Last week we talked about anger as a secondary emotion. What about the primary emotion?
Well, if we practiced last week and we made lists of what our bodies go through with anger, and what we literally do when we are expressing the anger, and let's say at least once this last week we were able to have a success and we were able to curb our anger, what then? First of all, good for you if you were successful at this, at least good for you for taking the time to make the lists. :) OK, so now the primary emotion will lay bare. In anger situations, likely once you have eliminated the anger, you can clearly see what went wrong. The classic cases of relationship anger, your mate doesn't come home on time and you become angry, once you have stripped that away, in reality you can identify that you were perhaps scared that something may have happened, or maybe you were sad, because he/she was insensitive to you having cooked a meal that was cold upon their arrival, or what have you. Of course, I stress that is a classic case, because there are times when betrayal is the driving force in that case scenario.
The idea is the same here though, if Susan gets angry because her and her husband are discussing the finances and he walks away in the middle of her sentence and chuckles at her as he is leaving, chances are she isn't angry because the insensitivity of her husband. Rather, if she can skillfully handle the uprise of her anger, she will, overtime, recognize that it isn't anger at all. For borderline personality disorder, her husband walking out on her has no doubt triggered her deep fear of being abandoned. Once that fear has been triggered, there seems no reign that could possibly hold in the raging sea of emotions that come afterward. His scanty chuckle will no doubt trigger a sense of dismissal, perhaps worthlessness. This is the emotion that will drive that anger, which will erupt and all these other illness related symptoms will be overlooked. If they are overlooked, then how can this couple possibly begin to know what Susan goes through with Borderline Personality Disorder, and what her husband goes through with being the closest person to a person suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder?
Other common secondary emotion is shame. You see quilt comes when we have done something that compromises our values or as hurt others close to us. This guilt motivates us to make it up to the person we have hurt and not do it again. Where as if our guilt goes unchecked, if we allow it to fester, it will soon morph into shame. This secondary emotion carries all sorts of baggage like anger does. Shame will send you back to bed, never addressing what the root of it was. For the purposes of progress, if shame is a major issue for you, re-read last weeks post about anger and educate yourself in a similar manner.
When we have a clear idea as to the primary emotion is, then we can make all sorts of choices. We have cleared our minds and are prepared to really do some investigation. Shame for example, Susan is in another argument with her husband. He is upset with her for spending more money than he had alloted and is asking her where she spent so much. She fights back with a list of reasons why he spends too much money too and that she is an adult, and that she shouldn't have to answer an accounting of every dime she spent. But what is really going on, is Susan knows that she bought a few clothing items that she knows she didn't really need, and she also knows that she bought some alcohol that she is hiding from her husband. She reasons she hides the alcohol, because she knows she will use it only for relaxation, and that he is too critical of her drinking anyways. She knows she bought the clothing items and that she really doesn't "need" them, but they didn't really cost that much. However, what we can see is that first of all, Susan's resentment towards her husband is driven by her lack of self-control. No doubt, by this time this is not the first time her and her husband have had this conversation and no doubt this is not the first time she has hid her purchases from her husband. Her values tell her that hiding things from her husband is not healthy. She betrayed her values and instead of allowing the guilt to motivate her to act differently, overtime, deep resentment and shame have taken over. Susan is in no place to make effective decisions from her wise mind. Possibly, if this is has happened for months or even years, Susan may not even know herself all of the underlying issues. Quite possibly, if she has tuned out her guilt for a long time, she really believes the argument is about her husbands lack of trust. What she is seriously missing is that her behavior is right in line with symptoms of her illness and without her educating herself on her destructive secondary emotion, she will never be able to help herself or her marriage.
Now, I know it seems minor, an argument over money, or hiding alcohol in and of itself are not going to destroy someone. But, with mental illness, these what may appear to be minor events are happening more often than we may realize, and to top it off, with each passing event like these we are training ourselves even deeper to ignore our body. Ignore our emotions and ignore our illness.
Once we have dedicated to ourselves that we are going to approach our lives with this inquisitive attitude, sort of like a detective does to a mystery, then we will be motivated to take events like Susan's and pick it apart, analyzing it until we can make sense of it. What this does not mean is that we force our mate to sit through us repeating the event over and over and over. This does not mean that re-tell the event to ourselves and blame or criticize our actions or that of our mates. A detective does not walk into a crime scene and immediately start yelling at the victim of a robbery that they weren't careful enough. He doesn't ask the victim what happened and then keep repeating himself over and over, no, not at all. He asks questions, out of curiosity pieces together what events took place and then refrains from allowing natural emotions that will crop up from clouding his ability to determine what took place and what can be done about it. In the case of the robbery, it may very well be sad or hard to emotionally deal with to see a young child that was struck by the thief before he fled. But no amount of sobbing or ranting about how the thief shouldn't have hit an innocent child will catch the thief. The detective knows that although it is normal and natural to feel those emotions, that if he let them take the driver seat he would not get his job done effectively. Same holds true for us. A crime has been committed, we have a mental illness. It is not easy, if things were to be fair, then we would not have a mental illness, but the reality is that we are the way we are, fair or unfair, that the crime is not easily solvable and that we need to take the position of a detective in our own lives. This concept is the key to regulating our emotions.
This approach becomes successful the very day we start to use it. We may not be able to peel away the layers hiding the root cause in that very day, but we will start to have successes because the power to attack our illness is given us, by ourself in the moment we say, "OK, that hurt, why did that happen I wonder? Why did I respond that way? Why did he respond that way?" AND we honestly listen to the answers we find. When Judgment has been removed, the answers become clear.