Thought (Emotion) Traps

Do you have a story that keeps playing over and over in your mind? Does the story evoke unwanted feelings that seem to hang around ruminating with no other purpose than to upset you? It’s like you can’t do anything about them and there they are. This is where I am when I allow my mind to explore all the things I could have done differently when my son was alive. This Emotion Trap for me is Regret.

.
Regret likes to creep up on me when I least expect it, while sometimes it’s there at the beginning of my day until the end. I end up in a circle of thoughts that usually start with the words, “I should have.”

.
I tell myself to remember that emotions are a reflection of thoughts, beliefs and physiology, and are not always true, even though they feel like it. I can see my reflection in a mirror or a clear stream, but it is not me, it is my reflection. Sure, I can tell myself this, but when I’m caught in the trap, I can’t seem to see it clearly- or believe it.

.
To take the whole reflection thing further, a reflection is also a memory. Sometimes memories trick us into believing they are real too. But have you ever seen one of those television episodes where they take an event and the script shows you how different that same event was to each person involved? It’s usually very funny and based on the characters’ personalities, they see things so opposite of each other. I guess it depends upon the lens we look through.

.
Pretty often I will be explaining a situation to my therapist and she will present to me another view. Tyler was sixteen when I left Minnesota to come to Ohio to live. He did not want to come with us. His father wouldn’t take him, so I set up a child support situation with his father’s sister, Tyler’s Aunt. He lived there, and the environment was less than ideal. Sometimes he would sleep in a car and sometimes his Aunt would call me and tell me to send money for a bus ticket to Ohio for him.

.
I did my best to parent him long distance, but it was hard.
Oh boy! Do I have regret about not taking him! His life was hard and mine was going along like clockwork! My sister told me once that her son said, “How can a mother just leave her kid like that?”

.
Right. How could a mother do that?
I should have forced him to come with me, but the story further complicates in that Tyler and my new husband disliked each other. It was miserable when they were together- for everyone.

.
My logical therapist reminds me that it was his choice. She reminds me that if he would have come with me, he would not have met his wife and I would not have the grand children that I so adore. Yup, there’s that.

.
And why didn’t his father step up to the plate? They lived a short distance from each other. Yup, there’s that.

.
Through our sessions, I came to realize that I regretted not ever having an adult conversation with my son about leaving him. I avoided this, and thought we had plenty of time for that- but then he died.  And after he died I wrote him a letter explaining everything I would have told him if we had had that conversation.

.
The prompting event that led me to my shame is that I believed that I did not live up to the characteristics that I had thought were the features of a “Good Mother.” I thought I was a failure, even though my daughters tell me now that I am a great mother, there would always be this niggling thought that, Yes, I was a good mother to you. Too bad Tyler didn’t get the same treatment. The aftereffects of my shame brought me to a place of too much “self-focus” and preoccupation with myself.

.
The process my therapist was leading me through was to describe my emotions using a DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) practice called “Checking the Facts.” In Biblical terms, “The truth will set you free.”
When I checked the facts, I came to the fact that in Heaven there is no sadness or regret and Tyler is in Heaven, so he is not dwelling on this as I am. Revelation 21:4 says that He (God) will “wipe every tear” from our eyes and there will be no more “sorrow or crying or pain.” These are facts from God’s Holy Word.

.
My goal in solving this problem was to forgive myself and I chose to do this by reading more in the Bible about forgiveness and praying for the Holy Spirit to give me His peace. But it’s not easy, and I have to constantly remind myself of the facts.

.
I read once that your awareness is like the sun and your feelings are like the clouds. They both exist at the same time in the sky. The sun is a slowly moving constant while clouds drift in and out along the sky’s expanse. There are stubborn rain clouds that stay over you for hours plunging you into rain and grief. But they always move. That’s the thing I need to remember- that whatever emotion I am feeling now will move. It will be replaced by another-different emotion- and then another, and then another. Emotions are an ever present current within us.

.
One of my fellow students in my DBT class said this, “Being in Emotion Mind isn’t always bad.” And she’s right. And then there’s this:

.
“The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: unconditional love, joy, peace patience, kindheartedness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”
Galatians 5:22.

Yup! There’s that!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s