Why I Didn’t Know how I Felt about Anything


I don't know my own feelingsOn the blog post about the feelings of loneliness in recovery a commenter wrote about “going blank” when she is asked how she ‘feels’ or what she “thinks” about something.  This is something that used to happen to me as well and it is another one of those pretty common reactions that people have.  The reaction of going blank or freezing at the question of “how do you feel” has an origin; it comes from somewhere and like all reactions it was something that I learned to do in order to deal with people.  Freezing or going blank for me became a coping method and a way to survive but there is a reason that my mind learned to shut off and react like that.


I didn’t know how I ‘felt’ about anything either.  I didn’t know why I had trouble expressing my feelings, I just did.  And I had learned to ignore myself at such a young age that I didn’t know I was ignoring myself anymore. It was just how I lived and how I learned to survive or get by. Sometimes I could think in my own mind that I felt happy, or I felt blue or down, but I could not tell anyone else about my feelings.  I would freeze at the question.  The question was “unsafe” to answer.


In my post “Stop Crying or I will give you something to cry about” I talked about the message that we got as children when were told “to stop crying or else.” My feelings were invalidated. In being told that I didn’t hurt or that I didn’t have a reason to cry I was being told that I was wrong to have those feelings and I concluded that my feelings were wrong and therefore invalid and that I did not have a right to my own emotions so I shut them down and turned them off and that was how I learned to invalidate and then ignore my own feelings.


I also learned to be afraid of the consequences of my feelings; being told that they were “wrong” and having the threat of more punishment or more pain if I don’t stop “feeling” those feelings, I became afraid of my feelings too.  I was afraid to feel anger because there might be a negative consequence so I shut that feeling down.  SO I became afraid that the feelings were wrong AND that there might be consequences to having those wrong feelings. THAT resulted in being afraid to FEEL ANYTHING and it also made me doubt my own feelings when I did feel them.


SO when someone asked me “how do you feel about that” or “how are you feeling?” I didn’t realize it but my first reaction was FEAR.  Without realizing it consciously, I was afraid that my feelings were wrong, that I had no right to them and that having them might lead to a negative consequence.  All that fear was operating under the surface because of my childhood history and the fear dictated my reaction and my response.  Deep down I was thinking “what do you want me to say? Instead of knowing and acknowledging my feelings, I was wondering what the “right answer” was to the question and I was considering what the safest response would be.  I didn’t wonder how I actually felt about very many things anymore because years earlier my feelings had been defined as wrong and I had been defined as unworthy of having them.


This is what happens to children who have been invalidated or who have had their feelings invalidated. It wasn’t just that I didn’t know what I was feeling; I was also afraid to acknowledge my feelings in case they were wrong.  Survival for me had become about making sure that I didn’t do or say the wrong thing.


Looking back at my life through that grid of understanding, it is no wonder that I struggled with such deep depression and dissociative identity issues.  It wasn’t safe to be alive! It wasn’t safe to be me.  It wasn’t safe to feel OR to acknowledge my feelings.


Getting my feelings back had a lot to do with realizing why I had shut them down and how they were controlled by others in the first place.


In my next post I will talk about the way I processed the question “what do you think?”


The Emerging from Broken bookThe Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing” is ready for download! If you find that the subject matter I am writing about resonates with you, get this book today! This 197 page, downloadable, printable, live linked e-book will put you on the fast track to healing.  Get yours here through the upper right side bar or click this link~ Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing

Darlene Ouimet

Related Posts: Taught to think or taught not to think?

Loneliness in Recovery and Emotional Healing

Stop that crying or I will give you something to cry about

Learning to feel feelings isn’t always easy ~ by Lynn Tolson


Categories : Survival



I don’t ever respond authentically when someone asks me what I think or feel. I have suspected for many years that it’s because I don’t have any genuine thoughts or feelings of my own to share. But I now suspect that it’s because I’m too busy trying to figure out what the person asking wants to hear. Trying to figure out what the appropriate response should be. And I always always always assume that the person doesn’t really want to know how I feel…they’re wanting to TELL me how I feel. Or how I SHOULD feel.

I was told countless times that what I felt was wrong or that it was inappropriate or – most often – that I didn’t actually feel that way at all. “I want some candy.” “I want that toy.” Not, “you can’t have it, it’s too expensive,” or some other answer. The answer was invariably, “You don’t want that.”

So what I wanted, felt and thought was always wrong.

And I internalized it so much that I assumed that I was wrong. That because my feelings thoughts and desires was wrong, there was nothing right about me. I am afraid that I still feel this way. I’m good at faking it and pretending I don’t feel this way, but it is very much a core feeling of mine. Even still.


Hi Darlene:
Thanks for this post as I am still trying to conquer this freezing technique I started when I was little. Like you I learn my feelings didnt matter and God forbid I let them out or it would be another version of “having something to cry about” . Only I would have more to feel about and I better not cry about that feeling about or there would be more crying! ( endless circle)

Mom was so snoopy that she inquired to see if I had spoken of any problems at school: I had better not told anyone I was sad or hurting or depressed. I had better not.

I was on complete lockdown .. made to act like a robot never allowed to feel my feelings or express my hurts or shed my tears. I never ever did.

(trigger warning: physical wound)
So it was no surprise when i stepped on a nail I tried my hardest to hide the pain in my foot only to get in bigger trouble when a week after incident was near to losing my foot.(it didn’t phase my mom that i was stitched up as soon as we got home i was beat for what it cost to have that done!!

(trigger warning: physicl wound)
Or when I was clobbered with a broken bottle coming home and my head dripped with blood ..that I tried to avoid going home . My sister took me to the neighbors and then to home where I was fixed by my mom with much sermonizing and cussing: as if I could stop that boy from throwing a broken bottle at my head

I learned very young how I felt inside or out mattered not. So I never learned how to answer such questions (how are you feeling) when i hear it now I freeze and flash back to the various scenes that carried consequences for telling how I felt ..

I sure hope I can undo all that fear that is paired with this phrase as how I feel has very much how I heal and move on to one stage or the next in therapy.

Thanks for all your good points Darlene and for putting this hear and sorry for this long post but its very much part of what I am going through now . I simply cannot express how I feel yet am so afraid. I try but tears and freezing and everything else happens as soon as I try.


Been thinking about this very thing, thinking maybe I’m just not strong enough to stand up for what I feel or believe…trouble is I don’t know what I feel. I identified completely with what you have written, not only were these things part of my childhood, but it continued in an 18 year marriage, where I was constantly told, “You shouldn’t feel that way or you don’t feel that way.” I allowed him to think for me and make decisions for me. When he left me I realized I didn’t know how to think for myself, I couldn’t make a decision. I realized just yesterday I’ve gone through most of my life in a state of shock and afraid, constantly looking for what’s wrong with me. I was in counseling for over 16 years and looked at my issues from all different perspectives, I do better for awhile I learn some stuff, but I always seem to slip back into the old ways of fear, depression and disassociation. Really, I don’t think I believe that recovery is possible…but who knows, I don’t know what I think…..


Dear EmergingFromBroken,

Thank you so much for having this BLOG, being on Facebook (where I “met” you & saw your posts & all the richness of your shared “learning” & questioning! You are helping me an incredible amount.

