In the years that LifeWork has been around, we’ve had a bunch of people come in seeking treatment who say that they are broken. Maybe this describes you, or maybe you know something that thinks this. In my experience, many of us experience a sense that we are broken at some point in our lives.
There are some people, however, that experience a sense of ‘brokenness’ consistently and pervasively.
Life for those of you in this camp is pretty miserable.
Here’s what might be going on inside you.
You experience your emotions more intensely than most people and you’ve been told that what you are feeling is either wrong or bad or you’ve been punished for having the intense emotions you have.
If you have grown up with intense emotions (more intense than most people you see around you) and an environment that did not honor those emotions or punished them, then you will have a tendency to have intense struggles with regulating emotions. You may also stop trusting your internal sensations because you’ve gotten so many messages that you are ‘wrong.’
If you’ve experienced any sort of trauma in your past, those experiences can make all of it more intense and more difficult to deal with.
Let’s look at this in a little more detail.
Let’s say that you experience emotions more intensely than anyone else in your family or more intensely than anyone else you have regular contact with. To begin with, you are going to have difficulty managing emotions that come. Let’s then say that you also get messages that you are ‘too much’, ‘too emotional’, ‘too dramatic’, or any number of other things.
So, I sit here with really intense emotions. I look around and I don’t see anyone else displaying the type of experience I’m having inside. Then, I get punished for having these intense emotions (maybe just some invalidation like the ‘too emotional’ thing or maybe more intense like some type of abuse.)
Here I am, having these emotions and being told I’m wrong for having them. Now what do I do? Over the course of time, this back and forth experience can lead to taking those messages in and believing that there is something wrong, that maybe you weren’t put together right. That maybe there is something broken inside and there is no fixing it.
I’ve got these intense emotions and they are wrong. If this is the reality I seem to be presented with, then I start to look outside of myself for how I ‘should’ feel.
I can start to become a chameleon, and it seems to work a bit better than the displays of emotions I was having. Until it doesn’t.
Because trying to be something other than who you are always ends up backfiring at some point.
If these things describe you, you may have a tendency to live in the extremes. Sometimes these extremes present themselves over the course of a few days and sometimes they can present themselves in an almost minute to minute way.
You go from experiencing emotions super intensely and may even have the sense that you will cease to exist because of the intensity, and then you may rocket to the other extreme, which is denying you have the emotions or invalidating your own experience much like people around have done for years.
And now you may or may not see the problem, so let me lay it out if it’s just beyond your reach.
Living life like this makes you feel broken. Makes you feel like you will never get better. Those ‘feelings’ are actually thoughts, but that’s another post entirely..)
If we live in the extremes there is no room to move forward. Living life in extreme emotion or extreme shut down does not allow for any healing, for any improvement, for much hope.
And this is where I see many clients who come into my office for the first time, hopeless without any thoughts of really getting better. They come to LifeWork because they are out of options, and they discover Dialectical Behavior Therapy, a type of therapy that can help tremendously with that life in the extremes sort of thing. A therapy that can help move away from the sense of ‘brokenness’ and move toward some hope of recovery. And maybe find out that you are not broken, it's been the perceptions of those around you and then yourself. Maybe it's the mirror that broken and not you.