Tuesday, January 12, 2016

When Is a Feeling Wrong?

Image Description: a blue glove with a different feeling face on each of the finger tips and thumb.
I felt what I felt but I didn't know if I should have felt what I felt but, nevertheless, I felt it anyways. Part of me knew that feeling the way I was feeling wasn't the right feeling to have in the situation but that didn't stop me from feeling what I was feeling.

I felt caught.

Joe and I made had just turned east on Bloor when we stopped, chatted, and decided to turn back to the corner and cross over to the north side. As you all know I am using the scooter and one of the things I hate about the scooter is that it makes a beeping noise when it backs up. I find it noisy, unnecessary and it draws too much attention to what I'm doing. It robs me of anonymity. But I began to back up to turn round and go the way we'd freshly decided to go.

I was only seconds into the backing up process when a woman, who is 'known' in the area as someone who has difficulty with mental health, noticed me backing up. Now, I need to say, I am pretty good at doing this. I am careful, I always turn the power down so I have full control, and my caution works, I've never backed into anyone or anything. Even with my obvious care she came to full alert. Her arms flew out and up, kind of the position you see the airport people who guide in aeroplanes. And she began to shout, as loud as she could.



I was mortified.

I don't like attention drawn to me that way.

I didn't need the help.

I knew instantly that she was trying to do something nice. She was trying to help me out. I knew that her motives were really good.

But I kept thinking. "Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!"

I wasn't close enough to her to speak to her and tell her 'thanks but I don't need help.' I would have had to holler at her and I don't think she would have heard me over her own shouting.


I felt angry.

I felt frustrated.

I felt really, really annoyed.


I wanted her to "Shut up."

Even though I knew, in my mind, that she was trying to help. I hated the scene that was being made. I hated that people all stopped, staring first at her and then and me and then back at her. I hated feeling centred out. I hated being the incident that people would talk about when they got home.

And I was angry with her.

I know that I need to be understanding. I know that she has her way of being in the world and I have my way of being in the world. I know that we both have a right to public space and that we have a right to be how we are in public space. I know all that.

But I didn't like what she did.

And it made me angry.

It may be wrong.

It may be unkind.

But that's how I felt.

I'm not sure what I should have felt ...



gps said...

It's OK to feel angry. You did exactly right by reflecting on that emotion and identifying where it's coming from, and recognizing that this is not the time to act out on it. You then released the anger through the blog. Note that, while you felt a fair amount of anger, you also felt compassion for the woman. Emotions are just a thermometer. They give us data, not tell us what to do. If it is cold, we can close a window, turn on a heater, or put on a sweater.

Anonymous said...

This is interesting . . . if being "angry" is actually a derivative of fear, it makes your emotional response very clear (and of course, appropriate!). You were afraid that her clamour would make you more obvious and could bring unwanted/inappropriate and possibly dangerous attention to your situation. How could your emotional response be more "right???" Thank you for my morning meditation on anger . . . (I am in need of this right now). (p.s. this is sincere thanks in case I didn't convey it!)

Jenni said...

Maybe the distinction is 'I was angry at the situation' rather than 'I was angry at her'.

That way, you can give her space to have her needs, you get space to have your needs, and you can allow yourself to be upset that - in this situation - those needs conflicted with each other. But you aren't angry at her for having her needs, or for acting on them.

Thinking like this helps me cope with my feelings when my Mum's anxiety/depression needs compete with my chronic pain / exhaustion needs. Hope it helps you too.

clairesmum said...

i don't know that i would label a feeling 'wrong' but rather that 'i don't like feeling this way.' having grown up in a family where feelings were 'wrong' and a cause for punishment, it's a hard thing to remember, sometimes. my feelings are my own, i have a right to them AND i have responsibilities to myself AND others in terms of how i display my feelings, and what behaviors i choose to take. of course, lots of therapy needed to get to this point, and i often 'forget', and get a chance to try again.
not a criticism, Dave...you can label your feelings as you choose...but what i have written is how i learned to allow myself to have feelings and not be overwhelmed by them.

