Over the last 15 years I’ve spent a lot of time listening to the stories of couples going through infertility.
The one thing that’s really struck me recently is the shame and secrecy that still surrounds infertility.
I’m talking about the feelings many people feel but rarely dare to admit. A big one is the feeling of inadequacy.
“Will I be enough, if I don’t have a baby?”
The media is plastered with images of “successful” women, who “have it all” – The perfect job, the perfect husband, and two perfect children.
As one of my patient’s, Katie, said:
“You question your marriage, you question yourself as a woman. ‘Am I am ever going to be a mum?’ And it really did drain me.”
This feeling of inadequacy may not be conscious. It may manifest as a nagging feeling of “I’m not trying hard enough to have a baby”. It may manifest as constantly keeping busy in an attempt to avoid these painful feelings.
It’s easy to think we’’re alone in these feelings of inadequacy. So we keep them to ourselves. We look around at everyone else and we think:
“How come they’ve got it all sorted and I haven’t?”
This ironic thing is, everyone else is also doing the same thing. The people around you are probably even looking at you and thinking:
“How come she’s got it all sorted and I haven’t?”
Because we keep our feelings to ourself and we don’t let on how we’re really feeling. We want to keep up the image that “everything’s fine.”
When someone comes to see me for acupuncture, the conversation usually turns to these hidden feelings of shame and guilt. We are crying out to admit that deep down we don’t feel complete.
I remember going for my first acupuncture session 21 years ago. My best friend had just died. I was desperately trying to suppress the feeling of enormous grief. But the feelings had to go somewhere, and they came out as dreadful insomnia. I was feeling awful. But on the surface I was still putting on a brave face.
The acupuncturist I saw was very skilled at putting me at ease. He gave me the space to talk about what was really on my mind. For the first time I was able to start to admit the depth of the emptiness I was feeling. I felt the pressure of holding it all in start to lift. Even before he did any treatment. He helped to shed light on my feelings and let me know that they were ok. I was normal for feeling confused and upset.
If there’s one shift that can bring about more healing than any other it’s learning to make friends with your feelings. Learning to recognise that the grief, sadness, upset or any other feelings are ok and completely normal.
We’re conditioned from a young age that we have to “be strong” and “keep it all together”. However, suppression of emotion has been documented as having very harmful effects on the body, such as weakening the immune system, increasing blood pressure and disrupting hormone balance.
By pushing our feelings down we give them more power. We create internal conflict. This internal conflict (not the emotions themselves) is the cause of a huge amount of stress and illness.
The irony is, when we don’t mind if we are upset, the upset can’t last for much longer. It passes through you like a wave. If you observe a young child, you see that they move swiftly from tears to laughter because they don’t suppress anything.
It’s only later when we learn to suppress, that emotions turn into problems.
When I talk about this to patients, one common response is:
“But I don’t want to wallow in feeling upset”
It’s not about wallowing. It’s simply being present with a feeling when it arises, without judging it as good or bad. Just feel the feeling in your body. In this moment the feeling is there. To deny this fact does not make it go away. It only gives it more power over you by making it unconscious.
The key is to focus on the sensation in your body. Go into it the feeling and just be curious. There is an energy in your body that wants to express itself. Can you feel the sensations as it moves through your body?
Thoughts may also come up like “I’ve failed, I’ve let it get to me” Just watch them too. Are they true? Most of what the mind tells you is not true. It is simply a conditioned mind pattern. Notice the mind’s desire to label and then return your attention to the body.
Try this out and let me know how you get on. You may be surprised that, as Eckhart Tolle says:
“When I don’t mind being unhappy, unhappiness cannot last for much longer.”
BSc (Neuroscience) Lic. Ac.