Words Matter in Recovery

Words Matter in Recovery April 7, 2022

Over the past few years, words have become very important to me. Not just words, but words associated with emotions. This is important in my healing and my shadow work because it was important to identify the emotion that I was feeling and when I could identify that emotion, then it was possible to heal it.  Eugene Gendlin expressed it this way:

“What is split off, not felt, remains the same. When it is felt, it changes. Most people don’t know this! They think that by not permitting the feeling of their negative ways they make themselves good. On the contrary, that keeps these negatives static, the same from year to year. A few moments of feeling it in your body allows it to change. If there is in you something bad or sick or unsound, let it inwardly be and breathe. That’s the only way it can evolve and change into the form it needs.”
~Eugene Gendlin – Let your body interpret your dreams 1986 

It is also important to identify emotions after I had my stroke. I knew that I was very determined to get better immediately after the stroke, but I also realized that it was important to identify and admit the emotions I was feeling. For a while, the main emotion that I felt was sadness. I would say to myself “I am sad.”

As my stroke recovery progressed, I found some other emotions were also appropriate and also were important to express.  I can’t remember a lot of them now but some of them probably weren’t even real words. They might’ve been things like nervousy.

But one of the primary emotions I felt that is an actual word is frustration.  Many of the things that I was asked to do were hard. I couldn’t hide what I was really feeling was anger or or something like sadness.  But I was also actually frustrated and it was important to admit that I was. The therapist helped by confirming this emotion and not judging it is good or bad. So they say things like, “I know, it’s frustrating.” Admitting that I was frustrated kept me from quitting and left me with a mild determination to continue on.

But there were also times when I was dismayed. This is a little more extreme than just being frustrated, because I was tempted to give up.  even though this seems like a dangerous emotion to feel it was important to admit that I was feeling it. Because when I admitted what I was feeling, and gave it some time, then I could find new strength and new determination to keep going.

Another emotion I felt often was confusion. I would say to myself “I don’t understand.” I am not sure of the scientific facts of what I’m talking about  here, but it seems like during stroke recovery there is a lack of executive function. Often I will tell Laura I just cannot do what you’re asking me to do because I don’t have anything left. She also probably felt the same way.  There were only so many things I could think about in a day and it was important to stay focused on the  things that mattered the most. I had to put my ego aside and realize that I can’t understand everything and sometimes I don’t have to.

Religion sort of ruined happiness for me.  There were a lot of confusing messages, and sometimes we weren’t sure if we were supposed to be joyful or not. But when I saw some success or spent some time with my granddaughter during the stroke recovery, I found myself just laughing, and questioning why I was laughing but later realizing that I was genuinely happy. It’s important to admit this as well– it is okay to be genuinely happy for the situation, even though it’s not ideal.

But the two words that I returned to most often were the words that I wrote about in my book Being: A Journey Toward Presence and Authenticity. The two words are presence and authenticity.  many times over the past few months, it was important for me to stop and remind myself to be where I am. I couldn’t afford to be in the past regretting decisions that I had made and I couldn’t afford to be too far in the future because the future was uncertain and it only provided anxiety.  But it was also important to be myself.

Words really do matter! And when they are attached to emotions they matter even more! There is almost no downside to admitting how we feel other than people may not understand. But, whether or not they understand, we need to feel them and admit that we feel them so that we can get better.

Be where you are, be who you are,

Karl forehand


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