I was like this too – still am at times. I even attended & graduated from a high end Art College – not being able to tap into much of anythin – emotionally. I was frozen solid – well, I did have a few areas where I could relate to LIFE & HUMANITY. I loved children, so I concentrated on them. I loved animals, especially dogs & cats – so that was another outlet, although I was chastised for feeling very sad when a pet died. Sigh. This went on for years & after my 3rd baby (which were TWINS – w/one of them dying in utero because of my negative Rh blood actor) – I sort of got a bit strange. I had all kinds of physical symptoms, which led me to therapy. I didn’t have a disease, as I thought from my physical symptoms – but my emotional life was so swolled that my issues started ozzing out via my physical self.

That in turn – has led me to many years of therapy & I’m still not through it – I may never be totally “through it” but I am much better. even to the point where i almost always give my opinion & maybe I should just shut up! : ) You know, now maybe I go too far in the other direction! Balance is nice! The REAL blessing here is that I KNOW what I am feeling – these days.

For the baby that died in utero – over 40 years ago – I NOW grieve.. At the time I went as FROZEN as a person can possibly go, I think. I never allowed myself to think of that baby up until maybe 15 years ago – and now I cry whenever I start to get into it. Also, so many other events & issues – I NOW FEEL to the bone & I acknowledge them.

The tricky part is that I have a tendency to fall back into my FROZEN self. If I’m doing that – EVENTUALLY a part of me POKES the other part & gets me to start FEELING.

Another part of this is SEEING how awfully dysfunctional my family is. Some family members have passed away but the majority of my family is FROZEN too – so now I’m REALLY ODD-WOMAN-OUT. I always was – because even tho I FROZE a lot or dissociated frequently – I was still the one who showed emotions the most.

It’s still a struggle with me, personally – making sure I’m keeping connected but also living in a family who won’t acknowledge anything. Oh, ANGER is allowed to be used by some but still not OK for me to show. Thank you again – you have reminded me to keep myself POSTED & ALERT.


What a valid issue for me too, Darlene. I had no clue how I felt or what I thought and reading about your initial response being fear me too; I was afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing. I love how you bring these issues out layer by layer, piece by piece. By becoming aware was the first step in understanding that I could learn to change the effects of being treated this way.


I have experienced numbing in that I had to learn to choke down my emotional responses in the face of out of control emotions in others. As a result,when something traumatic is happening, I go numb and then have an emotional reaction two or three days later.

The only feelings that mattered in the house where I grew up were my dad’s feelings. Negotiating safely around those feelings was like walking through a mine field. One wrong step or uncotrolled emotional response of my own or of anyone else in the family was likely to cause an explosion. I also had so much inappropriate emotional response modeled to me that I was confused about what was appropriate. I know I shared with you the experience of my dad running my mom down with the car with me and my siblings in the back seat. They were crying but I remember that I was angry and laughing at them. Laughing was inappropriate,laughing as an expression of anger was also inappropriate.This was a response to and extremely inappropriate situation that presented itself in some form almost daily. I think this is also when I first became suicidal. I was so angry at my parents and it was so unsafe to express it that I had to stuff it or turn it inward to survive. It didn’t lead me to survive in the long run. It took me down a path of drug abuse that ended in a suicide attempt and in my contracting a disease that plauged my life for over thirty years. It’s so important to understand our feelings and to learn how to express them in a healthy way. There can be no healing without that understanding and redirection of emotional response.


One thing that helped ma a lot was in knowing that I’m not responsible for how I feel and that there is no right way or wrong way to feel. Our emotions are an automatic response. I hear you saying that you are afraid. You are afraid to express how you feel. With what you’ve been through, fear is an appropriate response to someone asking you how you feel. Its really okay that you ‘freeze’. You had to. If I were you, I’d be afraid also. I would freeze so that I could live.

I tried to stuff my feelings and force myself to feel the opposite of how I really felt. When I began just to accept what I felt and analyze why I had that response, my emotions started to become more appropriate.


Hi Darlene – you wrote: “I was also afraid to acknowledge my feelings in case they were wrong. Survival for me had become about making sure that I didn’t do or say the wrong thing.” I had to re-read that to make sure it said what it seemed to. And it did! Such a sadly familiar feeling. I always thought I lacked intuition and was awful at reading people. My dear therapist has helped me to understand that I in fact have pretty darn good intuition, because this was how I lived as a child ~ trying to anticipate and read all of the cues, so that I would not say or do the wrong thing, could keep everyone happy (by not having any needs), and would thus feel “safe”. (Of course we all know now that this wasn’t really safety; it was, perhaps at best, a momentary absence of chaos.)

I too was told that I didn’t feel how I did. “Mom, my stomach hurts.” “No it doesn’t.” Hmmm, well okay, I guess it must not. I think I knew better than to overtly admit much that I wanted, but if I ever did, dad’s answer was predictable: “Well, people in hell want ice water.” He thought it was quite funny, so I suppose I did too (or thought I should). In retrospect of course, those were just ways to shut me up.

Kind of like Joy’s story, I remember walking home from the pool with my sister. We had on flip flops, and there was a clear piece of broken glass (bottle?) on the ground. She didn’t see it, and it cut her toe so that it was bleeding quite badly, though we still had to walk home. I remember the feeling of wondering, with great anxiety, just HOW we would convince our parents that she was not walking barefoot (which was forbidden), but that she was following all the rules and still got hurt.

I also remember falling and cutting my foot badly on the edge of a piece of sheet metal. I was mortified by the sight of it (it was deep) and terrified that somehow it would result in great difficulty or even death! (I was young, I guess.) But even more so, I was afraid of having to tell my parents when they got home. Because of course there was no such thing as an accident; it was always only your own stupid fault if you got hurt.I was so scared. I realized years later that I should have been taken for stitches; it was a deep cut. But of course that didn’t happen. And I don’t believe it was a matter of money or insurance – my dad was retired military and I was a covered dependent. I think it was more a matter of convenience, because we didn’t live close to the base and it would have been inconvenient to drive there.

I still at times find myself putting a lot of thought into answering questions about the ‘real’ me, for all of the ingrained/dysfunctional reasons metioned so far – thankfully my therapist is very patient! 😉 I also know I have a few close friends with whom I can be honest. Sometimes it just feels like too much to ‘go there’ though.

One of my biggest battles is just trying to come to grips with the fact that I *do* have feelings and needs, they *are* real, it’s *not* wrong to feel or identify them, and they *do* matter (or so I am told …) I still revert back to “Oh, it’s just me; it doesn’t matter. If it was someone else, it would matter. But I need to ignore me and tend to them.” Still working at it though!


HI Pam: hope I get to that point where feeling feelings wont carry with it the bad images that came when feelings were made known. I know its a process and am slowly trying to go through the stages of healing as they come.

I appreciate you explaining to me about feelings and how they are automatic. and we can’t help how we feel.

love you:



You’re doing well,joy. When I think about the first few posts of yours that I read…I see a lot of growth in you already. Accepting myself as I am was key in my getting past my inappropriate emotional expression. I know that as you continue to grow and accept yourself that your fear will turn to the confidence of a conquering hero!

Love you, too.


