Q: All my life, my mom ridiculed or belittled my feelings, especially anything negative. She told me I was overreacting, too sensitive or just ridiculous.
I've never been able to shake the feeling that what I'm feeling is wrong. Now when I disagree with someone, my first instinct is to tell myself I'm being ridiculous. This has led to many confrontations that should have happened but never did, not standing up for myself, or just not voicing my opinion when I should have. All I ever do is second-guess myself, and I end up losing the opportune moment to communicate.
Last night, I told my neighbor at 3 a.m. that he needed to quiet his dog, which had been barking for an hour. I couldn't sleep the rest of the night. I was panicking over the fact that I had told someone I was displeased, even though I know I was totally in the right. How do I stop feeling this way about my own feelings?
Not Knowing When to React
A: That's what therapy is for, really — the long process of teasing apart emotional knots. Cognitive behavioral therapy in particular, I think, could help you rewire your responses; something so ingrained isn't going to just go away.
Ask your doctor for a referral or check to see if your employer offers an Employee Assistance Program. If you're uninsured, call the Helpline at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, toll-free 1-800-950-6264, to ask about local support groups and clinics. Also, you don't always have to stand up for yourself in the "opportune moment." Often it's possible, and quite effective, to revisit a situation later.