Having A “Blank Slate” When It Comes To Feelings


This week the day leading up to therapy was full of feelings. Anxiety and super-pissedoffedness (yes I made up another word). The anxiety was because I did not want to go to therapy this week. It wasn’t because of fear, I simply had nothing to say. Literally. Nothing. Which ended up leading to the super-pissedoffedness. After I called to cancel my therapist called back and “strongly encouraged” me to come in any way. This made me angry because I felt pressured into going in. But, I respect her and I secretly feared that it would damage our relationship if I stuck to my no. I was worried that she’d be mad at me. So I went in and I was not happy about it.

It’s quite funny and a little unsettling to have your therapist realize that you’re pissed at them and then to have them say, “Let’s talk about that.”

Really? You want me to acknowledge my anger with you and you seem really happy to talk about it. Weird.

Eventually she made some connections about why her “strongly encouraging” me to come in would have ticked me off. She said that for a lot of my life I was forced to do things that I didn’t want to do which would have caused anger that I was unable to express because it wasn’t safe. Her conclusion was that her actions would have indeed made me angry and she reassured me that I have the right to say no to anything I want, including her. She also read my mind and told me that she would never hold it against me or get mad about it. She just told me to realize that there would never be a time when a client would say that they felt anxious about therapy and didn’t want to come in and she would just say, “Sure ok, see you next week.” So, we’re cool I think.

Moving on to the title of the post, we were talking about emotions and I asked her if it was normal for people to feel emotions all day. Does that seem like a strange question? I don’t know. Anyway…she said that there are times when people feel contentment or peace, (which I’m assuming aren’t emotions in the strictest sense), but otherwise, yes people feel things all day.

That was weird to me because I don’t feel emotions like that. There are times when I don’t feel anything but I’m not feeling contentment or peace either. It’s just nothing.

She said that it made sense that I would have developed that ability. It saved my life, which is true. In my house emotions that weren’t in perfect harmony with my mother’s wishes were punished with hitting and cursing and a general tearing down of your spirit. The only way to counter this state of existence was to develop what my therapist termed: A Blank Slate.

This would be a way of not feeling anything and thereby protecting myself from my mother, and dare I stretch the purpose, protecting myself from feeling how scary my life was?

Sure that sounds reasonable. We’ll go with that.

I’m not sure what to do with this “insight”. My therapist said not to judge it, just be aware of it. Okay. Commence awareness program in 3…2…1…

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About CimmarianInk

Abuse Survivor Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder PTSD and Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) also known as Multiple Personalities
This entry was posted in abuse, Child Abuse, Child Molestation, depersonalization, derealization, DID, dissociation, dissociative identity disorder, Incest, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, Therapy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Having A “Blank Slate” When It Comes To Feelings

  1. Freasha1964 says:

    Oh, darn, I should have been keeping a list of your new words. Then we can slowly feed them into the lexicon. (I sound so Librarianish -yes, spell check is after me for that one- but I am not totally certain what lexicon means.)
    Your sense of humor hasn’t suffered squelching by your mother. At least there is that. You often make me laugh, including this post.
    Protecting yourself from how scary your life was? Totally makes sense to me.
    As for being angry with your therapist; that is supposed to happen. (And mine, for one, seems to be enthusiastically waiting for that day.) And anger, being one of the emotions, is certainly something we all have, whether we bank it by direct deposit (not my term, I got it from a book on anger) to spend later or feel it at the time of its origin. A therapist who can’t take your anger is not doing their job right… in my opinion.
    So, according to my calculations, you have commenced the awareness program. How is it going?

    • CimmarianInk says:

      I would love my own lexicon since sometimes regular English just doesn’t have the right words. Therapists can be so weird but I guess they feel that allowing oneself to feel anger is an important step.

      I’m glad I kept my sense of humor too.

      My blank slate has been overridden by feelings of irritation and anger with people and objects (like my phone), along with a dose of depression weaving through the day. I don’t know why, it just is.

  2. meredith says:

    Are you having a blast?

  3. thesecond says:

    “The anxiety was because I did not want to go to therapy this week. It wasn’t because of fear, I simply had nothing to say. Literally. Nothing. Which ended up leading to the super-pissedoffedness. ”

    Communication is probably key here. Might have been better to call her up and explain your feelings. You didn’t think you had anything to talk about, there was nothing on your mind. Did she think it was a good idea for you to come in? Sounds better than what she probably thought was happening to her her dear patient, you’d had some sort of massive emotional breakdown and didn’t want to talk about it.

