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Emotional Intelligence: Finding Pain (continued)


As an early adolescent at the time of my first sexual assault, my emotional intelligence or the ability to identify my emotions and behave accordingly, was still being developed. PTSD completely shut that down. For decades, it was difficult for me to associate my emotions with what was happening in the moment. I had to learn that over time. It was the same for crying. I wanted to cry because of the traumatic events that were occurring and because of how my life had changed forever, but I couldn’t. It felt useless. Hopeless. Futile.

After I had my children, I began to notice that I would have these horrific images of tragedies that affected them. Whenever, I had one of those, I would cry. I was terrified and couldn’t understand why this was happening. Why would I imagine such tragic things happening to those that I held most dear? It didn’t stop.

When I first began to examine this, I was still racked with the shame and guilt that I had been taught believing that I had somehow caused these things to happen. I thought that I was not deserving and that something horrible might happen to my children as some type of twisted punishment. Years later, I began to associate these episodes with my need to cry. I was then able to correlate it back to a trigger for pain that I was feeling either because of one of my traumas and subsequent losses, or something that was happening in the moment.

Afterward, whenever I would begin to feel those fears for my children, I was able to stop and consider what was happening in the moment. Had something triggered the past for me? Had something occurred that hurt me in some way? I began to be able to recognize that emotion in myself and behave accordingly. I no longer have to create terrible events so that I can feel my own painful emotion.

Emotional intelligence, particularly pain and fear, was and is still hard for me. I had not allowed myself to feel them for so long; feeling them meant having to touch on that deep pit within me. I could not separate what was happening then with what was happening in the present. However, I learned that even as a mature adult, I could pick up where I had been interrupted and grow. Practicing this along with various therapeutic practices along the way have taken the edge off the emotional extremes and now, generally, when I am hurt by something it is occurring today, not decades ago.

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