Hi Lisa
Yes, I can relate to what you have shared. The more I realized the roots of all this stuff, the closer I came to being free of it. I know that it’s hard to look at so much history, but these were all clues in the mystery of my life and realizing the roots about where my beliefs were born was key.
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Joy
It takes so much time Joy. You really are doing great!
Thank you for sharing the stories about physical wounds and how they were handled. (and not handled) That is really horrible. I can hear it in my own head… that whole attitude and voice infliction that adults so often use to communicate that the child really caused a terrible inconvenience; as though the child could have prevented it or something…
Thanks for sharing
Hugs, Darlene


Hi Pam
I can totally relate to what you are talking about too. All of it! Thanks for sharing. Good grief, there were two sets of rules ~ one for them, another for me and then there was the grey areas which depended on the mood that others were in!
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Monica
I realized that I had developed darn good intuition too! Lots of hyper awareness will do that for ya. Exactly!
Thanks for sharing! Love your contribution too!
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Kim
Welcome to EFB ~ I too was exhausted from years and years of trying. But when I found the process that I write about in this website, I very quickly found that hope and honestly, I am so glad that I kept going. One of my reasons for writing is because I had lived without real hope for so long.
Keep reading and I hope that you will find that same hope here.
Hugs, Darlene


Hi Susan,
Welcome to EFB ~ Thank you for sharing some of your story and your life with us! I hope you like the community here and that you will share often. I find that sometimes all of us can fall back into frozen; the trick for me is to notice that when it happens and then to realize what the trigger was and where it comes from so that I can get back on track and feeling again. It takes time!
Hugs, Darlene


Dear Darlene:

Thanks for all your encouragement. Indeed, the fact that not even serious injuries would provide me any opportunity to feel “outloud” really dug deep scars into my soul. I was so convinced that speaking anything I felt or suffered was a sin or crime ..from how I was done. Money was seen to be more important than me, more important than my health. It really is hard to feel valuable when I was seen to be so low that even stitched up I was beat for feeling.

Little by little am seeing how wrong this is; but the freezing still is part of me. I know I have to be patient with me .. which is another..blog topic since no one else was..



I have a hard time expressing my self, my inner self, to those who do not commuinicate receptivity to me as a person, or to what I am saying. If there are predictable responses from the listener, especially negative ones, then I have a hard time turning it into a meaningful(real life)converstation. So when someone asks you how you are doing, translate it first, do they even really want to know? Based on past responses to you, do they really care? If you are just going to get hurt or disappointed in this encounter, tailor your answer to minimize the damage. Save your energy for encounters that are more meaningful and productive. Everyone is not entitled to know anything they pretend to want to know.

I saw my dad for the first time in a year this week. WOW, from entering my house through the back door and shouting, “Anybody home?” (glad we moved away and are only here for the moving out of our furniture) to the predictable converstation, that I can see has been the same converstation my whole life, just with changed names and places.

“You don’t have any work for me to do?” Means, you two are still in bed? Yeah, we just drove 1,000 miles to get here and we have four older children that we are with their dad, but we share responsibility for–hence the two homes at this point)
Oh, I know, I need to draw major boundaries with my dad, AND I’ve tried, so the best boundary is moving away!

He brought up that my pastor’s wife is literally dying of brain tumor this week in “one of those places” he said it this way because he doesn’t want me to KNOW where she is. My parents play the game of “who knows what” and keep the most information from Kate that you can, because she remembers everything, etc.,

The “Who-Knows-What” game is what keeps my mom and dad from coming in the car together over to our house to bring back the living room lamp they took out of it and ask us how we are, and if we need anything, instead, they talk to us about other people, my pastor’s wife, for instance. And when I asked how her husband was holding up through all this, does he look worn, my dad’s favortie line comes out, “I don’t know his schedule, I don’t go to his church…IT WAS NONE OF MY BUSINESS!” The “it was none of my business” lines must be his favorite lie of all times, because he has NO problem getting in my business so that the church writes me harrassing letters in the mail this year while I was gone, telling me I have 60 days to transfer membership to an approved church or else.


Or else??? Geez, Kate! That sounds more like a cult than a church.


So my dad starts with church people to talk about, and then moves to a favored relative. (this one is a real rub in my face, because this relative had porn on his computer at thanksgiving, and I asked my sister to look at it so my kids wouldn’t see it, and she screamed at me to get out of her house. Then my dad was so convinced that his daughter’s husband would NEVER do what I said I saw, that he told me write a letter of apology. I said I would write, but NOT an apology. I proceeded to write what needed to be said, and I have not set foot in her house since.)

IT doesn’t really even matter what the word my dad uses to praise other or focus on others are, it is that here I am and he wants to talk about other people. A devaluing technique. When they finally leave, I feel drained and wondering why they came if it I feel as if I can’t participate by asking for my lamp back, etc., guess I’m tired from the trip, but will get up the nerve if need be,…



What a terrible mess that is . .. how much everyone has to carry .. What a terrible way for your father to be.. How uncaring and insensitive he must be.

I saw at the very end you got “harassing letters” stating you had 60 days to transfer your membership to an approved church .. “or else” Or else what? Why do churches use threats against their members! is that how God would act . .

I am so sorry what you must suffer.. Already with your comings and goings you have enough stress..must people who “shoul” care add more burdens..

So sad to hear how you suffer . hopefully you find some rest and relief away from such nonsense.. Sounds like a bunch of nonsense that you don’t deserve t be part of 🙁



or else they would take me off their membershi- roles. We responded saying that when we are ready to make a change with membership, we would let them know and they were inappropriate to tell us to get our ass out of Dodge.


And the pervasive feeling is that I don’t belong here. I am sure that my parents are happier if I leave anyway, because I don’t fit into their preferred group of people. Juveniles!



I so feel your pain ..really I do ..I don’t have the same things happening but i have an uncaring ..selfish . dysfunctional family who only appreciate those who are evil like themselves.

I am so sorry what you are going through…it’s not right .. makes me want to cry for you . I know how i Feel with the things I am going through . you must be so distraught!:(




Also how can you belong..if you are not like them. I am trying to learn this myself. trying to say i am not accepted or loved or valued because I am not like them.

My family only notices me if they have a bill they think they can get me to pay..now am so poor they cannot beg from me so am no value. I am less than a person to my family.

I am sorry how you feel .. wish i could take your pain away but I cannot even get rid of mine . best i can do is say I understand .it’s terrible how you must suffer from your family. as my T says ” You don’t deserve that” ..



That’s awful. That isn’t just spiritual abuse, it’s abusive period. I don’t know what starts people thinking they have that kind of authority in the lives of others. I don’t understand why they want it or what they really get out of it either. It’s good that you are going to be free from it.



I have been following your posts for a while now. Your posts are the only one I even subscribe to because I don’t want to miss anything you say because I can relate to so much of what you say. And I’m always online reading and learning but imve never left a comment anywhere…But todays post has brought me to tears because I thought I was just totally whacked because I am often so unsure of how I am feeling and I have been in therapy for a long time and we’ve just recently realized that I have dissociative issues and that I have truly dissociated from how I really feel for so long that I am needing to try to really learn that feelings are actually felt they are not just what I think I am suppose to feel for a certain situation. I was so good though at thinking my feelings that I fooled myself for 35 years. Thank you so much Darlene. I feel like I can give myself a little compassion because I never had a chance to learn how to feel because growing up I ddint feel safe enough to even breathe and really exist much less feel safe enough to feel my feelings. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!


