Audio: Feeling Bad
Transcript: Feeling Bad
Unfortunately, intrusive feelings, always involve us feeling bad; No one ever experiences intrusive joy. The bad feeling can be that something bad is going to happen, that something bad has happened, or that we are bad.
The first, that something bad is going to happen, is the feeling of fear. Fear comes in many flavors such as anxiety, nervousness, worry, apprehension, panic, dread, and terror.
The second intrusive feeling, that something bad has happened, is pain, and we say we feel hurt, loss, sadness, longing, heartbroken, devastated, despair, or grief.
The third intrusive feeling, that we are somehow bad, is shame, which includes feeling embarrassed, humiliated, guilty, inadequate, useless, repulsive, dirty, or flawed.
So, when we are feeling bad, the intrusive feeling always includes some quality of fear, pain, or shame. I call these the “stop feelings” and later I’ll explain how they are linked to trauma.
Because intrusive feelings have their origins in early trauma, we feel like we are under threat, so the fight or flight reaction may also be triggered. We may feel angry and inclined to fight, or may feel agitated and an urge to run. These triggered reactions usually play a role in people with anger control problems or hyperactivity.
Finally, when we are traumatized, particularly when we are very young, the fight and flight reactions quickly give way to the freezing reaction. The freezing reaction exists in all mammals, and if our efforts to deal with a threat through fighting and fleeing prove futile, (like when a predator is about to have us for lunch), we collapse into the freezing reaction, essentially immobilized. You don’t need to know any more about it at this point, but freezing is another reaction that is triggered by situations that somehow remind us of past trauma. Freezing is common in depression, and is often present when people have difficulty thinking or speaking when they become anxious.
So these are the main feelings that can be triggered by situations that remind us of past trauma. Fear, pain, shame, and the impulse to fight, flee, or freeze. As with trauma in adulthood, however, any aspect of the traumatic situation may intrude into our experience, not just feelings. In a full flashback, we relive the whole ordeal. For a war veteran, the sound of firecrackers may transport him back to the battlefield including the smells, and visual images. Similarly with childhood trauma, along with the intrusive feelings we may be haunted by a sense of the world being hostile to us, indifferent to us, or as us being the victim of unfair treatment. When these qualities of our past experience intrude and colour our current experience they will obviously get in the way of feeling happy in our lives.