Emotion Phobic

by Lori Dwyer on September 11, 2012 · 7 comments

“Keep her down, boiling water,
Keep her down, what a lovely daughter…”
Seether, Veruca Salt (aka The Feminist Breeder… that’s right. Bloggers rock).

Appointments with my trauma pysch have gone from being interesting examinations of post traumatic stress disorder from a respectable distance, to somewhat ridiculous sessions of unmitigated sobbing.

Having your psychologist look at you with pain in their eyes is disconcerting. Having them tell you that you are psychologically ticking all the right boxes, that you are doing the right things, that your meds can’t be increased, that a stay in a psych ward would really be of no benefit… that is positively fucking disturbing.

But, while going against most commonly accepted pop psych principles (that there is always some deeper issue, always something wrong with you that needs fixing), it’s both validating and comforting.

This isn’t my fault. Feeling like crap, the ebb of non-existent self esteem… I’m doing everything in my power, everything I can possibly can, to be OK. It’s just, in the words of Charlie the psych “shit things keep happening to you right now.”


We discuss a concept I’ve blogged about… how difficult it is to keep believing in karma, in the world being a fundamentally good place, in the evidence–based light of what my life has been over the last nineteen months. And again, I feel validated… the eternal optimist is slain, perhaps. But that’s OK. It’s called a ‘life ideal’, Charlie tells me. We all have them. Having them challenged is difficult, heartbreaking. It requires grieving for the belief that was there… and replacing it with something else.

The problem, I tell him, is that I don’t know what to replace it with. It’s never occurred to me until right now that maybe everything isn’t black and white, one or the other. Maybe there’s a mid point between everything working out for the best, and nothing ever being right again.

And this is evidence–based, not romanticism. This is me struggling to keep those ‘everything–will–be–fine’ beliefs of the eternal optimist and being continually proven wrong.

I’ve been trying for eighteen months not to change my mindset, not to lose that sense of optimism and happy innocence with the world. Losing it… it no longer feels like a choice.

But maybe there is something there, something besides a deep dark blackness that I can believe in. Maybe it’s not just the dark or the light… there has to be a twilight in between.


‘Emotion phobic’ is Charlie the shrink’s prognosis, and I can’t really argue with that. It’s a learned behavior, he says, a necessary survival instinct, given the intensity of emotions– not only mine, but everyone elses, too; and the way happiness just seems to keep kicking my arse at the moment; and the inevitable ‘pull your socks up’ mantra that my own family– most families– live by.

It’s simple cause and effect. If you do something that causes a negative reaction, you will learn it is a bad behavior and you will cease displaying the behavior altogether.

I know what Charlie will say next and I feel as though I’m smiling inside… I feel as though I have a secret. Because I know, just as well as he does, that this level of ice–maiden is entirely necessary for self preservation. But the antidote to it, he is about to tell me, is to have a outlet. A place where emotions are OK, all of them, and no one is going to tell you to be quiet.

And I think the secret is as simple as that… I have an outlet, a place of my own. I built it from scratch months and months before I even knew I needed it. The place where I bleed with my emotions, where words are feelings amplified.

While In Real Life I’m a stoic, a sliding, stumbling martyr… here on my blog, I’m the ultimate in passion and pain and communication and truth.

It’s the only way I’ve survived.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

marketingtomilk September 12, 2012 at 4:09 pm

I think finding and accepting the grey is the key to life. Knowing there are bad things but being okay with it. Good luck.



Sarah K Reece September 12, 2012 at 3:48 am

I like it, he sounds like a good shrink. I think it's part of our fairy tales, this idea that a happy ending nullifies everything that comes before it. Shakespearean comedy where all the tragedy and anguish is erased by the world being restored to rights before the final curtain. They exist in tension for me, paired ideas, that horror changes you forever, takes from you who you would have been. Strips away that life and leaves you instead in a place that is dark and lonely and broken. But also that life can be good, that we can heal, be happy, love and be loved. They are somehow both true, and for me neither changes in any way the existence of the other.


Christine Eubanks September 11, 2012 at 7:24 pm

"While In Real Life I'm a stoic, a sliding, stumbling martyr… here on my blog, I'm the ultimate in passion and pain and communication and truth."

Yeah, I can feel that too, emotion is full of passion and pain but I support you then :)

Christine Eubanks
Emotional Health


Anonymous September 11, 2012 at 10:11 am

Lori, this is beautiful. Beautiful in the way that raw, untouched, wild things are that can't be caged.

Good luck discovering and wandering through the ever-shifting shades of life and emotion between twilight and sunshine and moonbeams.



Vicky Finch September 11, 2012 at 9:35 am

Emotion phobic… That sits well with me too. PTSD has raised its head in my life again at the moment…. So strange the things that can cause that scar to reopen and bleed when I didn't think it was possible to bleed anymore…

I withdraw. Pull away from everyone who loves me, push them away, so that they don't see me at my rawest, most vulnerable… I keep that view for my therapist, and only when she digs a little. Sometimes I'm so afraid that if I threw open the gates that shield my heart and people saw it in all it's raw ugliness they would turn away for ever… So I protect them … And myself… And withdraw to lick the wounds clean.


Spagsy September 11, 2012 at 9:11 am

I think we all do it when we feel like we got the shot end of the stick. It's something I had to learn to do- when I find myself thinking or tweeting negative I stop and think if something amusing, something positive that has happened. To try and preserve the smiles are contageous mentality. That some how it will help my mood.

But that's a mood. It's all good and done to try and alter your mood. When first world problems try and peck at your mood… But PTSD how the fuck are positive thoughts supposed to peck at something like that?

I have no idea but I'm glad you write. I liked this perspective on how you see the world – from where you sit. Sometimes on top swinging your legs and other times carrying its weight. An outlet you say? That's fantastic. I'm happy (though the word doesn't quite capture how it feels for me an outsider) that the words in your head come through your fingers in a way that you can call this an outlet.

I just hope that everyone with PTSD or even those without can find their own outlet.

Take it from me when I say there are those of us who wish that things sounded as good out loud (or on paper) as they did in their heads.

This is your gift (the ability to write do well) and I thank you for sharing it.


woahmolly.com September 11, 2012 at 9:06 am

Not to diminish in any way what I have experienced in my life, but I've never been through anything as awful as you have. And still, I know exactly what it feels like to be 'emotion-phobic'. I've never heard that term, but as soon as I heard it something just clicked, like 'yes, that is what it is.'
I know exactly what it is like to remove yourself from your emotions and just be…detached. Because if you had to feel what you really felt you would probably never accomplish anything ever again, never be able to drag yourself out of bed in the morning, never be able to go about getting shit done. It's easier to just not feel, or to only let a little bit of what you feel through so as not to inundate yourself with the severity of your emotion.
All well and good, but when you block out the bad, the good doesn't get in either.
I've always wondered what led me to be like this. There is nothing that I can pin point and say 'this is what divorced me from my emotion', no point of reference for me to work out a 'before' and an 'after'. All I can do is try to work it out, and act as if I can regulate my feelings like a normal person.
My cheerful and effervescent demeanour works so well that the majority of the time it is me. It's just little things that break into it: my dad telling me he loves me, thinking about the hurt I've caused to people, wishing that I could let the people I care for the most know that I love them but just not being able to say the words. I'm lucky in that it's not a matter of survival for me, it's just a little piece of me that feels like it's missing…

What a ramble. Apologies for the anecdote. Like you said, having an outlet – that's what helps, and now I've gone and outletted all over your comments section.

(Also? Veruca Salt rocks.)


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