I also have a very hard time feeling anything, let alone knowing what I’m feeling. After nearly 3 years in therapy I’m starting to learn, but it’s hard. I didn’t realize what genuine emotions felt like until I started to learn to feel in therapy. And until my first therapist started to ask me what I was feeling, I had no clue that I had no clue! It’s just like you said…not feeling my emotions was just how I learned to be, and I didn’t know that there was anything different. Or, if there was, I thought I was just incapable or that I couldn’t feel like other people because I was just a wrong and bad person. It’s taking me so long to learn how to feel again that I often wonder if I am incapable of it…if maybe I was a freak of nature born without real feelings. I know logically that isn’t and can’t be true, but it’s a hard belief to shake.

One thing lately that is helping me understand why it’s so hard for me is that I’m learning that I am pretty far over on the dissociative spectrum, toward DID. So it makes a lot of sense to me why it’s so hard to feel, because pretty much every one of my feelings are held by different parts. The bad thing about that is that it seems like any time I get in touch with a part, his/her feelings are so intense that it’s hard to bear.

Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for another great post. Hugs to you and everyone else.


Kate – it sounds like you are doing the wisest thing in just leaving. If you never get the lamp back, it would be worth it just to leave those crazy bean people behind! But I am sorry for the hurt they’ve caused. You don’t deserve it. Abuse and/or neglect disguised in joviality, lightheartedness, or ‘offers to help’ (such as don’t you have any work for your dad to do) are particularly devious and confusing. It doesn’t FEEL outright mean or like an attack, but it is not at all meant to build you up or encourage you, like true joy, laughter, and help do. It’s meant to tear you down, but with a smile. It’s so wrong. Glad you really are getting out of Dodge, and on your own terms.

KS – I was so struck by what you said … ‘thinking my feelings’. This is opposite of actually feeling your feelings. Brilliantly said! Gives me much food for thought. Sometimes I need to think through my feelings because I am so used to ignoring them, but there is a big difference between thinking them through (to sort and identify them, then feel them fully) and simply thinking them (in lieu of actually feeling them). I’m going to ruminate on this one. Thanks! 🙂

Kristen, if you were truly born without feelings, you would not care. That’s what a sociopath is, and it’s obvious that you are not one because you really do care and feel. It’s right there in your post. Someone has done damage to how things were supposed to be for you, and the blame for that goes on them, not you. In fact, you are now doing the hard work of healing that damage, and if you had no emotions you would just run with it (the lack of emotion and conscience) and do damage to others with no remorse, not enter into it as you are doing. I think you are doing a good job!

Also to Pam, Joy, and any I’ve missed – great thread! I don’t get to participate often, but I sure do appreciate all the input and encouragement. You all rock! 😉


Hi KS and welcome!
Dissociative issues got in my way too and it was a while before I realized how all this went together. In the end, once I realized where the dissociation came from (which is really what I an talking about in this website) as in WHY did I need to dissociate from myself and the events of my childhood, that was when I made faster progress. I realized that I HAD to disconnect but that now I could connect again. Being connected (and not dissociating from feelings) was so scary, but once I did it a few times it was no where near as scary as I though it would be! “I am glad that you decided to comment!
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Kristen
DID got in my way too but once I got through that part, and realized why I fragmented in the first place and what I was avoiding feeling ~ I realized that all that stuff happened to me. It was like I held the memories in different compartments, not in actual different people within me. (although I identified several personalities, I am not saying that I imagined the whole thing, just that I began to understand it differently then I used to) All of “them” were me. All of the abuse happened to me and in my DID mind, it happened to “them” the alters. As each memory came up (and no I never got them all back yet) I processed it and then connected to it and realized that it happened to me, I was able to heal in the same way that people who don’t have DID heal. It was just an extra step. This whole thing takes a lot of time so don’t lose hope!
Thanks for sharing! Hugs, Darlene


i don’t fit into their group, because they prefer a group of distanted people to worship/admire, not close people to love.


Is it possible to have different personalities who all have the same name? I can pinpoint times in my life when I became another person in order to deal with a situation that I couldn’t deal with. This relates to the being like someone else that was central to my childhood. Howeve, I remember everything.

The sexual abuse part is different because I have so few memories of the actual events. I only have awareness of most of it. I do remember sometimes, in flashes or dreams but then later, I can’t recall what I remembered!lol! That part of my life left me shattered and I don’t think I had a complete self after that. I scraped myself together and became ‘like’ a series of other people to cope with everything that I wasn’t equipped to cope with. I now feel like I’m just me but I wonder about these other times in my life and how to label them I guess. Is my experience somewhat like dissociation? Is it dissociation?



Hi Pam
Anything is possible. There are different kinds of dissociation ~ some of them are normal and everyone does it, like when a musician is “in the zone” or when a person is watching a great movie and disconnects from everything but what is on the T.V.
When it comes to dissociation as in disconnecting to deal with things, that is the way we survived and was very necessary at the time. That is not always about having more than one personality either. Dissociative identity disorder means that you dissociated from your identity. Replacing that identity with an alter identity is another aspect of the whole thing. The problem for me was that as an adult I was still dissociating from my identity and still using that coping method to deal with life and with others and it was NOT healthy or a necessary part of my survival anymore. BUT I had no clue how to connect back. Everything I write about in this website is about how I connected back to myself and took my life back. The diagnosis / labels are not so important to me anymore, because I found out that recovery is recovery no matter what the diagnosis is or was.
~ I guess that is a long way of saying that it certainly sounds like to me that you are talking about your exp. of dissociation. 🙂 and also that it is way more common in cases of abuse then people realize.
Hugs, Darlene


Yep,that’s what I think too. You talk about having a connection to the character in Oliver. Well, that’s the way I’ve always been with the book and the movie Sybill. Even when I wrote my last blog post for you, when I read online about being raped, I felt myself split inside. I felt that when I said it to my sister, also. I noticed later that I didn’t write it in first person. I still haven’t said it outloud in first person. When I told my sister, it was the first time I said it at all. I think there are quite a few, Pam’s inside of me that remember things that I don’t remember and that I don’t really want to remember. I don’t want to fall into those memories the way I did when I went through chemo either. I’m at this point where I feel really happy and connected to myself but I’m also on the edge of something else that I’m not sure I really want to poke into.I spent a few years in a pretty terrifying place. Its hard to choose to go back there and explore it.

Thanks for being here, Darlene.



Dear Darlene – your WELCOME brings tears to my eyes! I’m almost crying – but it’s a GOOD FEELING even tho a little teary. I guess no matter how much “WORK” we do – there will be times like this. I haven’t been in therapy for almost a year & before that it was a very bad therapist. I had known from my previous “work” that we-the-hurt-&-abused need to be treated in a different way from CONFRONTATIONAL therapy & this last therapist told me that was OLD hat. The new approach to everyone – as if we were all made from a cookie cutter mold – was/is – we look at your junk & then listen to her (the therapist). As that therapist would say – “i’m going to tell you like it is.” – but lots of times she was wrong, herself, and I KNEW it. Oh, on top of everything else – I was never given credit for having insights & knowledge. Gee- where have I experienced THAT before? Yet I stayed w/this therapist thinking maybe THIS was the newest & BEST way to recover from being pushed around & compressed into a tiny ball who dissociated, at the least little trigger. THANK you, Darlene, too – for using the word “TRIGGER” – it helps to use the “lingo” because that will remind me to look for the trigger(s) – because THAT is just what they are & that is just what “they” do – trigger a behavior or a response – usually involving NOT-CONNECTED/NUMB/FROZEN/OUT-to-LUNCH – & even to becoming full-blown dissociated. One bit of progress tho – is that I tend to dissociate less. That didn’t come from this latest therapist I’ve been mentioning but from “working” & “working” at learning about the whole subject & I’m pretty sure my meds. They tend to keep me much calmer than I would usually be – so it frees me up to think more clearly! I KNOW I’m at/in the CORRECT PLACE by coming HERE to you all. I will be reading you ALL from now on! Love & virtual hugs to everyone . . . . : )


“The question was “unsafe” to answer.”

