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DBT 23: Tell me how to feel

Or the emotional myths we believe.

I’ve talked about the myths we tell ourselves before and now we are on to a new set of myths. These ones are about feelings. Honestly, this was the most emotionally provoking group session I have been in. Everyone struggled with something. I’ll start easy.


TW: mention of self harm, abuse

e.g Emotions are stupid.

For this exercise we were required to challenge these myths and admittedly I cheated and wrote: “Sometimes emotions feel stupid, but they aren’t.”

It feels really stupid to me that I am afraid of balloons. I seriously don’t like them. They are fine on their own. Or if I am playing it, you know trying to make sure it never hits the ground. That’s fun. I like the foil ones that float around for months and months. But the regular ones, as soon as there are people in the room with balloons, I know they are going to pop. It’s basically in a state of waiting for the damned thing to explode. It’s like being in the room with bee, you know you shouldn’t be scared of it, but you also know it’s gonna sting you. You aren’t afraid of the bee, but the potential for pain it’s gonna bring. (Or death for some of you.) Balloons are fun, but with people they basically promise sudden load bangs.


Like a fear of moths, it’s not a fear that people respect. They don’t get what loud noises do to people. So it feels kinda stupid. (Note: I have tried really hard not to laugh at someone who was terrified of moths, it was really hard because they are adorable night butterflies that sometimes eat your clothes.)

Now for the harder ones. (Reworded, because I don’t have the sheet infront of me)


I need permission from others to feel.

I need others to tell me how to feel.

I need others to validate my feelings.

My feelings are wrong

I am the person who when I’m not repressing everything will ask people “Am I allowed to be angry at this?” “Do I have permission to do this?” “How should I feel about that?” I was so good at reading other people’s feelings I would copy their reaction. In very high emotional situations, I use to physically hurt myself because I didn’t know how to feel. (I’ve worked very hard to change that. I took a tip from a cutter, draw on yourself. I didn’t cut, I’d bang my head, but the drawing helps on days when I really need it. It feels like control.) I often will run to GT and seek validation for my feelings because my whole life my feelings have been wrong. I’ve apparently felt too much. Or been wrong in my reactions. I basically numbed everything out, because I didn’t think I was suppose to feel. When I have felt things I’ve been explained to about how wrong those feelings were. So I hid them. And this is also why I really liked that “Let it go” song.


Anyone who has been abused probably knows what I am talking about. It’s like you slowly get jammed into a tiny box where you only feel what you are told to feel. You completely loose yourself. You no longer know that that tingly feeling in your stomach or that you are twitching and can’t seem to do anything because you are afraid. You don’t know why two hours before they come home you feel indecisive. Or why when you walk places your hands have made fist. Where they always fists? It’s like you get put on pause. You numb it out, and get through the next day and eventually it seems normal because you’ve been doing it so long.

The moment you voice how you feel, you are immediately slammed down (emotionally, physically, sexually). You are gaslit. So you start asking for permission. “How should I feel about this?”


Part of it doesn’t come from abusive relationships. As a culture we generally tell women “you are an over reactor.” “you are hysterical.” “females haz all the feelings.” Men “Don’t feel” “Only feel horny and rage.” “males don’t haz feelings” Of course, this fucks up shit for everyone.


Those myths were hard ones. Because I know them so well. It turns out, a lot of people do.

Challenges: I only need my permission to feel.

Others can’t know how I feel. Others can’t tell me how to feel.

I need to validate my feelings. My feels are valid!

My feelings are difficult to understand, but I am learning. They aren’t wrong, we just haven’t communicated in a very long time.


This week I knew I didn’t want to go to a party, and I asked GT and my best friend. I actually took down the post quickly because I knew I didn’t want to go. I needed to argue with someone about why I didn’t want to go, because me not wanting to go wasn’t good enough reason. I really felt like I needed permission to not go. I didn’t go and it was great. It only took me 2 days to not feel like shit about it. I also didn’t lie about it. When my mom asked me about the party I was honest! THAT NEVER HAPPENS. I always lie about that stuff. I’ve made some progress.

Part of all those challenges is to learn to trust yourself again. To take out the faulty program and rewire it to re-connect yourself. To slowly re-active those parts that have been shut off. The first part is to notice those unnamed feelings and then named them. A few months ago I just went around naming them. “I’m angry” “I’m sad.” “I’m happy.” I’m still working on it. I’m still very good at making fake happiness feel real.


Other myths:

Creativity depends on emotional chaos. If I don’t feel the highs and lows my art will suffer.


I use to believe this until two months ago. I have made more art and writing since I started these groups than I have during my breakdown. I am making more and more things as I stabilize. My work is constantly improving as I get better.

It is experience that makes great art, not constant self emotional torture.

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