt were “bad.” Every feeling of worry, sadness, anger, and jealousy was stuffed deep down where it couldn’t be seen by others. The problem with stuffing feelings, however, is that at some point you are filled to capacity…

no more feelings can be stuffed down,

and so we explode.

She suggested that what we needed was a safety valve, a tool/ activity that allows for the safe and healthy release of emotions. She suggested we use the organ. Ozzie was given the task of “pounding” the organ keys while shouting out his feelings.

“I am so mad when I have to share my toys!”

“I hate that I can’t live with my sister!”

“I am scared I will be sent away!”

She explained that by giving him a daily outlet to safely release the emotions that are festering within there won’t be the build up and explosions we are occasionally seeing.

We have begun implementing this therapy tool in our daily routines. I have seen it be a blessing and a help but Ozzie struggles with the activity. He hates doing it. So at therapy I asked Tina if we could address his aversion to this therapy tool.

When asked about it Ozzie explained that it made him uncomfortable. He felt “Bad” when he said those things. He didn’t want to admit that he felt angry or jealous because he doesn’t want to be like his dad…

the man who lashed out in anger and abusiveness.

Wow.

I felt like another layer had been peeled away and I better understood my son. He was so afraid of becoming his biological father that he fears feeling any emotion he perceives as “Bad.”

Tina then made two columns on the whiteboard of her office. She labeled them “Good emotions” and “Bad emotions.” We began making a list. I would call out an emotion, Ozzie would say whether it was good or bad, and Tina would write it in the appropriate column. It was a fascinating exercise.

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When we were done we discussed some of the different emotions. Tina used “scared” for an example. She asked why Ozzie felt “scared” was a bad emotion.

“Because we shouldn’t be afraid, we should be happy,” he explained.

She then proceeded to show how fear could be a good emotion:

“Ozzie, let’s pretend a tiger just walked into my office. You would probably feel afraid, right? And that fear would make your heart pump and make you breathe hard. You heart is pumping hard to send blood to your legs so that the muscles in your legs have the blood they need to run away. You are breathing hard to give your lungs the oxygen needed to run to safety. If you saw that tiger and just felt happy then you wouldn’t be physically prepared to run to safety. You would probably get hurt. That is an example where fear would be a “good” emotion.”

She continued down the list of “good” and “bad” emotions explaining situations where that emotion could easily fit in the opposite category.

“The truth, Ozzie, is that no emotion is good or bad. All emotions are neutral. They are just emotions. The only thing that is good or bad is how you choose to act on that emotion.”

Emotions are simply a point on a map to show you where you are.

They need to be felt.

They need to be acknowledged.

They must be validated…

then expressed in a healthy, appropriate way.

This lesson was an important one,

for Ozzie to hear

and for me.

This week we may both be pounding out our emotions on the keys of the organ.

I have some long suppressed emotions that are begging for release. 🙂

“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.”

It is time to make some music!

3 responses »

  1. I’m glad you and your son are learning about the neutrality of emotions.
    Growing up in my family, emotions like anger and jealousy were considered wrong and sinful and I always felt sadness was wrong too. It’s only been in the last year that I’ve been working on accepting that all emotions are healthy in the right context and are necessary for a healthy, happy human.

  2. I am so happy that you two are coming along in your therapy sessions so well. It is a great lession learning about the neutrality of emotions and that no emotion is truly bad or good. I’m also glad that he is starting to take down parts of his barrier to let you in to help him heal.

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