I wouldn’t just go blank, but like you and other commenters, also learned to lie – to the point where I didn’t even realise I was lying. I learned what were and weren’t acceptable or safe answers to questions like this and delivered those answers with smiling precision.

It has thrown a spanner into the works as far as therapy is concerned because I often tell the therapist I’m doing a lot better than I am. Or I avoid talking about certain emotions.

I was seeing a therapist for three years and never spoke to him about how angry I always felt. It wasn’t because I was consciosly afraid of this, or even unaware that I was angry – it just didn’t occur to me to bring it up because I knew on some level it was inappropriate/unsafe/unreasonable/invalid for me to feel that rage. The mind can filter out the most obvious things, or not put two and two together when it feels afraid. It never occured to me until later that my intense mood swings were a symptom, and not just some ‘mistake’ I kept making.

As some people have touched on in the comments above, genuine ‘needs’ are also hard for abused people to express. I find my needs just as baffling to work out as my feelings, because how my needs affect other people and what the concequences might be is more important. I’m 37 years old and still terrified of asking someone if I can use their bathroom. I’m surprised I haven’t died of a kidney infection lol.

And the physical injury and illness! i would get a smack in the head if i dared to want to take a day off school for being sick, unless I was on death’s door. Or not being hungry, i would be forced to eat food anyway. I remember my father hitting me because I didn’t want to eat breakfast once, or sitting over me for hours in the evening until i had finished every last scrap on my dinner plate.

What motivates a person to force feed a child? What was I being punished for exactly? Something I had absolutely no control over. Punished for not feeling physically and emotionally the way someone else thought I should feel. It’s so crazy!


It is kind of “eerie” that you are talking about this today. I just realized yesterday that something is trying to come back to my memory and I have been shutting it down. I became aware of having these mini flashbacks for about 6 months that I have successfully pushed away until now. I know I am on the verge of more. I know what you mean about choosing to go back and explore it. Last night I decided that I am going to dive in though. I am sure that over time it will show up here on my blog!
Hugs, and cheers to the process. At least we are not going through anything alone!

Hi Susan
I am really glad that you are here too!
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Carolyn
Yes, you highlight another part of this whole thing. Learning to lie and not even realizing that we were doing it, and not even knowing that we didn’t know HOW we felt! Dang complicated! LOL
Another really good point is that clients often don’t take these things to therapists because the client really does not know that those kinds of things might be important or that they hold clues! More complicated!
Thank you so much for sharing! Great comments!
Hugs, Darlene


Since you are so brave, I will try to be brave also.:0)



Just a note to Susan
you replied to a comment on this thread but you replied to it via email. I sent you an email about it, it may have gone into your junk folder ~ in any event, the comment that you sent will not been seen by anyone but me unless you publish it through the blog. If you can’t find it (the copy of your comment that I emailed back to you) I will publish it for you, just let me know.
Hugs, Darlene


Darlene, a great post! Really puts it into perspective how little our feelings were valued as children that as adults they are foreign to us. Sometimes even frightening (yeah that’s me!)…and my responses to my stronger feelings are those which I’m working on.

Great to see the support through the comments as well…!!


i really struggl ewith this. i have several conversations with people who mentioned them soemtime afterwards and i had no recollection of them or the topic, so you would imagine my surprise when i was about 20 and a ex asked ho wi was doing with my grandfather and what he did to me, wow i freaked out. it was not something i would have spoken about ever especcially with a partner, hell i didnt know so how did he know. apparently we had laid in bed one nitgh and something triggered me and he asked and i told him everything. to this day i still do not remember this conversation and he wouldnt really give me details incase i freaked anymore than i was. then there was anther one with a consultant physcharist, whic i only remember the hello and the conclusion, was strange as i was there for over 2 hrs.
it is this that leads me to believ alot of what i have used to heal, outlines and shadows of the reality as i havent been strong enough to cope with how bad it must of been. how do i join up these old conversations so i can gain more freedom from my childhood?


Hi Shanyn
It really stuns me that these same adults how discount children were once children themselves! Like what happens?? They forget how discounted they felt? or they think they turned out pretty well?? or is it about having a turn at being the “kind of the castle” and making others feel like nothing now?
I mean really!
Hugs, Darlene

I have talked to people that I told things to also that I did not remember telling. but I know that I had dissociative identity disorder so explain it to myself that way. The way that I found to join up these old conversations is just to realize some of the ways that I avoid remembering. Ways that I escape even. Other then that, the memories come when they are ready and when YOU are ready for them to come. I blocked out almost everything when I got married ~ but I didn’t realize it till my first born was about 12 years old and some stuff started to come back. Some of it I remembered that i already knew but forgot (blocked out) again.
It is complicated. I have never heard of anyone forcing a memory, but not fighting a bit different.
Hope that helps
Hugs,!! Darlene


Darlene, I think you may be on to something there. I think there is this attitude ‘well I made it through okay, so you can to’ that totally disregards the actual pain, disconnect and utter devaluing they went through. This strange trip down the river Denial where we all have to either row like beggers or ride the bridge like they own the ship. How strange, that they think that passing it along is good enough when we can choose better, we can choose more!


I swear you read my mind Darlene I have never had “real ” feelings except sadness that was a feeling that never left I could also get happy occasionally but only while caring for my children. Every once in a while I would cry but not often at all . I am taking college classes and in my communication class one of the things we need to do this week is tell how we were feeling I couldn’t think of 1 thing yet I know there are feelings in there somewhere hiding I was thinking I was “cured ” until today now I am back to being sad I really have no feelings I am going to have to think about this and I will figure it out ! I am determined , I am also glad you all are here It nice to read everyone’s comments I don’t feel so alone now ! Warm blessings to each and everyone of us as we emerge from broken thanks to Darlene!!!



In the 2nd paragraph, you touched on something that immediately got my attention. “The question was ‘unsafe’ to answer”. Unsafe. As a child that grew up watching severe domestic violence, everything became “unsafe”. Dinner could be unsafe because my father could have an episode and fling his plate across the room. You made me think about my reactions to the world in a different way.

What is a ‘safe’ question? I honestly don’t have an answer.


I always wonder “what is the right answer” when asked and feverishly try to find something to say while my mind goes completely blank out of fear.

I’ve gone through my entire life not feeling. It’s only during the last few months that I’ve rediscovered feelings and realised that. My problem with feelings is that they are so intense. I think if must be a bit like when a deaf person is suddenly able to hear and everything is deafeningly loud. When my feelings become overwhelming I still switch off and dissociate to that numb place. The difference is now I know that’s happening.


