NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Therapy Can Help You to Stop Sweeping Uncomfortable Feelings Under the Rug

Are you prone to sweeping uncomfortable feelings under the rug to avoid conflict?  If you are, then you probably know that if you sweep enough under the rug, it piles up and eventually it becomes a big mess.  

In this article, I'm focusing on how psychotherapy can help you to stop avoiding uncomfortable feelings so you can have more genuine communication with your loved ones.

See my articles: 

Overcoming a Communication Stalemate in Your Relationship

Therapy Can Help You To Stop Avoiding Uncomfortable Feelings

Sweeping uncomfortable feelings under the rug to avoid uncomfortable conversations is a common problem (see my article: Changing Maladaptive Coping Strategies That No Longer Work For You: Avoidance).

Most people who have this problem say that they don't like conflict and they would rather avoid talking about their feelings.

When people come to therapy for this problem, they usually come because the problem is having an negative impact on their close relationships, but they don't know how to change it.

Let's take a look at a fictionalized vignette, which illustrates this problem and how therapy can help:

A Fictionalized Vignette About Overcoming the Problem of Sweeping Problems Under the Rug

Ed began therapy at the urging of his wife, Meg, who was tired of dealing with Ed's communication problems.

Meg could sense when something was bothering Ed and he was denying it.

Therapy Can Help You to Stop Avoiding Uncomfortable Feelings

The usual pattern, according to Ed, was that when Meg did something that annoyed him, he would tell himself that it wasn't worth discussing and he would keep his feelings to himself.

Knowing Ed well, Meg would ask him if anything was bothering him, but Ed would deny it.  She would encourage him to talk, but Ed would continue to deny that anything was bothering him.

After a while, Ed would blow up about a relatively minor thing that Meg did, which would surprise her.

During those times when he blew up, Ed knew that he was overreacting, but he didn't know why or how to stop it.

Later on, he would apologize to Meg, but she was getting fed up.

As Ed gave his therapist more details about these incidents, it became apparent to both Ed and his therapist that his habit of sweeping things under the rug led to an eventual blow up because it became overwhelming to him.

Rather than dealing with situations as they came up, Ed was stuffing his feelings until he couldn't take it any more.

Ed talked to his therapist about his family history where his father, who had a temper, would go on tirades every night, upsetting the whole family (see my article: Is Your Fear of Being a "Bad Person" Getting in the Way of Asserting Yourself?).

From a young age, Ed vowed that he would never be like his father, and that's when he started stuffing his feelings, especially anger and sadness.

By the time he came to therapy, Ed knew he might jeopardize his marriage if he didn't change, so he wanted to learn how to overcome this problem.

Over time, Ed's therapist helped Ed to become more aware of his feelings as they occurred and to find ways to express himself appropriately.

His therapist also helped Ed to distinguish his father's angry tirades from his own feelings.

Since there were times when Ed was cut off from his feelings, especially uncomfortable feelings, his therapist helped him to sense his feelings in his body (see my article: The Body Offers a Window Into the Unconscious Mind).

Gradually, Ed learned to pick up on physical cues that would tell him that he was having a feeling that made him uncomfortable.

For instance, he learned in therapy that whenever he would feel annoyed, he would get a knot in his stomach, so this was a cue for him that he was annoyed or angry.

Another cue for Ed was that whenever he felt sad, he would get a sinking feeling in stomach.

Having these cues helped Ed to identify his feelings because these feelings were embodied.  Then, he would practice in therapy how to talk to his wife about his feelings.

Initially, he realized that he didn't feel he was entitled to express his feelings.

His therapist pointed out to Ed how he would try to rationalize away his feelings by saying, "This isn't really important" or "I don't want to make a big thing out of nothing."

It wasn't easy for Ed to come to grips with his problem, especially since his problem was so tied up with his family history.

So, Ed and his therapist also worked on helping Ed to overcome his childhood trauma, which was at the root of his problem (see my article: Psychotherapy to Overcome Past Childhood Trauma).

Eventually, Ed became more comfortable acknowledging and expressing his feelings.  And the more he practiced doing it, the easier it became for him.

He also came to see that he wasn't like his father, and this was a relief to him.

Therapy Can Help You to Stop Avoiding Uncomfortable Feelings

One day, Ed came to therapy and told his therapist that his wife was happy that he was now able to express his feelings.

People who tend to push their uncomfortable feelings under the rug are usually afraid of their feelings.

They might use all kinds of rationalizations about why they don't express their feelings, but these rationalizations have nothing to do with the root of the problem.

There can be many different issues as to why people avoid expressing uncomfortable feelings.

A common problem is a family history of a volatile parent or a family that didn't acknowledge uncomfortable feelings (see my article: Psychotherapy Can Help to Overcome the Effects of Growing Up in a Family That Didn't Talk About Feelings).

Getting Help in Therapy
As I mentioned earlier, most people who have this problem don't come to therapy until there are serious consequences in their life.

If you have a tendency to sweep uncomfortable feelings under the rug, a skilled psychotherapist can help you to identify the root of the problem and learn new skills to overcome this problem (see my article: The Benefits of Psychotherapy).

Learning to acknowledge and communicate your feelings, including feelings that are uncomfortable for you, will allow you to have more genuine relationships with your loved ones (see my article: How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

Rather than continuing to suffer with this problem and potentially damaging your relationships with your loved ones, get help from a licensed mental health professional.  You'll feel better about yourself and you'll improve your relationships.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

I have helped many clients to overcome communication problems, so they could have more fulfilling relationships.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.