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Therapist keeps asking how I feel - does it matter?

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notrealname

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I always say "fine", because I do. I eventually started to feel a bit embarrassed about this - it's always at the end of therapy after lots of talking about things I guess should be emotional, but which just feel like facts to me - so I explained that I was telling the truth and that I'm just telling him about stuff I already know, so I don't have an emotional reaction to it. I mean, if it was happening to me right then at that time and it was like new information, I assume I'd have an emotional reaction to it, but we're talking about things that have already happened.

I guess my question is, do you think it matters? I've always been like this, I've never felt emotions during therapy - like I say, I'm really just reeling off a bunch of facts. Do you think you need to feel stuff to get better?
 
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pepecat

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Hi

My experience of this was that in the first year of therapy, a lot of it was (to me) re-telling of facts. As far as I was concerned, stuff that happened to me was 'just the way it was' and didn't have any emotion attached to it, so a lot of the time I would have said I felt 'fine' at the end of therapy, just like you do.

It was only as therapy progressed and I felt safe enough with the therapist, and she showed me that it was ok to have emotions and to feel stuff, that I discovered I did actually feel very sad about stuff that had happened to me, and did feel very lonely a lot of the time - I cried quite a lot during the second year of therapy!

For me, I would say I did have to feel things to get better, because it was me ignoring my emotions and how I felt about things that had made me unwell, which is how I ended up in therapy. I did have emotions about things that had already happened, I had just ignored them, pretended they weren't they, that they didn't matter......and therapy for me was about realising it was ok to be sad about stuff that had happened in the past. I wasn't able to feel stuff when I was a kid, so therapy became a safe place to do that.

I wonder if your therapist is trying to challenge you to 'feel' stuff - or at least has an inkling that there might well be emotions / feelings about things that you've been through, and they're encouraging you to maybe open up a bit and explore that side of you?
 
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notrealname

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Thanks. When I was with my last therapist - I think I saw her for about a year or 18 months - I started to be able to feel things about the past outside of therapy sessions but not in them, primarily anger at the way I had been treated as a child, because it had never before occurred to me there was anything unjust about it until then. Nowadays I see my childhood differently but I see no point in getting angry about it anymore, that time has passed.

Not sure how I feel about being emotional in front of someone, to be honest! It would feel very exposing and I'm not sure I'd ever want to see them again if it happened. I can see how maybe that's a problem, though...

Thanks for insight :)
 
SomersetScorpio

SomersetScorpio

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I'm glad i've found this thread.
My counsellor always asks me at the end of the session how I feel and I always say that i'm fine too. It's not a lie, but somehow I feel it's the "wrong" answer. :rolleyes:

I really recognise that I feel i'm simply telling her facts too and don't often feel emotion in the session.
The thing is, I do trust her. I just don't seem to be able to access the emotion that I really feel whilst i'm in a session.. because generally in life i'm quite emotionally numb, I suppose.

Ah well - it's good to know i'm not the only one who experiences this. :)
 
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notrealname

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Haha - I know what you mean about feeling it's the "wrong" answer :) At first I was ok with it, but the more I was asked the more embarrassed I got because I felt like I was frustrating the therapist or I wasn't "doing therapy right". A lot of therapists ask me if I'm really getting anything out of it, and I suppose a lot of the time the answer is no - I'm not really progressing - and I kind of feel like I'm doing a bad job of it somehow. I guess that's my first automatic thought, but my second is always "well, I'm doing everything I can", and that's the important thing really. If I was deliberately holding things back it would be different, I guess.

One thing I did in therapy last night that I'd forgotten about doing was search for an image. I guess I look for emotions in two ways. I focus my attention on my stomach and sometimes that brings up an emotion, but when it doesn't I've learned now to look for an image in my mind. It's like I read my emotions like metaphors. I look for the image, then I think about what the image means, and I kind 'get to' the emotion. It does actually feel better after I've done it - like a weight off my shoulders - even though I didn't know the emotion was there to begin with, and even if I don't actually feel it (really difficult to feel it because the moment I know it's there I start laughing!) Last night I saw a really pretty picture of a dry stone wall falling down on top of a hill at night and behind it was this purplish/black night sky. I started by describing the wall, then said scattered and disintegrating, then I got to "empty" - like the night sky - and then I felt like I'd really hit the nail on the head.

I won't lie, I feel a bit like a toddler when I have to do this as I assume other people just know what their emotions are and I have to go through this weird new age process (nothing bothers me more than "new age"...) so it's a bit embarrassing, but I guess everybody is different and if that's how I work, that's how I work.

I wonder whether the reason I'm not that aware of emotions is because I do just feel empty, though, do you see what I mean? I'm not entirely sure I feel numb - I guess I've been "numb" before and that felt different, like specfiically the absence of emotion. 99% the time I don't feel anything but I'm not really aware of it. I suppose without emotions to distract me I just concentrate on my thoughts (or perhaps I don't notice my emotions because I'm concentrating on my thoughts). I think emptiness is such a vague and mild emotion that it's not that noticeable.
 
SomersetScorpio

SomersetScorpio

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I think the imagery you see is actually a sign that you're a creative and intuitive person.
People's minds work differently and to be honest, I don't think there's anything wrong with how you look for an image that is associated with your emotion.
So I don't think you should feel like a toddler at all, I reckon you must be quite advanced. :)

Oh and I hate the whole new age thing, but I guess i'm guilty of being a little bit new age too. Hah, as long as you're not floating away on a fluffy cloud, I think it's ok. ;)

And I do know what you mean - emptiness is different to numbness. I've never really thought about that before, I guess because i'm not feeling deeply I presume i'm numb.
 