I know exactly what you are referencing in #20. The thing is with people of that bent, one is better off remaining at a distance. Its when they draw you up close that you get hurt.

I posted another piece on spiritual abuse from a more personal perspective. I’m really sad that you are having to go through this. I know how it feels when your love for God is twisted into something ugly and used against you. I know for sure that your life will be better when you are away from these people. I know that because my life is so much better without those who want to use God so that they can rule over me.



I’ve read how difficult it is for people who have been blind from birth to cope with suddenly having sight returned to them. Nothing is as it was before and nothing like what they imagined. It is as hard for them to go from blindness to sight as it is for us to suddenly lose our sight. I have had periods of numbness and of intense emotion but my biggest problem was misplaced response and reaction. I’m really happy to hear that you are beginning to feel. I’ll keep you in my thoughts and prayers as you learn to deal with feeling.


Hi Char
Thank you! I am glad that you are here too! One of the things that I kept in mind on this journey is that even though the awareness stings a bit, awareness is better then oblivious. I didn’t know that I didn’t feel before so I wasn’t trying to feel. I was just oblivious. I didn’t know that there was a root to any of my depressions, so I wasn’t looking for one, and it was in finding the root of it that set me free. SO.. awareness is really a wonderful thing… its like a starting point for all emerging!
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Fi
Oh I love your analogy that this would be like a deaf person suddenly able to hear and everything is too loud! Yes, it is so intense. I had to be aware of dissociating before I stopped doing it too. And I learned to stop being upset about it. Eventually I disconnected less and less and for at least a year or two I would crawl into bed as an alternative. Like conscious disconnection from the world but not so much from myself. Learning to stay present was a HUGE process and learning to be gentle with me, and to just let the process unfold without a time frame, was very powerful.
Thanks for sharing,
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Heather Lyn
Welcome to emerging from broken!
Yes, that is exactly what I am talking about. The moods of people “in charge” were so unpredictable that the way we survived was to “guess” what they wanted us to say, and how they wanted us to act. This is true for emotional abuseive family situations too. It was through learning and realizing that the way I was shut down came from these situations, that I was able to recover my identity and my true feelings.
Glad you are here,
Hugs, Darlene


I’ve been away from EFB for a good while as I was caught up with some other stuff, but this post just caught my attention.

When I first entered therapy and my clinical psychologist asked me to “name” my feelings, I looked at her like she was talking alien language. I mean, how do I put words to what is going on inside? I have no problems crying, but I don’t know what emotions let to the crying. All I knew was that I felt messed up inside but I don’t know what is it.

Once during a class activity my lecturer tried to make me angry during a psychodrama session. When she tried provoking me (so I would yell at her), I went completely blank. She tried for a good 10 minutes and gave up. I tried defending myself instead of getting angry at the person I should be angry with.

I, too, was afraid of showing my emotions. Growing up anger and tears precede wrath, rejection and guilt trips. I had no choice but to suck it all up. Anger and tears were only permissible for my sister, and it seemed as if she took up all my quota. My mum could verbally abuse me and I should have taken it as “teasing”, just “for fun”.

Gee, there was plenty of work to do in therapy. First, I had to acknowledge my own feelings and OWN them. If I’m sad, I’m sad. Period. What is so bad about that? If I’m angry at some form of injustice, is it my fault?

Repressed anger and depression has taken an irreversible toll on my health. It’s hard work to acknowledge what is going on within me, but if that is what it takes to fully recover, then so be it. It doesn’t matter anymore whether people can accept my feelings.


I’m new to your site and have been reading here for barely a few weeks, and just quickly wanted to say thank you. I feel really blessed I found this place I think, in so many posts and comments, these ones too, you deeply touch things that I wasn’t even aware of but that are so true for myself.
At only 20 and with the abuse that damaged me so much only lying five years in the past, I know how much I’m still at the very beginning of recovery, but finding out that there is such a thing as getting better and there is actually something I have to get better from (hello denial, over and over of course) is a great thing to see, and I’m puzzled.

So there’s a ton of work ahead to be done by me I guess ^^ Thank you all so so much for providing this great kind of help here!!


Hi Jasmine,
Great to hear from you! I hear you! It was easier for me once I realized the reason why I had such a hard time acknowledging my feelings although I realized that AFTER I realized that I didn’t know my feelings… and YES if that is what it takes to fully recover, then YES to the hard work.
Thanks for sharing!
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Helena
Welcome to Emerging from Broken!
Thank you for your comments; when people tell me that I write things that they never thought about before, I feel like I have accomplished my goal. It was the things that I write about that were the keys for me. I sought the answers to healing for over 20 solid years and still struggled. When I found “these things” the things I write about now, I healed and overcame very quickly compared to the 20 plus years of seeking and not finding the whole answer.
I am so glad that you are here,
Hugs, Darlene


Hit the nail on the head! I was told the same thing and was NEVER allowed to “talk back” or ever have my own opinions once a decision was given. And then I took classes as a new parent that taught us the same things. First time obedience, no arguing etc and I started out being more hard nosed than I ever wanted to be but it came naturally. It was what I learned. We’ve since moved away from that but it’s still lying under the surface and I have to FIGHT to not say those things to my kids and I have 🙁 To me, a child who talks back is disrespectful and I don’t know where the line is. I’ve seen others in my family NOT do this and they have great kids. It’s a tough lesson to learn.

I sometimes fear saying how I’m feeling because I don’t want to sound like a whiner. There are people who are emotionally draining and I know that they need to work out their feelings etc but sometimes they take more than I have to give. I always fear being that person to someone. And I am certain it stems from these lessons as a child.

Mel – author of How I Forgave My Molester
Please feel free to stop by: Trailing After God


Thank you for this post Darlene. It is so good to know that it’s normal to struggle with this type of thing. It is also interesting that ALL emotions are stifled or numbed away. I feel like it was a coping mechanism of mine that worked quite well for a while – if I don’t show emotion then they won’t know how to hurt me. But it doesn’t work anymore because the good relationships in my life require openness and emotional expression. So although it helped me survive the toxic situation I was in, it holds me back from thriving in the good place I live now.


Hi Mel,
I can relate to this ~ it was part of how I was brainwashed. I realized when I was about 14 or 15 that I didn’t want to be like my mother so I started reading books when I got pregnant with my first child and I was lucky enough to be directed to books that talked about the way that things affected kids. Like having to cry themselves to sleep etc. I learned a new definition of respect then and I learned another new definition of respect when I went through this process. (the one I write about in this site) I had to bite my tongue too because so much of what almost came out of my mouth was so deeply ingrained in me by the ways that I was raised. I had a funky belief system and it needed re-wiring.
About having great kids or not ~ it is a pretty tough thing to judge. Some kids are too scared to be anything but great. But they might be hurting more then anyone could imagine. And they might be so controlled that they don’t even know how they feel or what they think. It is really hard to judge. There is so much to this whole thing.
Hugs and thanks for sharing!

