Avoiding Feelings ~ The Root Cause


Avoiding Feelings and emotions

A couple of days ago, I was just about to declare that I was having a bad day and as I heard the thought forming in my head, I got thinking about it. I was not actually having a bad day; I was feeling feelings that I don’t like feeling. All my life I was taught that my feelings were wrong. As a result of that, I thought my fear was misplaced and that I misunderstood whatever or whoever I was afraid of. I was told that if I didn’t stop crying that I would be given something to cry about. I was told not to be sad, not to be angry and the eventual result was that I tried not to feel. You could say that I was encouraged not to feel. You could even say that I learned not to feel. ~ I found ways not to feel. I used food, I used alcohol and I used drugs so that I would not have to feel. I used men, and “falling in love” so that I did not feel. I created drama and excitement; I used books and movies so that I could avoid feeling those feelings. When things got really tough, I used dissociation and depression, all so that I could avoid feeling and dealing and all because I did not know the truth in the first place. My moods depended on circumstances. I was emotionally immature because I learned to avoid feeling. There was no peace and no serenity.

 And now I am feeling…  and sometimes I am not comfortable with it. I have spent a lifetime trying to avoid certain feelings so it is actually understandable that it is still difficult, uncomfortable and unfamiliar to finally allow myself to feel them.

I decided to take a look at the feelings that were coming up and FEEL them. It was horrible.  I decided to spend some time on the phone with a friend and TALK about them. I took a close look at what I was thinking and I looked at it from a couple of different angles. I like the view from the bottom of the mountain looking up and I also like to go up to the top of the mountain and look down. Both views are interesting and both reveal different information.  I realized some thinking patterns that were left over from the old days. The old days were the days when I believed all the lies and blamed myself for everything that was going wrong in everyone’s life. If someone near to me was not happy, it must be something that I’ve done, and since I caused it, I should try to fix it. 

In my victim mentality I had adopted the belief that I was the problem and it was familiar for me to go into a spin about why someone else was in a bad mood, or even just sad. Trying to figure out what was bothering them sent me into a spin trying to figure out all the things that I may have done, or neglected to do that might have set them off. I had to learn to recognize when I was in that spin before I could learn how to head it off. I learned how to head it off by realizing the truth ~ which is that I am NOT the cause of all struggle or strife. Learning to stay out of that spin was not easy for me. For years I said cute little sayings like “I am not powerful enough to wreck your day” or “I am not that important” but it wasn’t that easy to actually understand those kinds of sayings and I really did believe that I was the problem. The belief that I was the problem didn’t come from ego it came from abuse. It came from being told over and over in so many subtle ways, that the problem was me, so the only way that I could accept that I was NOT the problem was to find out where the belief came from, and change it. That process was long and involved.  

I had to dig down to the roots of how I came to believe that everything was my fault and my problem to solve, before I could see that everything was not my fault and that I was not the cause of someone’s bad mood or difficult day. When I was telling myself that believing I was the problem came out of my ego, I concentrated on being less important, which actually was the cause of the whole problem in the first place! I was so busy being all things to all people that I never considered my own needs or feelings! It was only when I got all the garbage out of the way, and looked at one root at a time, that I was able to sort this stuff out and learn the truth about my value and how much power I do or don’t have in other people’s lives.

Because I was willing to feel these feelings, and work through this process, I was able to realize that once again had been willing to take ownership and responsibility for the feelings of an unhappy person in my life and I was able work through how much (if any) I had actually contributed to the distress. Once I sorted that out, the feelings that I was trying to escape from were no longer an issue.

In my next post I am going to expand on how all of this had such a big hand in letting other people define me.

Exposing truth one snapshot at a time,  

Darlene Ouimet

41 response to "Avoiding Feelings ~ The Root Cause"

  1. By: Sam Posted: 6th November

    Hi Darlene I grew up in a household of suppressed feelings. The big one was not crying; mother had such a bee in her bonnet about the kids next door who were “such crybabies, always crying”, she found it contemptible and a sign of weakness. I soon realised that not only was it a good idea to not cry, I found if I fell over and didn’t cry mother gave me a grudging acceptance, (there was no love in my family so acceptance was the best I could hope for). Any crying I did had to be done in the privacy of my bedroom and as I got older, if I was slapped I would not cry as I did not want to give her the satisfaction that she’d hurt me, (the same with bullies at school). Now I’m adult I find I can’t cry in front of people as I feel too vulnerable and since I’ve started this healing process I often feel like I need to cry but it won’t come which is very uncomfortable. Another suppressed feeling was anger, any anger was only aimed at me, not other adults so I can’t handle conflict either, I get a strong urge either to raise my arms to protect myself or to run away. I can’t express anger properly either so fume instead.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 6th November