    “Moving on to the title of the post, we were talking about emotions and I asked her if it was normal for people to feel emotions all day. Does that seem like a strange question? I don’t know. Anyway…she said that there are times when people feel contentment or peace, (which I’m assuming aren’t emotions in the strictest sense), but otherwise, yes people feel things all day.”

    I remember seeing a study which found that the majority of the time people were thinking about nothing. They set bleepers so people would write down at random times what they were thinking or feeling. Mostly they wrote nothing. I’ve noticed that. I’ll be walking down the street and realize I haven’t had a coherent thought or emotion for half an hour. A lot of people don’t realize how empty their internal lives are because time flies so fast and you don’t really remember it when you’re thinking about nothing.

    Is that what you mean? That’s pretty common. I’ve talked to quite a few friends about it and they report the same thing. Your therapist might just not know about that.

    • CimmarianInk says:

      Hi thesecond,

      Thanks for coming by and commenting.

      I actually did call her when I initially canceled. The rest of the conversation was then had over email after she’d left a message telling me that I could email her because by the time she called back it was after her hours. She ended up telling me during the session that she had thought I sounded “bad” when I left my message so I’m sure that played in a role in her concern. I think my voice was just rough because people kept asking me if I was sick. 🙂

      As for the blank slate feeling, I’ll refine what I said to explain that my therapist spoke about a feeling of nothingness but we weren’t talking about something that would be a “normal” feeling but more of something that allows a person to disconnect from life I guess. Hopefully that explains it a bit better.

      • thesecond says:

        Hi CimmarianInk

        Thanks for responding.

        You called her, but I doubt you addressed her worries with her. Starting a conversation with a question works better that telling people stuff I find. Whatever you want to do, if you involve other people in the decision making process they feel happier and are more likely to do what you want. Even if your voice is tired from people questioning your sickness.

        Well, it’s fairly normal for me to be disconnected for half an hour, a person with no bipolar history of diagnosis or history of abuse. Not to criticize or anything, but your experience sounds like a common and normal thing in the range of normal human experience.

        Does it happen when you think about the bad past or hit triggers that remind you of it?

      • CimmarianInk says:

        Hello thesecond,

        While I respect your personal experience, your response supplied the reason that you seem unable to grasp what I’m talking about.

        If you observe the theme of this blog it’s about having certain disorders and a certain kind of history. If you lack that history or medical issue there is no reason for you to comprehend the concepts that I’m talking about. Obviously not dealing with these issues is not a fault of course, but in this instance it seems to be causing a difficulty in understanding.

        I’m curious: What precisely made you visit if the subject matter is not applicable to your personal experience?

  4. thesecond says:

    The subject matter is applicable to my personal experiences for I am dating a bipolar lady. I try to have a good idea of her inner mental state. She sucks at dealing with her internal issues and they’re all leaky so it’s a regular personal experience.

    “If you observe the theme of this blog it’s about having certain disorders and a certain kind of history. If you lack that history or medical issue there is no reason for you to comprehend the concepts that I’m talking about. Obviously not dealing with these issues is not a fault of course, but in this instance it seems to be causing a difficulty in understanding.”

    You observed a feature in yourself, that you often felt nothing. You asked your therapist if most people experienced that, and she said no, though some experienced contentment or peace. She then proposed an explanation, that it was a coping strategy to deal with your abusive mother. A disconnect from life. No contentment or feelings so you can’t be hurt. You feel i can’t understand this because I am not bipolar and so haven’t had the appropriate history. Have i got that right?

    As far as I can see, I have no gaps in my understanding. You wondered whether most people ever felt nothing. I said that I and every other person I’d questioned about it said that they had often felt mentally empty, that a scientific experiment found that our minds were empty more often that not, and your therapist may not have been aware because most people don’t remember thinking about nothing. You are especially analytical and try to know your own mind better than most so you’d discover it but many don’t.

    I also suggested that it could be a coping strategy if it happened when you were trying to avoid abuse of some kind in modern life. I and most people I know experience anger and irritation when confronted with issues. Cold rage especially can be very helpful. If you experience blankness when bad stuff happens that would be unusual and could be from the abuse. And my lady experiences anger irritation and depression when she faces issues, so you’d have different ones to her.

    • CimmarianInk says:

      There are always levels to things when one is dealing with multiple mental illnesses. In the case of this post the feeling of nothingness is connected to past physical, sexual, emotional and verbal abuse. There will be references to issues or emotions or should I say even non-emotions that are relevant to having any of the Dissociative Disorders.

      In the case other posts I may be writing about the bipolar side of things in which case I would experience things you’ve probably seen in your girlfriend’s case, like anger, irritability, depression, mania etc.