Hi Chloe
Exactly! What used to work is now in the way. That is the truth about all coping methods. Thank you for sharing,
Hugs, Darlene


Hi Everyone
I just published another blog post about another aspect of how we can get shut down and stay that way. This new one is about how our thinking can get shut down.
Please visit the following link to read the new post;

TAUGHT to think or taught NOT to think?
Hope you enjoy it!
Hugs, Darlene


I am new here and just found this wonderful blog. Thank you Darlene, and thanks to everyone who posts their thoughts and experiences.

I just found out the struggles I’ve had all my life are a result of having a narcissistic mother, and I am so thankful to have found this blog and this community. This post in particular struck a deep chord with me, and the comments have provided more aha moments for me. Especially Carolyn’s comment about needs not being spoken of and barely beign recognized, and post #51, about these coping mechanisms not working anymore. I was damaging my marriage by unconsciously placing my husband in my mother’s role of oppressor and controller, but he didn’t want to be there, and I must have felt I needed him to play the part, otherwise how was I supposed to know what I was supposed to feel or think? It’s so twisted…

For me the hardest part about knowing what I was feeling or thinking is the fact that my mother used my feelings and any expressions of them as a guilt trip for her pain and physical discomfort in name of love. So very quickly I learned to stuff them, or intellectualize what I was supposed to feel according to her needs or wants. So I learned how to lie to say what people wanted to hear. I got praise and positive reinforcement, and that translated to ‘love’ for me. In the process I lost myself and any idea of what I wanted or needed or thought. No wonder I went blank at the simple question of what I wanted, when that someone didn’t give me anything to work with as far as figuring out what they wanted me to say.

Also, I’ve been journaling and haven’t written for a while, so when I picked it up again last night, everything I need to do is written there, in my own hand, but I didn’t remember writing it, and it didn’t sink in. It’s a form of disassociation for me probably, but reading it there, written in black and white, months before reading this blog, serves to validate my inner wisdom that I know I need to recognize the coping mechanisms and not use them anymore.

Thanks for being here, Darlene, and thanks to everyone for posting. It helps tremendously, and I hope I can contribute something helpful in return.


Welcome Veronica
Glad you are here! I can relate to going blank at the simple question too. That is exactly what happens when we have been raised not to think or to think our “thinking” is wrong.
Each comment contributes to the progress of others ~ sometimes with sharing information, sometimes just the realization that we are not “crazy” or imagining this, and that we are not alone in this. It is so validating in an otherwise lifetime of invalidation.
Thank you so much for sharing,
Hugs, Darlene


I stumbled a cross this, Oh my….. No matter how many years i have lived, or what my experiences, it never occured to me that others freeze at the question. How are you feeling? what do you think?.. i have gotten better at masking, but not of getting away from the fear i feel when asked that question or any other for that matter.. and when i am, at times, unable to find an answer,(and people look at you wierdly).. i feel so stupid.. and beat myself up for being stupid and for showing this person how stupid i am.. so i run away.. as i don’t have any other option.. then as i am alone i go over and over in my mind how stupid i looked, how stupid i am.. for certainly, any other person on this planet could answer the question.. “how are you feeling?” Thank you for letting me see, that i not the only one…


Hi Kelly,
Glad you found the blog post! (and the rest of the blog might be of interest to you also. ) You are not alone!!
I am looking forward to some of your reactions to some of the other topics!
Hugs, Darlene


I thank you for responding and for the hug.. i look forward to reading more of your writing, which do you think i should read next?


Hi Kelly
There are several options; you can go to the archives and start at the beginning.. or you can click on the category buttons above on a topic that interests you, OR you can look at the key words on the tag cloud in the right hand sidebar!
Depends on what you are interested in reading about, but this whole site is about seeing things in a different way, and healing.
Hugs, Darlene


This post is amazing for me. It’s one of the hardest things for me identifying what exactly it is that I’m feeling and you naming that first reaction to someone asking how you feel as ‘fear’ is really helpful. Also this bit ‘I was wondering what the “right answer” was to the question and I was considering what the safest response would be’ is exactly what I have been doing for a long time. Now in knowing that my feelings are valuable and its ok to have them I’m getting all sorts coming up and though I’m unable to name them exactly its ok. Someone I upset said that I was ‘having a front’ and ‘acting little’ when actually I’m more congruent than I have been my whole life. Someone else told me a story about a patient they had looked after when they were a nurse who had been through so many operations and his wife had come in and said he’d ‘always been sickly and weak’ the nurse looked at her a bit shocked and said ‘can’t you see how strong he is having survived all of these things?’ and my friend then told me to think of myself like that. Also I realised its ok to cry if you get hurt emotionally as this is the same as if you got bit by an animal and it draws blood, emotional abuse and behaviour is equally painful and damaging. Thank you


I am so glad I found this blog .I thought there was something wrong with me. I actually cried reading this,a relief I am not alone. Thank you all.For so many years I always wanted to express to someone & I came to this .


Hi Elaine
Welcome to EFB! Glad that you are here and that you like what you are reading! You are certainly NOT alone! This is a quickly growing community. Please feel free to share often.
Hugs, Darlene


Really a bad day.I wish I could go to meetings to talk & God knows hugs,that would help me at this point. All my childhood life to go threw to be quit or you are not behaving the way you should be,& so on & so.To go on to married life the same is absolutly crazy .It has know effected my health. I will be going to a councler, then again I will freeze up.I can imagine this makes no sense.In my 50 .


Hi Milly
It makes perfect sense to me, this was exactly how I felt. I hope that you read some more of this website; you may find comfort and understanding here and you will certainly find that you are not alone,
Hugs, Darlene


Wow I would never cry and certainly not in front of people. Now I know why , I am trying to understand dissociation
I see now that I freeze. My sister just time howi need to just put up boundaries and not cross the wish it was that easy. My sisters always think I’m a screw up because I am always digging to find answers to surviving my anxiety Depressions from abuse. The say get over it . There is more in me, repressed I just don’t wanna go there


Hi Joan,
I here you about not wanting to go there it ..I am so afraid of loosing it completlyScared of not knowing how to deal with it all.My hubby is no help.Narcissistic personality disorderer he has & I tell you it is horrable.I have to zone him out & cocentrate on me.When can.I am so glad I found this blog,however I can only do baby steps.Sounds weird .Its just to much for me to handle alot.


I came from a family of “Children were seen and not heard” Was the theme in our house of 5 children.I remember at a young age,standing at the top of the stairs. Contemplating throwing myself down to see if anybody would notice,care, or even cry.Hiding my emotions came easy for me..I look back now.Wow how sad was that.Needless to say getting into a physically abusive marriage was right around the corner. Hiding emotions was my mantra. It changed when my daughter was born. She and my sister were the only people I felt anything for. Every day still I get up and look in the mirror to “feel” for the day,I actually have to tell myself how to feel.I am assuming that when I was diagnosed with histrionic personality disorder,it was because I feel the need to make everything seem so important so I can feel it. I never hit my daughter because I was afraid if I started I would “feel” something and wouldn’t want to stop. It scares me now,thinking back. But knowing I’m not the only”crazy”one.Makes me FEEL SAD AND RELIEVED.Thank you for having this forum to let me have a voice


Hi Kelly
About children being seen and not heard… (as with all child abuse systems) when DO the children have any rights? This is the thing that people forget; controlling or dysfunctional parents don’t suddenly decide that “you are old enough now to have a voice” ~ from what I have seen just the tactic changes. When you have been raised to believe that “you are the crazy one” it doesn’t just change over night. We have to go back and kind of “re do” it. Grown up again in the parts that were missed. Give ourselves that voice we never had at the ages we never had it.
Glad you are here Kelly!
Hugs, Darlene


Hi Darlene,

This is a great topic. I can relate a lot to not even knowing that I was disconnected from how I felt. I din’t even have that much self awareness. I realised that every scrap of my energy and being had always been focused on not being and rather focusing on the outside world. In therapy I would auto-correct things and not even realise it. No answer or emotion was “safe” so I “chose” to just stop speaking or feeling whenever possible. And am still doing it now! lol.

