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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Emotional Substitution 

If there were emotions or emotional expressions that were barred to you in childhood, as an adult you will play the game of emotional substitution with these forbidden or “bad” feelings. 

For instance, if you weren’t allowed to protest, your rebellious feelings in adulthood will manifest as tardiness, incapacity to stick to a deadline, laziness, forgetfulness. You will do everything- from work obligations to daily chores – a lot more slowly than you would otherwise. 

If you weren’t allowed to express anger, whenever you feel angry in adulthood, you’ll displace the anger into self-sabotage, self-harm, start having minor household accidents, bumping into things, etc. 

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7 thoughts on “Emotional Substitution 

  1. Demotrash on said:

    Oh boy, I really relate to the rebellious part. I’m just beginning to get over this, and I’m in my mid-20s.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Shakti on said:

      For instance, if you weren’t allowed to protest, your rebellious feelings in adulthood will manifest as tardiness, incapacity to stick to a deadline, laziness, forgetfulness. You will do everything- from work obligations to daily chores – a lot more slowly than you would otherwise.

      Don’t feel bad, sometimes there are people who are twice as old, or who are senior citizens who never get over this. Or maybe it’s ADD. I think it may be an epidemic in my family.

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      • Oh, absolutely. So many people live their lives feeling guilty over “being” a certain way when it’s not really who they are but just a learned defense mechanism.

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      • Demotrash on said:

        I suspect I also have ADD, in addition. But this silly need to “rebel” is definitely there also.

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        • ADD is just a term that, in itself, explains nothing. Like autism, like OCD. There is a why behind the terms that the terms obscure and leave unexplored.

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          • Demotrash on said:

            I’m not too fussed either way. I just know advice targeted at people with ADHD is often helpful for me, so that’s handy.

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            • fluffymog on said:

              Yeah, with you on that – when turned into absolute rules or excuses, these terms are problematic. But when they act as labels to help direct people towards ways of improving whatever they want to improve in line with their own inclinations, and to help people move from self-blame (“I am weak/can’t focus and just aren’t trying hard enough”) to working on either why (“Who am I really rebelling against, and what might be a better strategy?”) or on acceptance and finding workable solutions (“OK, I struggle with doing one piece of work from start to finish, and with using whole days put aside for writing productively, even though that’s what our boss keeps telling us everyone should do – but if I have three pieces of writing on the go at different stages and spend 45 minutes on any one of them every working day, I will get writing done in a way which doesn’t feel like a battle”).

              For me, the challenge is to not berate myself! I think of it a bit like living with a toddler – small children NEED to battle and push against the world, it’s part of becoming fully human. But as adults sometimes we NEED to, say, get everyone out of the house wearing their rain gear in under three hours. Hearing “Put on your coat” sometimes feels like a life-threatening surrender to a small child, judging by the level of resistence and yelling which can ensue – but “do you want the red coat or the blue one?” allows some choice and is often a much quicker way to the desired result of a clad child. Write paper A feels very like put on your coat to my inner toddler, and whilst I’m working on WHY that is (a slow process, even with a counsellor/analyst to make the space and to guide my pokings), I get SO much more writing done when I start the morning with a choice of A, B or C! (note – I am not a parent, I just borrow my adorable and wonderful niece and visit friends with children, so this may be bad parenting practice…)

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