      Hi Sam
      I can relate; I had a lot of trouble crying and sometimes I needed to cry so bad that I would watch a tear jerker movie by myself so I could get a few tears out. I still have trouble in this area but I have been able to keep going forward anyway. I can’t cry in front of anyone else either. Well I can shed like one or two tears but thats it; I hate that but it is true for me. I also could not express anger before but I can now. I had to validate that I even had a right to BE angry before I was able to even look at it.
      Thanks for sharing, it gets better and easier as long as we try to go forward!
      Hugs Darlene

  2. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 18th June

    Hi Cat
    Please don’t take it personally when I don’t answer a comment. I can’t keep up with all of them anymore. I get between 1000 and 1200 comments every month. This website has an average of 15,000 readers a day and I get email too. and If I don’t answer, it doesn’t mean that I have abandoned anyone, it means that I am only one person. I have such a heart for this work and the people ~ please always know that.
    Hugs, Darlene

  3. By: Cat Posted: 18th June


    Thanks for the reassurance in the p.s. I have a Dr. appt tomorrow and I’m just filled with fear about it. I feel like once I get past that I will have a good run.

    I am hopeful that the feeling of running out of time will go away. Then I can take another step or two.

    p.s. I didn’t get any response or follow ups from my previous post and I was started to feel “left out” or something. I kept thinking that maybe you just didnt have time to respond to me or my post wasnt important enough. I kept thinking that didnt feel right just knowing how the blogs read and your supportive energy. Simultaneously, i had noticed that a friend has stopped responding to friendly msgs on fb. I could understand that but EFB didnt seem like a place that would abandon me. So I went back to find this post on fb and trace back my msg to you. And there you were. The response. I forgot to check the box to notify me of follow up comments. Made me realize how strong my abandonement issues and fear of rejection are. Holy cow, I got lotsa work to do. Lol!

  4. By: Cat Posted: 16th June


    I have to tell you that I have been struggling since, well, forever. But you sent me a response somewhere that referenced growing myself up. I had done so much work and understood all the trauma and drama. I even escaped the clutches of the dysfunction by allowing myself to divorce my family without guilt. But what I never did was go back and love myself and tend to myself the way i needed to as you talk about.

    I wanted to share that Dr Wayne Dyer has some really great insights on focusing on self in a positive and healing way. Also, John Bradford has a very powerful guided imagery that takes you back to the little child you were, and essentially rescuing your “child” self and vowing to protect and love them forever more. Talk about sobbing.

    But I have to tell you that hearing you say “grow myself up” flipped a switch. I never ate breakfast or cooked for myself because it simply wasn’t a part of my life. it wasn’t done for me as a child or modeled in any way. so i would not eat all day and then when i was starving, i would “find” something to eat. Since I wanted to go on a healthy eating plan I started out trying to do it but couldnt prepare food for myself. it was just “too much effort” hmmmm…not worthy of a meal prepared by a loving care giver.

    Well. it’s been a couple of weeks since you said that to me. I have been buying and eating healthy foods. I havn’t been through a drive thru in weeks. I’ve also started going to long overdue Dr. appts. In essence, taking care of Cat. Something my mother never did. The irony is that she is elderly now and wants to be taken care of. served hand and foot. Ummm. I don’t think so. I’m too busy caring for me and my daughter.

    Anyway, point is. thank you Darlene. There is so much work to be done. I have this sinking feeling that i will run out of time. I’ve missed so much and want to enjoy myself. Time is flying and I’m still trying. I’m learning and I don’t feel depressed for the first time in a long time. There is definitely something or (everything) to be said for not waiting for someone else to validate and love you. Why do we wait when we can do it ourselves and we’ve been standing here all along. I even find myself saying “I love you” to myself before i fall asleep. Felt so weird at first but now puts a little grin on my face.

    Love, love, love….


    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 17th June

      Hi Cat
      Thank you so much for your comments and updates! I am so pleased that my words here made a difference and that you came back to post about it!
      Hugs, Darlene

      p.s. I had that feeling that I might run out of time too, but i don’t have it anymore!