I am now capable of being in touch with my feelings and although it takes work that has changed my life. Emotions are like the road signs of life and they tell us how we need to protect ourselves and what type of boundaries are required. Instead of avoiding them embracing them (scary) helps protect us.

Where I am terribly terribly stuck is admitting to how I feel to others and in therapy I can spend 45 out of 50 minutes blanked out and unable to think at all just because I have been asked “how have you been”. And freezing is a common response to me too!

I think you are saying (and this is what it is for me) that you have a mini emotional flashback and it therefore feels dangerous and wrong to say anything.

Every time I say anything about the past I have this internal invalidating me that practically screams that I am a liar and terrible person. It is relentless and deafening. I try to treat it like the ED voice but it is hard. Most of the time I think I factitious disorder and that is my only problem! lol.

I am unable to get myself into therapy at the moment as every single time I try to do something to get a t my mind empties and I am blocked.

I would highly recommend DBT to anyone who feels they want to learn to tolerate emotions, identify them and learn to connect to them. It has helped me so much.

I have this book and it is great:
The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook: Practical Dbt Exercises for Learning Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation & Dist) By McKay, Matthew (Author) Paperback on 01-Jul-2007

Darlene, it is safe to have your feelings now and those people who hurt you can’t hurt you now if you put up good strong boundaries.


Hi Marina
I know what you are talking about here! I wanted to say that I could not even set boundaries until I validated myself and realized that I had constantly been devauled. I had to know I was right before I could move forward. That is why I alsways talk about getting to the roots of the belief system. The freezing was about believing that I was always wrong and about being powerless. I had to realize that I was NOT wrong and that as an adult I was not powerless.
Hope that makes sense
Hugs, Darlene


I had no words from the time I was born up to and even now. I can’t begin to describe what’s in my heart,mind and soul.In my mind I am the greatest person in the world…but on top of my mind is layers and layers of dirt and filth from my mother and brothers they smothered me and covered me with more hatred than any one child could ever handle on their own.My thoughts were not my thoughts,my words were not my words, my feelings were not my feelings and my actions were not my actions.Where do I go from here.I feel like I have been in a semi-coma state, I have been aware of this life but not partaking in this life. How do you relearn your entire life.I can’t ask how do you get your entire life back to live over again the right way because that will never happen.I have missed out on so many things,not just the big things but all the little vibrant things, all the things that shape and mold a person into a strong,take charge, I know what I want out of life,seize the day,never have a moment of indecisiveness,know my worth kind of woman. Where are my words?How do I feel?When is it my turn to shine?Why am I always sitting?I have no answers only questions. Thank you Darlene. Hugs Jane.


for so long I worked out feelings by trying to guess what I should be feeling because I just didn’t really “get” feelings. It’s been really hard and really scary to learn how to answer the question how are you feeling – it feels like a test each time and the empty washes over my head – sometimes I struggle to even recall the topic of conversation that the how are you feeling question links to. I think the hardest part has been accepting that that happens – I’ve always got away with answering “correctly” and no one ever cared to dig deeper.


Hi Becca
I totally ‘get’ what you are saying! I had to re-learn all my feelings and what they were. This problem comes from the lack of being validated as a whole person or individual with feelings. keep going forward and this will get easier!
Hugs, Darlene


How do we relearn the feelings??? I NEED DIRECTION!!!

I have been in therapy for over a year now but am still not sure what it all means. Can I even feel to begin with?? I really do only know fear (most times) and sadness and excitement, I kind of understand happiness but that’s a tough one to put my finger on most days.

Your story sounds A LOT like my own. Ive never been validated by anyone in my family, 2 older half brothers and virtually no one but my addict mother and father “involved” in my life. Whats worse is I am stuck working with them in a job I dont think I enjoy too much because theres no progress, change, or validation here either! Then there are other days I think I do because its family but I really just dont know. Friendships and relationships have suffered majorly and I just am too scared to get out there and forge new bonds now, even tho I am trying, I cant handle any more rejection tho. I had my heart crushed with the last guy once again. Im getting older but Im still young and have a chance, the 30 transition has taken a HUGE toll on me. I really always thought Id be a mommy and a wife and here I am single and living alone, thanks to mom and dad who foot half my rent because I am too hard to deal with and am scared I am going to have issues with anyone I live with…as my past suggests what my future will hold.

I suffered chronic illness most of my life and finally got myself dxed with MS in 2009 (miraculously am healthy now, whole other story tho) and I am finally springing back (THANK GOD!!!) but I fear that its this work environment that is perpetuating my dissatisfaction and pain. Im back in school but am not sure if I like where im heading??? I dont want to get sick again! I CANT EVER GET SICK LIKE THAT AGAIN! How can I tell what direction to go in my life? I have tried soo many things looking for that answer!

Please someone help.


Hi Lea
Keep reading! I have written a lot about how I overcame the damage and took my life back! I recovered all aspects of myself including my health. There is hope,
hugs, Darlene


From our fearless blog writer:

Deep down I was thinking “what do you want me to say? Instead of knowing and acknowledging my feelings, I was wondering what the “right answer” was to the question and I was considering what the safest response would be.

OH MY GAWD! How did I miss this blog post? This is my entire childhood!!!!! “what answer am I supposed to give?”

I started a “coping” technique of asking, “What is motivating the question?” Of course, that got people mad, when they were being asked to “justify” the intrusive question they were asking me!

I’m trying hard to “feel” what I feel. It takes me 48 hours to realize I “feel” something, that is how SHUT DOWN I am.


It took me awhile between realizing that I didn’t know how I felt about anything to knowing how I actually felt. There was a lot of self talk and thinking that happened along the way. It was survival as a child; necessary to think through the survival grid. (“what will keep me safest” is of the utmost importance to our well being, and that way of thinking is not an easy habit to break.) I was that shut down too; but today I am fully alive!
hugs, Darlene


Hi there. I wanted to tell you that I came across this website and it was quite the relief to know that there was a name for that blank mind thing. I started therapy for an eating disorder last year and in the process my whole personality fell apart; I think I was so cut off from my thoughts and feelings that I could constantly reinvent any way I wanted to be. So when my therapist asked me who I was, what I thought and felt about things, I had no answer. I heard/hear words come out of my mouth and I have no idea where they come from; same with writing. A bit like I am processing things in my mouth and in my hand but not in my mind. Once I did start to try and understand my inner life, it was all conflict. It’s been terrible to try and explain this to my doctors, therapists, etc, who seem to want to diagnose me with borderline personality disorder and then leave it be, when I think the reality is that it is more complicated than that (I think). Of course, I have no idea what I think! Anyway, it was great to come across this. Wanted you to know that it made me feel briefly, less alone.


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