      Part of my point in my earlier response had to do with the Dissociative side of things which even though they can be described, can’t fully be understood unless the person has experienced it for themselves personally.

      For instance, when I first explained Dissociative Disorders to my husband, I used “drifting off” or the example of driving somwhere without remembering the whole trip as illustrations. Everyone dissociates to an extent and he could relate to that. However, people with Dissociative Disorders experience things that are out of the realm of experience for the average person and the symptoms and experiences are so multi-leveled and complex that it cannot be understood without that personal experience.

      So, when I describe something and it hasn’t been personally experienced by someone on at least some level (since many of us experience our symptoms differently), I don’t expect them to fully get it and that’s ok. However neither do I expect people to tell me what I’ve experienced or try to put it in a category they think it belongs in.

      • Freasha1964 says:

        Hi CI,
        I think that last sentence nails what I have been feeling. Someone else defining and explaining your experience is a tad over the line. I admire your patience, too.

      • CimmarianInk says:

        Hi Freasha,

        Thank you very much for saying that. *hug* I have been patient haven’t I?

      • thesecond says:

        I am completely open to the experience being part of your dissociation. I’m fine with not being able to understand it. You did, however, ask your therapist about an experience which sounds completely like something I and others experience.

        Rereading your first reply, you said you were describing a feeling of being disconnected from the world. I presume that’s what you mean? I wasn’t trying to offend, just that feeling as well as being a DID thing is also an emptiness thing. You feel rather disconnected from concerns like pain or pleasure. It can be quite nice if you’re stressed over work and far from experiencing contentment and calm. A stronger thing, like feeling like your experiences are of a different person, that does sound very different.

        You asked your therapist whether most people experience it. You presumably were open to putting it in a category. It has unique elements so it’s not great for a category.

      • CimmarianInk says:

        To make something very clear: You are not my therapist.

        You jumped into this conversation without introducing yourself and began by telling me how you believe I should have spoken to my therapist and then you questioned her training by questioning her knowledge about human thinking.

        You used phrases like “not to criticize” and then proceeded to do precisely that. You presumed to tell me how I was feeling, and why I was feeling a certain way, and you base your reasoning on the fact that you’re dating someone with bipolar disorder?

        Your tone has been argumentative from the first comment. I tried to politely explain what I was talking about and you would come back with an argument about why you were right about I feel.

        So, I’m done being polite because I don’t have the time or the inclination to continue this discussion with you.

  5. castorgirl says:

    Hi CI,

    I remember talking about emotions to a person who struggled with eating disorders during a respite stay once… I had mentioned how I rarely felt emotions, and were so disconnected from the world through my dissociation… she said that she would love that, as her emotions were so overwhelming and she felt them so keenly. All I could think, was that she doesn’t understand what it’s like to feel nothing… it’s not fun. It makes you question your empathy, connections to others… your humanity.

    It might be a usual experience for people to feel nothing for short periods of time; but when it’s chronic, then it’s a problem. It seems a usual experience for survivors who dissociate to feel that disconnect, which does makes sense when you think that the dissociation is about trying to protect us from the overwhelming, conflicting messages that we are being exposed to.

    As for your anger at your therapist… I’m really glad you talked about it. Just feeling that anger at her indicates that you are able to feel emotions 🙂 Talking about it, is also about building and maintaining that therapeutic relationship, which is all good…

    How are you doing now??

    Please take care,
    CG

    • CimmarianInk says:

      Thanks for relating that story CG. You’re absolutely right, it’s not fun to be so disconnected. I appreciate you talking about similar feelings…or should I say non-feelings. 🙂

      And yes how ironic that I should feel anger at my therapist at such a time.

      Right now my mood has been shifting over the past week or so into an extreme irritability and depression. Bipolar awesomeness.

  6. thesecond says:

    “You jumped into this conversation without introducing yourself and began by telling me how you believe I should have spoken to my therapist and then you questioned her training by questioning her knowledge about human thinking.”

    I can see why that would be insulting. Not introducing myself, questioning the way you speak, quesioning her training.

    I generally dislike the presumption of therapists knowing all, hence my disagreement. It can be quite stressful for them.

    “You presumed to tell me how I was feeling, and why I was feeling a certain way, and you base your reasoning on the fact that you’re dating someone with bipolar disorder?”

    “Your tone has been argumentative from the first comment. I tried to politely explain what I was talking about and you would come back with an argument about why you were right about I feel.”

    I missed the keyword which indicated it was a DID thing. I apologize for that. I was trying to work out how what you said tied into your post, not presume to tell you what you’re feeling. You did say in the post that you though everyone might have blank slate times, hence the question, so I thought I’d tell you how I felt.

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