Anonymous said...

Our feelings are what they are. No judgements necessary. How we act on them is what we can and should manage.

Jan Goldfield said...

Feelings are never wrong. It's what we do about them that counts.

ABEhrhardt said...

Your feelings are your natural inborn instincts plus whatever you've learned since you were born: they are yours, they are very fast to happen.

But Cognitive Behavior Therapy says they lead to automatic thoughts (everyone is seeing me take up more space than I'm entitled to) which then lead to mood (how terrible that I take up all this public attention).

All you have to do is what you already do: regularly talk back to the automatic feeling/thought/mood - and choose a better response. Not just a better external response - what you DO - but a better internal response - how you allow yourself to feel about it after all is said and done.

A different person might have played along, waved to everyone, turned it into a performance, pretended to be an airplane, actually played off her 'help.'

You don't have to - but you do have to know that there are alternative ways to react that can leave you feeling better.

I tell people when appropriate that it is IMPORTANT for the students at the university chapel where I sing to SEE people who have to sing sitting (I'm in the choir - I can't stand long comfortably), and to SEE people who need a walker, or who are slow going to communion. They are young, smart, and inexperienced - and could never notice how few disabled people there are in their lives. Me, I get to be a public service. It used to mortify me to be different, and now I feel it's good for them to see me.

You are out there in the world. You cannot be ignored. It's okay.

Anonymous said...

Great advice! The change in perspective will help with challenging situations like these!

Robin said...

We all get to feel what we feel. You didn't act on the feeling and you're not turning the feeling into hatred for that woman. We none of us have to turn off our feelings. Really, you can cut yourself some slack. I think one of the most valuable lessons I learned as a visibly disabled person - and mind, I've been visibly disabled my whole life - is to let go. Cringingly bad things are going to happen, and I'm going to have horrible emotional reactions, from fear to anger, to people's invasive treatment of me, but they don't win if I don't let those feelings eat me alive. And hey, that woman was much more of a spectacle than you were.

Sandra Milligan Bridges said...

You can not control what you feel...you can only control what you do about it. You didn't scream or curse at her..you were not rude to anyone..you had every right to feel how you felt..regardless of her good intentions.

Ron Arnold said...

Your hypothalamus was helping you out . . . but your cortex wasn't so sure about it. I think the interaction between the two of you (such as it was) is an interesting allegory in that sense.

Robin said...

I wanted to add:

It's absolutely okay that you didn't feel warm loving acceptance towards this woman. You will next time when she's not pushing your buttons. No, she wasn't pushing your buttons on purpose, but that doesn't at all negate or devalue your feelings.

Also, I'm willing to bet money (only a little bit - say, a dime) that only a tiny fraction of the people who stared actually went on to tell others about the incident.

Anonymous said...

I dislike negative attention. Some people thrive on it (think of those in the limelight for less than stellar reasons), but me...not so much. Let me get on with my business or enjoyment with the littlest of fuss and attention. Let me be. Help me if I ask for it. Don't purposely "wrong" me, but let your kindness be a natural extension of your day. Give me respect. Anything less will make me "feel" less. Yes, I am responsible for my own feelings and the reaction to those feelings, but please don't add fuel to the fire. So, unless asked or an emergency, back off, bug out and shut up.

wheeliecrone said...


Feelings are just feelings. There is no wrong feeling. There is no right feeling. Feelings are feelings.

Everyone has a right to have their feelings.

Whatever your feelings were, your behaviour was appropriate.

That is what matters. Your behaviour.

I feel the same way as you do about being singled out. But my feelings are just feelings.

So long as my behaviour is appropriate, no one knows about my chaotic feelings but me.

Tragic Sandwich said...

My mother always had a great deal of trouble acknowledging that she even felt anger. She once said to me that she didn't like it because she didn't like having "bad feelings." I said, "There aren't bad feelings. There are only feelings. It's what you do with them that is good or bad, but on their own, they aren't good or bad."

And I don't really think we can control our feelings--not completely. But we can control what we do with them, just as you did here.