“What was that like growing up?”
“Does he try to psychoanalyze you?”
“Do you ever ask him to interpret your dreams?”
What I tell them is that, for the most part, it was really great having a psychologist for a dad. He was understanding about all kinds of things other dads weren’t, he interpreted my dreams every now and then (when I was brave enough to share them) and although he tried to psychoanalyze me at times, I picked up on his tricks pretty quick, and just psychoanalyzed him right back. Two can play at that game.
The biggest thing about having psychologist for a dad is I was always given permission to feel what I felt. Whether I was mad, jealous, scared or exuberant, I was never required to pretend I felt anything else. We talked a lot about feelings in my family. Anytime there was an argument, a disagreement, or a disappointment you can probably guess the question that was always asked:
“How does that make you feel?”
The good news is I learned to be really in tune with my feelings. If you ask me how something makes me feel, I don’t have a hard time telling you. The bad news is, I’m learning lately, that knowing what you feel isn’t enough.
I don’t know about you, but my feelings don’t always point me in the right direction. Sometimes, when a customer makes a ridiculous request of me at Starbucks, I feel like telling them to go to hell (sorry, I’m just being honest). Other times, at the end of a long day, I feel like drinking a whole bottle of wine in my room by myself. Most days, I feel like trading two of my meals for frozen yogurt.
Those feelings are all real. I feel them. But that doesn’t mean that I should act on them.
It doesn’t mean that they’re pointing me toward healing and health.
I think about this when I get e-mails from singles who tell me things like, “I have feelings for a married man,” or “I’m dating this really great guy, and I want to marry him, but I can’t get over my ex-boyfriend.” I think about how important feelings are, and about how trapping it must be to hide those shameful feelings from people who might judge them just for feeling them.
I feel proud of them for finally being honest, with someone, about what’s happening inside them — and honored that they would share with me.
It’s important to be honest about what we’re feeling, first with ourselves, and then with someone else. It’s important that this person is trustworthy, that he/she won’t make you feel guilty or ashamed for feeling what you feel, and that — no matter how “awful” your feelings might seem — you aren’t angry with yourself for feeling them.
But that doesn’t mean you should act on your feelings.
In fact, sometimes acting on your feelings makes everything worse.
The reason it’s important to be honest about our feelings is that our feelings point to something. They might not point to what we wish they would, or what we think they do (an answer about how to act) but they always point to something that is going on inside of us. A feeling like “I hate my dad,” or “I want a divorce,” as shameful as it might be, is sending us a very important message.
The message is probably not to disown our dad, or to divorce our spouse.
It’s probably showing us something that is broken inside of ourselves, a wound that has been hidden, without care, for most of our life. A wound that can’t get healing until we admit we have it. It might point to twisted thinking (sin), sin that can’t be eradicated until we acknowledge that it’s there.
Do you have feelings you’re hiding — even from yourself?
Are you willing to start being honest with yourself?
Do you have someone trustworthy who you can be honest with?