  5. By: Krissy Posted: 31st October

    Darlene, I thought I was the only one that didn’t seem to really feel. Like you, I was taught to put them aside and be uncomfortable with them – we hardly ever cried. Then when I was being abused by ex, I found myself uncharacteristically crying a lot, only to be put down for it, so I made a vow not to cry in front of him. It took the death of a child for God to open up my heart to feel. Even then, I couldn’t cry at the funeral and I rarely cried in front of my ex. But I began to learn to feel in my own private moments. Then God opened the can of worms with the 26 years of abusive marriage and boy, did I go through a journey of feeling!

    Until you can feel, how can you validate yourself, process your anger, express your sadness, or just be yourself? Without the ability to really feel, you lose yourself.

    I used to follow the teaching not to trust your feelings – you know, live by faith, not feeling. I even doubted my fear of the abuser and ignored it, constantly exposing myself to abuse. When I was too scared to enter my house once, I called my pastor, who said “What are you afraid of? What can he do?” and that made me feel foolish for paying any attention to my feelings of fear. Then when I really felt the pain and the gut instinct to get out, I thought that I shouldn’t trust those feelings. How wrong that was.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 31st October

      I relate to so many things that you have said. ! I still have trouble crying, sometimes I use a movie to help me get the tears out, (when no one else is home) I can feel now… but crying is very hard. The journey has so many areas that we got stunted in… so much to catch up on in recovery. But, the good news is that it is possible! Thanks for sharing!
      Hugs, Darlene

  6. By: Chris Times Posted: 25th October

    I hear the storm’s rising,The river is about to rise with the over abundance of tears that always seem to find themselves falling down From the face of the hurting ones That I call friends.I hear their names as they are Cast into the windculling them into some sort of felonious play.I see the tears as they falland break to their doomamid the brick lined streetscalled Avenues.Written by The Broken Hearted

  7. By: Chris Times Posted: 25th October

    I wrote this poem and thought it might help someone.

    TearsTuesday, March 23, 2010 at 10:00pmEdit – DeleteI hear the storm’s rising,The river is about to risewith the over abundance of tears thatalways seem to find themselves falling downFrom the face of the hurting onesThat I call friends.I hear their names as they areCast into the windculling them into some sort of felonious play.I see the tears as they falland break to their doomamid the brick lined streetscalled Avenues.

    Written by The Broken Hearted

  8. By: Jillian Posted: 24th October

    Thank you so much for this post! I have never read your website before and I’m in total shock at how amazingly well you verbalized exactly how I feel. Not until recently did I realize (with therapy of corse) that all my harmful behaviors were just a way to avoid feeling anything–I just wanted to be numb. The feelings are definitely uncomfortable now, however they are becoming bearable with time. There is so much hope!!

    Looking forward to reading more of your site & again, thank you sooo much!!!

    xx jillian

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 24th October

      Hi Jillian
      Welcome! I am really pleased that my words are resonating with you. I think that it is the truth factor. This hit me hard when I first discovered it too ~ that at the bottom of all that mess in my life was the truth and the truth was always there, but I had been brainwashed with lies, and I didn’t know the difference between truth and lies. My truth was all full of lies! (but I didn’t know it!) I am really glad that you are here Jillian…
      Hugs, Darlene

  9. By: Chris Times Posted: 24th October

    Wow! How wonderful is it to read this blog, and see that other people have very similar feelings and issues resulting from abuse. For years I have been in denyal about my true feelings relating to the abuse I suffered as a very little boy. I remember having dreams about my abuse and about my abuser’s body. While I now know the things that happened to me were indeed real, I cannot recall the abuser’s face. When I went to a funeral of a family friend a couple of years ago, this woman approached me and spoke to me as though she knew me. Immediately on hearing her voice, I became afraid and felt like a terrified little boy. I know that this was my abuser. I was frozen and couldn’t move. I was horrified. This woman told me her name and said that she used to keep me when I was a little boy. I was so upset that I couldn’t speak. Yes, I agree that I have always blamed myself for being abused and always felt that God doesn’t love me. I always asked myself questions like how could God or anyone love me. I always felt like the “outsider”. I have always let others define me and my worth. I lived and breathed on every word of my “friends and family” hoping that they would “love” me.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 24th October

      Hi Chris,
      I totally get this! Thank you for sharing this part of your life. I have this memory / flashback of a mans bare legs ~ no face in that one at all. and a womans pink blouse and blue skirt. Some faces are not clear. And when we are trained to doubt ourselves by so many other events and teachings we endure.. some of them not even abusive but more invalidating, it all goes into the same pot and what comes out is self blame and constant self doubt. The good news is that there is healing. I looked for a very long time… thought I found many answers over the years… but when I found this belief system stuff, When I did THIS kind of foundational work, everything changed… and for the first time in my life I don’t have to go back. When I have healed a broken part, it is healed. Amazing!
      I am so glad that you are here!
      Hugs, Darlene

  10. By: Rhinda Posted: 15th September

    Wow, what an amazing blog. So many things you said touched me. I have done so much all my life to avoid my own feelings, I no longer know what they are. Many thanks – it helps knowing that others are on this journey.

