What to Do When Your Emotions Feel Out of Control
As I work through my attachment trauma, I am reflecting on all the many times I have been out of control–disregulated, unable to manage my emotional state, blaming, arguing, pushing away, internally spinning in distressing thoughts, feeling crazy and acting crazy. These are referred to as “protest behaviors” in attachment. (Imagine a child screaming in protest of their parent leaving.)
What I’ve realized is that any kind of out of control emotional expression is a cry for help. The problem is that the cry is directed at our past. Nobody in the present can really answer that cry, because it comes from that part of us that is still stuck in that trauma. It is the child (baby) within us that is screaming, not our adult self.
This isn’t exactly a new concept for me, but in the past, it would just stay stuck as a concept. I hadn’t internalized it. No matter how many times I did reparenting and worked with that little girl, she stubbornly refused to be comforted by anyone but the one she needed it from. Which, in the haphazard way that our subconscious mind operates, she would project onto my romantic partners, but in the end, they would never “get it right”, whatever “it” was.
Self-love was not the answer.
This entire framework has begun to shift and fall apart inside me. And it wasn’t from using self-love to replace the other-love that was missing. I’m all for self-love, and it can help smooth the rough edges, and help in other ways, but it never healed the core wound.
What started the process was the realization that she was really protesting the beliefs she created to explain the pain. She didn’t want it to be true that she was unlovable or bad. So she was protesting a world that seemed to be reflecting that back to her. In reality, she was projecting that belief onto the world, and making everything that happened about herself, just like a baby does. Because that part of us is our baby-mind stuck in trauma.
She didn’t need love, she needed truth. She needed to see the light. Love can’t change a belief system, because our mind keeps recreating it. All the love that comes in is filtered through that belief system, and it turns into something else before it hits our heart.
To change a belief, you have to have a reason to begin to doubt that belief.
You have to start to perceive that it’s just not real. It’s more like the process of someone leaving a cult. You realize your entire belief system is based on a lie.
I was never bad. I was never broken. I was never unlovable. I was never anything but a baby who wasn’t being given very good care. Everything else I made up. And I’ve just been living in that belief system ever since. Forty years of believing shit that a baby came up with. It’s kind of baffling how convincing a one year old can be to our subconscious.
So, if you can’t control your emotional expression, try asking yourself what exactly are you trying to prove? What are you protesting? What do you want so badly to be untrue?
Find the belief that you are fighting against. And then recognize that there is a reason that belief is there, and it has nothing to do with it being true. It’s just how our mind works at the age of 0-2. A baby can’t do anything but make all the pain about itself. It has no other frame of reference.
Entertain the possibility that whatever you want to be untrue actually just isn’t true. It was never true. You don’t need to fight a battle against a ghost. All you need to do is see that it is a ghost.
I’m not a therapist or a guru, just a fellow seeker who has been there, done that, and wants to share. I firmly believe we can all heal, and its often a winding road to get there. The more we share what works and help each other, the more we can all benefit.
I’m also looking to start a community of trauma-informed personal growth seekers–follow the link if you are interested.
Thanks so much for reading! ~Emma