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Sometimes Your Emotions Are Hard

Not all self-discoveries are positive. Sometimes, the things you find about yourself when you’re self-examining that you need to work on. That you really don’t like. Mine have to do with not asserting myself when it’s appropriate to and I really need to; with grudge holding; and with only overthinking the bad side of things, not the potential good things that might happen.

Editor’s note: I wrote this for Friday and then the news happened and now it’s for Monday. I almost never write something for a given day, even though it’s for a theme, maybe. If I miss a tomorrow’s and changing it to a Saturday’s, bite me. I love you, though, readers, you have no idea how much.

In Saturday’s podcast we talk about one of these hard emotions to grapple with: Jealousy. I’ve talked a bit about it on the blog (there’s a handy category in the dropdown menu), and tomorrow’s podcast deals with it in much more detail than I could here, so I’m going to try not to use it in my examples, but every principle I’m going to mention going forward applies to it as well as to whatever example I offer. I don’t find jealousy particularly dark- more of a “is something wrong with my equilibrium or my relationships’?” check-point, but I want to get to the point where I feel that way about all my negative emotions, if that’s even possible. Some philosophies call the acceptance of these feelings and integration of them into self shadow work - so that’s where we are today, in a little bit of shadow.

Let’s look at an example. Maybe you carry a lot of shame around certain sexual behaviors, you police them very carefully, internally, and maybe externally. There are steps to breaking that down.

  • First, recognizing it’s there. You feel shame, and it’s not just generic shame, unnamed shame, it’s around this behavior or set of behaviors. Decide you don’t like the shame, it isn’t serving you in its present form.

  • Next, seeing if it is being applied outward as well as inward. Are you assuming others should or do feel your shame and so shouldn’t do this behavior? Are you not just feeling this but trying to do something about this, whether it’s through rulesetting and attempts at control, or through fights when it happens, or through bashing metas who are into these things.

  • Then, recognizing you don’t get a say in other people’s feelings. Applying energy to adjusting your behavior so that you aren’t applying your energy elsewhere; working with a therapy or workbook to figure out other ways to handle your feelings about others doing whatever the thing is.

  • Last, looking at it for you. You can do this at the same time as all the other steps, but it often takes the longest. It often is easier to do the work to throw off shame for others than for you, and that therapist or workbook or both I mentioned above? Or a counselor or relationship coach? Best applied to this part of this issue. Working on ourselves, and seeing our own patterns, is a lot harder without external help.

But, you say, I didn’t need to do any of this work when I was younger, how could I need to do it now and how could it be tied to that? Well, when you were younger, you didn’t have polyamorous emotional relationships yet. You bailed if someone did something you didn’t like and didn’t explain. Or you explained and they stopped, and you were polyamorous so you didn’t need to think about them and someone else maybe possibly doing it and think about why it worries you to start with. You got to bail on it. You got to skip step 1, much less start step 4 at the same time as working through 2 and 3 and still finish 4 last.

Or how about something different. How about my biggest internal dark spot - grudge holding and pettiness? I personally have a huge problem letting go with things that should be little things. Things that should be awkward for two hours - that are, in person, only awkward for two hours, and I can get jobs done and basic interaction on a civil level done in only two hours done- and over, for me are an internal slo-mo replay of The Wrong Done Me until, as a therapist once put it to me, “three times the good gets done and a major section of the bad is erased, psychologically.” (She followed by handing me some Brené Brown on trust and vulnerability to read and be personally attacked by, in a good way, to see the work I need to do.) The steps I need to do here are:

  • Accept that I hold grudges in a way that damages relationships. (Really accept it, not just make jokes on the internet about it, as my new personal therapist would say, because this isn’t an apology situation, but this isn’t a moment for humor as a shield either.)

  • Once I accept it, re-read that Brené Brown, and instead of feeling attacked, feel like she’s giving me a road map forward.

  • Still need three times the good to fully forgive people because that’s a general human psychological fact, but let the slo-mo replays and stewing and fear go within a day or so because that’s harming myself and my relationships and not serving either. The only relationships where that should exist are ones where trauma exists, and that’s an enormously small number for me, thanks to any deity you may believe in, reader.

  • Accept needing three times the good and needing to give people three times the good to be forgiven myself because it feels unfair but it’s real and it’s human psychology. Some kinds of loving relationships (active NRE, for example) can act as one of the positives or even more, blind us to the negative, but in 98% of our relationships or the phases of our relationships (because unless you “chase NRE” you mostly aren’t in it) we have to accept this darkness in ourselves and others of needing to receive 3 times the good to forgive one wrong.

  • And I need to accept that I’m going to relapse and I’m going to have to redo the work of not slo-mo replaying every wrong that happens in my life, real or perceived, to keep a grudge going for a week or for months depending how often I interact with people, for most of my life. I’m not going to do a perfect job “fixing myself.” No one ever does. There is no recovered, only recovering.

I think this got cut from Saturday’s podcast because I went for talking about insecurity in general and about my coping mechanisms. But honestly, read everything you can, especially if a therapist suggests it, and talk to a therapist. Both help.

There are dark parts of us. They are parts of us. They never go away. It does not make us better to pretend they never existed, or never will exist again because we got a new therapist. It makes us less honest with ourselves and less able to be honest with partners. Being more honest with ourselves and others is always the goal.

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