I have voices inside my head. We all do. Mine can be quite mean! I find myself muttering things like, “That was stupid!” “Why on earth did you do that?!” “You fat slob!” I still worry and obsess at times about things I did when I was a child – a teen – a young wife and mother. I think about what I “should” have or “should not” have done or said. Guilt sometimes seems to be the leading emotion of my psyche. I’m unkinder and harsher to myself than I would ever be to anyone else.
In the past few years I’ve thought a lot about “grace” – specifically extending grace to others. However, I also want to extend grace to myself. I know I’m doing my best. I know I have struggles and areas of weakness.
At various times over the past five years I’ve gone to a therapist – Melinda. She helped me a lot. She stopped doing therapy this past winter. So I won’t be returning to her. One time several years ago she said that I seemed to lack “affect.” I wasn’t sure what she meant, and I asked her to elaborate. She said that I seemed unemotional – didn’t get excited or upset about much at all. I’m paraphrasing what she said. I imagine when I described some of the unpleasant situations of my life, I didn’t appear upset about them.
When I got home, I looked it up: “As nouns, the difference between emotion and affect is that emotion is a person’s internal state of being and involuntary physiological response to an object or situation, based on or tied to physical state and sensory data while affect is one’s mood or inclination; mental state.”
My affect: I’ve learned to do my best to keep my outward emotions in check and neutral. I don’t see that as necessarily a bad thing. It is the way I am. As a teacher, it was important not to over-react. One of the classroom management techniques I learned was that as a class got louder, if I started talking softly, everyone would strain to listen; whereas if I tried to talk above the noise, the noise tended to get louder. I was able to get the class’s attention more quickly by whispering. As excitement rose, I purposefully grew calmer (at least outwardly).
I have dealt with emotionally volatile people, and I’ve learned that it is important to do my best to stay calm and not respond emotionally since that only escalates a situation. So I work hard to keep emotions in check – to keep calm – to keep my feelings hidden. I’ve had the experience of having my words, facial expressions, and actions misinterpreted – sometimes with the worst possible intentions applied. So I have worked to keep everything neutral. That’s me – and it can be good, and it can be bad.
And perhaps that is part of the reason I’m not particularly kind to myself. With myself, I can let all the emotion out. I can say what I want to say without repercussions.
I’ve been working on being kinder to myself – treating myself with the courtesy and kindness I treat other people. I want to give myself the grace I extend to others.