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vimes

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Thanks for this thread, I never know how to answer the how do you feel question so I just deflect it. I just started with a new therapist and he asked specifically about my anxiety before and after session. It helped to have a specific question although I couldn't really answer except for nodding when he guessed the appropriate line of reasoning.
 
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dharma

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Hi, after googling "my counsellor asks me how i feel and I don't know how to answer" I found this thread. Might be old, but I thought I'd add my feelings(!) on this.
I feel very similar to you guys. When I was a child I was very emotional, and from misguided parenting and embarrassment I began to think it was wrong to feel emotions. Growing up I distracted my attention away from my emotions with thoughts, until I could cognitively explain any bad situation to myself, and not have to feel anything.
Now I'm in my thirties and I find it very difficult to know what I feel, instead lost in my thoughts. The only time I really feel something is in extreme circumstances, when my emotions overwhelm me. I'm working on trying to accept it when this happens, rather than suppress it, but extreme circumstances don't happen everyday (thank god) so it's quite rare that I actually get the chance to pratice this.
I've been seeing my counsellor for 9 months now and he is asking me more and more how I feel, but most of the time my mind is completely blank, like they've said something completely unrelated, which makes me feel embarrassed and like I'm failing. I really wish I could somehow get a connection to my feelings, but I feel clueless as to how to do this. It seems like everyone does this intuitively.
As an exercise I've started to ask myself how I feel in the morning, afternoon, and evening, which feels very foreign to me but I'm hoping will help me connect with my feelings again. I'm going to try picturing my emotion as an image, that sounds like it might help too. And just remembering that it's ok to feel emotional, or to cry. But man it's hard.
 
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notrealname

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Hi, after googling "my counsellor asks me how i feel and I don't know how to answer" I found this thread. Might be old, but I thought I'd add my feelings(!) on this.
I feel very similar to you guys. When I was a child I was very emotional, and from misguided parenting and embarrassment I began to think it was wrong to feel emotions. Growing up I distracted my attention away from my emotions with thoughts, until I could cognitively explain any bad situation to myself, and not have to feel anything.
Now I'm in my thirties and I find it very difficult to know what I feel, instead lost in my thoughts. The only time I really feel something is in extreme circumstances, when my emotions overwhelm me. I'm working on trying to accept it when this happens, rather than suppress it, but extreme circumstances don't happen everyday (thank god) so it's quite rare that I actually get the chance to pratice this.
I've been seeing my counsellor for 9 months now and he is asking me more and more how I feel, but most of the time my mind is completely blank, like they've said something completely unrelated, which makes me feel embarrassed and like I'm failing. I really wish I could somehow get a connection to my feelings, but I feel clueless as to how to do this. It seems like everyone does this intuitively.
As an exercise I've started to ask myself how I feel in the morning, afternoon, and evening, which feels very foreign to me but I'm hoping will help me connect with my feelings again. I'm going to try picturing my emotion as an image, that sounds like it might help too. And just remembering that it's ok to feel emotional, or to cry. But man it's hard.
Hi - you sound just like me, except perhaps I don't remember being emotional as a child.

I would strongly recommend mindfulness as well. What I do to try and understand what I'm feeling is focus my attention around my stomach, which seems to be where most emotions 'live'. I'm not very good at thinking of the name for them as I don't find it easy to tell them apart, but you don't have to be able to do that right away.

The best thing you could do for the moment, I think, is tell your therapist you don't know how you feel like you have here because they will have come across a lot of us just like this and they know what to do - it's a common problem.

I also feel like I've failed somehow if I don't know what to say to the emotion thing, but just remember it's not a failing, it's just how you're built. Some people are full of emotion, others are a bit disconnected, it's nothing to be embarrassed about (and neither is having a lot of emotion).

The other thing I have learned is that sometimes the reason you can't feel it is because it's shame - which is really difficult to feel and describe. Shame 'feels' like being hollow inside, like you're only skin deep and there isn't anything inside you; a little bit more like being a thing or a machine than a person.
 
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RainbowHeartz

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oh wow, this thread relates to me so much, i havent started therapy yet, but the question on how do you feel, and thinking im giving the wrong answer of im fine relates when i see my cpn and psych
 

MarlieeB

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Every meeting I have whether it's with MHT or the other place I've been they have a questionaire that you have no choice to fill out (trust me I try to refuse) about how you feel, with a 0-3 scale. There is only one question they are interested in and when you answer 3 to that they get all concerned but not concerned enough IMO.
 
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dharma

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Yes, I do mindfulness meditation every morning for 20 minutes, and recently I've been asking myself how I feel and concentrating on my core in my stomach while i've been meditating. It does seem to help me become aware how I'm feeling a little more, but it's so hard not to slip away from it, and back into a cloud of thoughts.

Yes, it's very hard to know if you really feel nothing, or if you're blocking or suppressing the feeling. I think in my case most of the time I'm doing that, but I don't have the tools to get passed it.
 
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echo66

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"Therapist keeps asking how I feel - does it matter?"
That's a question I always struggle to answer, because I can't verbalise my feelings. Most of the time I'm just disconnected, 'numb' maybe...

I don't know what's worse; feeling everything in excruciating detail, or feeling nothing and detached from it all.
 
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notrealname

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Yes, I do mindfulness meditation every morning for 20 minutes, and recently I've been asking myself how I feel and concentrating on my core in my stomach while i've been meditating. It does seem to help me become aware how I'm feeling a little more, but it's so hard not to slip away from it, and back into a cloud of thoughts.

Yes, it's very hard to know if you really feel nothing, or if you're blocking or suppressing the feeling. I think in my case most of the time I'm doing that, but I don't have the tools to get passed it.
You sound just like me - that's exactly how it is, disappearing into a cloud of thoughts and losing connection with the feeling.

Good luck with it and please do write back if your therapist comes up with anything good. I can't keep with the feeling either and the feeling is always very vague.
 
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