  11. By: Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker Posted: 23rd June

    Darlene, even though I have been working on my incest issues for over 20 years, feelings is one that I still have difficulty with. I overeat to not feel sometimes still. With my Inner Child Letters Series on my blog, I have been feeling and overeating both. I can feel for awhile and then I get overwhelmed and eat. Thanks for writing this post. I have gotten behind in reading what you and Carla have written this week. Hope to catch up in the next few days.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 23rd June

      Patricia, as usual, you are not alone here!

      I still struggle with certain aspects body issues and of food and escape. Not as many as I used to, but this is an area that I am very aware of. I don’t all out binge anymore, I don’t purge anymore, and I don’t do binge and then starvation anymore, but I still have days when a little extra food seems like the neccessary coping method. I guess the good news is that we are not finished the journey yet, so it’s all good!

  12. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 18th June

    Hi Kathy,
    I have used eating disorders and food to deal with things too and found out with each addiction that I overcame I had this ‘stuff’ that was still there, waiting to be figured out. And the feeling is only part of it! Great to meet you on the journey; the follow up post will be published on Sunday!
    Hugs, Darlene

  13. By: Kathy Posted: 17th June

    Thanks for this GREAT blog! WOW, can I re-late! I use to believe everything was my fault and I’m still in therapy sorting these very difficult feelings out…feeling them and releasing them! I have to take one day at a time, sometime’s one breath at a time! I also, in my past used anorexia to completely numb me so I didn’t have to feel. To the point it literally almost took my life! The great news, is that I healed from the “anorexia”, but NOT the feelings, not the abuse I suffered. I too was always told it’s not ok to cry, show any emotion and that it was my fault. The weight of carrying that guilt is a horrible feeling! What’s different now…is I realize that there is no other way to that wholeness of healing uless you “feel”. Easier said then done, that’s for sure!!!

    I’m looking forward to the follow up on this blog! Thank You! 🙂

  14. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 17th June

    I agree, it is fantastic to know how many others feel the same way! It is validating and it gives us courage to look deeper into our own lives and belief systems.

    For me, even realizing this stuff was a process. It took some time for the fog to really lift and the more that it did, the more I realized, the more I could make the decision to take my life back. The recovery process builds on itself, so the main thing is to just keep seeking to move forward. I kept thinking about the stuff that I believed might not be real truth, and step by step I got stronger.

    Hugs, Darlene

  15. By: Tracy Posted: 17th June

    I’m so used to everything being my fault that it never occurred to me it may not be. I’m not sure what to do with this thought.

  16. By: Kyla Posted: 17th June

    I just read your comment, Lisa -and I can relate with everything you said, with your mom etc, same thing for me. It is nice to know there are other people who have dealt with similar thing’s.

  17. By: Kyla Posted: 17th June

    I know what this is like, and can relate. It was nice reading this, post to know that someone else has been through similar thing’s

  18. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 17th June

    I can relate to having been my own prisoner and prison guard, in fact I should not use the past tense, since I can still “go there”.

    DID was another coping method for me like so many other problems, addictions and depressionas that I had. I was so shocked (because I didn’t think life could ever be this good, I just wanted to stop feeling like hell all the time) when I found a way out of all that that I feel driven to tell the world. I am glad that I have been able to share my hope with you.
    Hugs, Darlene

  19. By: IAmEchad Posted: 16th June

    I strive to do more than understand intellectually that feelings are just feelings – and to one day FEEL that it’s true too. Certain feelings still terrify me even though I understand they’re “just” feelings. I’m tired of feeling like my own prisoner and guard. I have hope though that if you’ve “survived” DID that maybe I can too.

  20. By: Christina Enevoldsen Posted: 16th June

    Yup! Really great, Darlene!

    They say that you may not be able to control your circumstances, but you can control your attitude about your circumstances. In my case, that wasn’t true. When I was a kid, I was extremely well-behaved. I obeyed all the rules and did extra things around the house to be helpful. I never got in trouble except for one thing: my attitude. At ten years old, I had no idea what an attitude was or how I was supposed to change it– and believe me, I would have if I had only known how.

