Have you ever found yourself denying what you’re actually feeling? Shoving it down, poo-pooing it, staying busy so you can ignore it?
That’s where I found myself a few months back when two domestic dogs busted into the chicken coop and killed 18 of the 23 hens we have here on my (very) mini farm.
I was completely confused when awakened out of a dead sleep to the sound of a dog barking in what appeared to be my back yard. I peeked out of my second story bathroom window, didn’t see anything amiss and went back to bed, only to hear the barking again.
Peeking through the blinds once more, I saw a lot of flapping in the coop as well as two very large animals. I threw on some pants, ran down the stairs and out the garage door, grabbing a metal bat on the way. (In the afterthought, I’m not sure what good a bat would have done, but hey, I was in panic mode!)
It was a massacre. Dead chickens outside the coop. Dead chickens inside the coop. Feathers everywhere. A Great Pyrenees and Black Lab/Rottweiler mix had busted through the fence and was having a hay day “playing” with their prey.
I banged the metal bat on the clothesline pole and started yelling. Fortunately, that startled them, and they took off in the back field.
I stood there stunned. And did what every farmher does when her animals have been brutally killed…I cried.
Carson and I got everything cleaned up, killed the ones that didn’t die but were severely wounded, called the dog warden who sent someone out and talked to the neighbor, then I also talked to the neighbor. (Did I mention my man was out of town? No? Yeah…)
If you’ve followed me for very long, then you know this isn’t my first rodeo with something killing my chickens. We’ve had racoons, fox and weasels all wreak havoc in the coop. Shoot, I even walked out to a great horned owl with a hen in its claws.
I am known as the chicken chucker after sharing the story of pushing my wheelbarrow full of dead chickens…curse you weasel!…out to the field behind us, chucking them while berating myself for being so dang out of shape. Come to find out my wheelbarrow had a flat tire.
So, no. Not my first rodeo over here.
But never the neighbor’s pet dogs.
I couldn’t quite get over it. How do I know that? I kept talking about it. And yet, I would tell myself they were just chickens. This has happened before. What is wrong with you? I would apologize and tell Todd or Mallory or Mackenzie or Macey or any other person who would listen, that I was so sorry to still be talking about it. It’s okay, they would say. It was traumatic for you.
Traumatic? Nah. They were just chickens. This has happened before. What is wrong with you?
I shoved it down deeper until several days later I spoke the word I had been feeling but wouldn’t allow myself to say because it was too big a word for the circumstance considering…they were just chickens. This has happened before. What is wrong with you?
Violated. I felt violated. And I fought it. People are abused. Homes are broken into. Innocent children are sold into sex slavery. And I felt…violated?!? They were just chickens, not children. Not women hiding from a sick and twisted abuser.
It WAS a strong emotion but until I allowed myself to say that that was what I was feeling was I able to deal with it. Psychologist Dan Siegel refers to this practice as “name it to tame it.” He goes on to say, so what’s the value of getting people to express what they’re actually feeling, rather than keeping things relentlessly light and bland? The answer is that naming our emotions tends to diffuse their charge and lessen the burden they create.
We cause ourselves more harm than good when we try to keep the feeling at bay by cramming it down, keeping busy, ignoring it or denying it…for whatever reason we tell ourselves…instead of naming the thing.
Dr. Brene Brown says the first step to moving through emotion is naming it.
I was stuck in they were just chickens, this has happened before, what is wrong with you cycle and would not move forward until I allowed myself to be honest about what I was feeling…big emotion or not.
So why do we cram it down, swallow it whole, ignore it, deny it?
We judge ourselves for feeling the feeling. Ummm…reread what I wrote above…yeah…I may have forgotten my own advice this time because feel your feelings has been a mantra of ours for a very long time.
We compare and that’s not fair to anyone including ourselves. Someone else’s circumstance may be worse than yours (like kid’s sold in sex trafficking) but it doesn’t lessen the trauma you’ve been through. Or perhaps the comparison looks more like how you think someone would react or even did react…but they are not you and you are not them.
We’re embarrassed by what we’re feeling. Recognize that I should or I shouldn’t feel this way is the enemy to healing what actually is. My oldest daughter was diagnosed with clinical depression in high school but went undiagnosed for over a year. Why? Because, in her words at the time, she came from a good family, got good grades, and went to church so what did she have to be depressed about.
We can’t heal what we don’t reveal. Once I had the wherewithal to say, I know this may seem like a big emotion for what happened but I feel violated. Then we could figure out where that was coming from and move through it.
We want to appear like we’ve got it all together so acknowledging our feelings may feel like a shortcoming, failure or mistake.
We might think that by expressing an emotion that may be perceived as negative will make us look weak and lacking control.
You guys, someones pets came into my safe space and killed something that was mine. My man was out of town, and I felt vulnerable and violated. It was a big honest feeling as a result of my little slice of heaven looking like a killing field.
It’s okay to feel big feelings! Just don’t let yourself get stuck in that quicksand of emotion.
Now more than ever…I’m looking at you worldwide pandemic…we need to be able to express what we’re feeling, have safe places to do so and not be embarrassed.
Will you be that space with me?