Three Taverns Church

Stuffing and Denying Feelings

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“In what ways have you tried to fix yourself  with your own power (e.g., stuffing feelings such as anger to ‘prove you had faith’; trying harder to resist a temptation or a character defect such as impatience, sarcasm, or resentment; criticizing yourself harshly whenever one of your character defects was active)?” J. Keith Miller, A Hunger For Healing

All of the above.

I still find myself doing this today, in the midst of my Step 6 work…and I realize that when I try to fix myself I am doing two things: 1) I am in denial about the powerlessness I have over my addiction and character defects; and 2) I am in denial about the power of God to heal me of my addiction and character defects. I ought to know that after 34 years of living I am powerless to fix myself. For as long as I can remember I have been impatient, angry, sarcastic, and selfish. And for as long as I can remember I’ve been in denial that I was this way, while at the same time paradoxically trying desperately to stop being this way. It’s like saying, “I’m not an angry person, and I’m going to stop being an angry person.”

I think the idea of stuffing feelings to ‘prove my faith’ is something I’ve done a lot over the past several years. I often think to myself, “Jesus wasn’t an angry person, and Paul said I’m not supposed to be angry, so damn it I’m not going to be angry! (stuff, stuff, stuff…deny, deny, deny)” Instead of denying and stuffing my feelings, I need to own them: “Yes, I am angry, and I know I can’t fix myself or cure myself of this anger. Stuffing my anger will only kill me from the inside out, and denying my anger in the name of piety will not make it go away. I need to confess my anger and ask the Spirit of God to heal me. Being an angry person doesn’t make me a ‘bad’ person. It is OK to have feelings, even negative ones; that’s called ‘being human.'”

Several months ago I hit a rough patch in my recovery and I was getting what some people call, “recovery fatigue.” I was working harder and harder every day to keep my sobriety, but I was only getting tired and frustrated. Then one day I had an epiphany: I was trying to resist temptation! I was trying not to be tempted by women, which is a pretty dumb thing for a recovering pornography addict to do. I slipped into denial about my addiction in the middle of my recovery program and forgot that I have no power of my addiction; I forgot Step 1!

I had to remind myself that: “Yes, you are a recovering pornography addict. Yes, you are going to constantly be tempted by women, by images, and by your own subconscious. Yes, it is perfectly normal for humans to be tempted. So stop pretending like you’re not an addict, quit trying to not get tempted, and just surrender your temptation to Jesus.”

What kinds of feelings do you stuff or deny?

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