    I was suffering under the weight of the sexual abuse by my father and the secrets and pain were leaking out through my “bad attitude.” Not only did I have to face the abuse, but I also had to conceal my feelings about it. The message was: “Yes, you are being hurt, but smile about it because your frowns make us uncomfortable.”

  21. By: CAL. Posted: 16th June

    You write about me all the time….lol….Still, after doing some recovery work I struggle to know what feeling is trying to surface, most often though I discover it is sadness or loneliness because those are two emotions that would fit the situation at the time. I manage to either eat till the feeling subsides or escape into sexual fantasy.
    Thank you for helping me learn more.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 16th June

      it is so great to hear from you!
      It takes time; for me the key was to keep going forward. Just keep pursuing your truth.
      Hugs for you, Darlene

      Oh yes, that was the message alright! WOW ~ and that message ” but smile about it; your frown makes us uncomfortable” is at the heart of ALL abuse. You said a mouthfull here Christina! Thanks so much.
      Hugs, Darlene

  22. By: Lisa Posted: 16th June

    I am frequently struck, when reading this blog, how often you and Carla crawl into my skin and tell my story as though you are looking out through my eyes. It particularly strikes me as your own two experiences are so different. How can I relate so completely to almost everything both of you say?

    Thank you for this frank and insightful post! I have been blaming myself for my mother’s unhappiness for as long as I can remember. There is no time that I remember that I haven’t blamed myself for it. I am learning, slowly, to feel what I feel instead of worrying so much about what SHE feels (and, as a result, as I mentioned before, every other relationship in my life), but it is a daily struggle! I still wrap my value up so completely in what others think of me that I can be having a great day and crash and burn as a result of the simplest criticism. I am still carrying around beliefs about myself, about sex, about life, about love, which have always insulted my soul, that I learned from a very young age. I know I need to let them go, but I’m really worried about what will replace them.

    After all, what am I for if it is not taking care of my mother? What will my identity be?

    Anyway, thank you again for your wonderful insights. Even though I wouldn’t wish these feelings on anyone, it does help to know I’m not alone.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 16th June

      If you were able to identify some root causes, then I have done my job right! Thank you for this comment!

      I remember the day when I said to my therapist, “Okay, if I am no longer defined by all these things.. them WHO the HELL am I? That was a scary time… finding the real me, but I can tell you this; it was never even close to as scary as I thought it would be, AND it is 1000 times better living this way then it was living the old way! I found ME on this journey. I discovered my passions, my real gifts, I like myself because I am myself now. I am not defined just by “things I do” anymore. It takes a bit of time, but hang in there! It is so worth it!
      Hugs, Darlene

  23. By: Debbie Posted: 16th June


    This post was very helpful for me. As I was reading, I made mental calculations of some lies that I had believed and was able to identify the root cause.

  24. By: Cyndi Posted: 16th June


    This post describes(ed) me to a T!! I was trained not to feel and instead to believe that I was the source of everyone else’s negative feelings. After numbing and distracting myself for 37 years, feeling things again was extremely painful and resulted in a depressive episode that lasted about a year. I still struggle sometimes with my codependent tendencies and feelings. I have to remind myself that they are, in fact, only feelings and can actually not harm me but can help me learn more about myself. Letting other people define you….cannot wait for that post.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 16th June

      Well said and a good reminder too. My feelings cannot harm me. I think that the reason that we are afraid to feel our feelings is because not being taken care of and having our feelings (and ourselves) devalued, DID hurt and harm us and we still remember it that way~ we came to the conclusions that feelings hurt. I love your reminder, it is a great addition to this post!
      Hugs, Darlene

      Splinty, hang in there! I understand when the feelings are so HUGE ~ esp. ~when we begin to feel them again that we feel desparate about getting RID of them! Hugs, Darlene

  25. By: Splinteredones Posted: 16th June

    Well your yesterday is my today:). I’ve been so desperate to avoid feeling my way thru what should be a very simple thing, just bugging out to my house for a few days while wifey is gone. I have been thinking about getting smashed, very atypical and a sign of great desperation. Even idealizing suicide.

    Just to avoid feeling how it feels to have let somebody else own my life. So much in there. Rage and freezing fear of a child and resentment. Ack. Not so much.

    I am going to meditate on this in abit. Recognize it and I hope to let it go. Thanks for this. You give me
    strength to do my work. Namaste.

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