According to Dr. Geoffrey Carr’s theory of intrusive feelings, the feelings that feel bad and that underlie our emotional problems, are intrusive feelings. These are old feelings of fear (anxiety), shame, and emotional pain that, although triggered in the present by something in the present that reminds us of these feelings, are echoes from the past. In other words, although triggered in the present and experienced in the present, these distressing feelings come from the past and belong to the past. Unfortunately, our brains can’t distinguish between intrusive feelings from the past and feelings that are only about now, and so we tend to misinterpret these old feelings and believe that we are in more danger in the present than is actually the case. The benefit of understanding that our distressing feelings are intrusive is that with this wise perspective we feel much less distressed.
A clue that we are experiencing intrusive feelings is when our distressing feelings seem out of proportion to the triggering event. If we make a minor mistake, and feel really bad about ourselves, this is a clue that we are experiencing intrusive shame. If we experience a minor rejection and experience big feelings of rejection, this is a clue that we are experiencing intrusive, emotional pain. If we experience a minor unanticipated event and experience intense anxiety, this is a clue that we are experiencing intrusive anxiety. In other words, whenever we experience big feelings of distress that are out of proportion to the triggering event, it is best to realize that the intensity of our feelings comes from the past and that the feelings are intrusive. With this understanding, we not only feel less distressed but are able to desensitize and heal the intrusive feelings by bringing our presence to the feelings from a wise, compassionate perspective (see the article, Listening to Feelings from a Wise Perspective).
Intrusive feelings may be understood by considering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). People who experience traumatic events in which they perceive they could have died may develop PTSD. One of the symptoms of PTSD is flashbacks, in which a stimulus in the present reminds people about the traumatic event, which triggers intrusive feelings, sensations, smells, and sounds from the traumatic event such that people relive the trauma. For example, a soldier who is now in civilian life may hear the backfire of a car and fall to the ground covering his head and shaking in terror. This soldier will know intellectually that he is safe in the present which will lessen his distress, but will nonetheless experience intrusive fear until he is able to desensitize the fear by repeated exposure to it.
Finally, although intrusive feelings are reinforced by distressing events that we remember, such as if we were treated abusively as children, or if we experienced that we were going to die in some traumatic event as adults, according to Dr. Carr’s theory of early trauma feelings, the source of our intrusive feelings comes from a time we don’t remember: being in the uterus, the birth experience, and the first few years of life (see the article, What We Don’t Remember Can Hurt Us).
- About Your Feelings
- Intrusive Feelings
- Early Trauma Feelings: What We Don’t Remember Can Hurt Us
- How We Avoid Our Trauma Feelings Can Also Hurt Us
- Relinquishing Ways We Avoid Our Feelings (Defenses) That Hurt Us
- Avoiding Feelings with Anger
- Listening to Feelings from a Wise Perspective
- Responsibility for Feelings
- Alive to Feelings