I have been going through some kind of internal turmoil these past few weeks. It all started with a therapy session revelation that when I get "overwhelmed" when playing with the kids or while enjoying an intimate conversation with my wife, that feeling of overwhelm is a fear that pops up in my mind machine telling me that I am about to get attacked by my dad. Weird, huh? I'll explain.
When interacting with the kids and playing with them (e.g., I was swimming in our pool and being a whale while the kids rode on my back cackling and experiencing lots of joy), instead of experiencing what psychologists call an "endorphin" good-feeling experience, I get overwhelmed and I "shut down." I get a headache, and I experience a pain surrounding my head like a helmet combined with a pain in my heart, and my tolerance for the experience drops through the floor. I tell myself that I am not thinking straight, I become dizzy and I feel like I want to pass out. I experience a horrible feeling in my chest (as if I was being starved; as if I have not eaten in days), and I feel nauseous. I really at that point want the experience to end, so I retreat to a "safe" place without all of the overstimulation. Since I was in the pool at this particular moment, I politely told the kids to go out of the pool for a few minutes while I breathed and let the feeling sensations pass.
I don't actually go "Jeckyll and Hyde." Rather, I notice that I am not feeling well, and so (if needed), I end whatever experience is happening so that I can crawl into my own shell and recover. This is why I love my office so much -- after the morning stress of making lunches and dealing with whatever mess was conjured up in my home between, say, 6am and 7am, after the kids get to school, my office is a good place to sit down and "de-fuzz" (and maybe have a good cry ;p ) before my workday begins.
I was discussing this experience with a therapist I am seeing, and he was leading me through some kind of visualization to determine the cause of the overwhelm. In the visualization, while reviewing the "tatty is a big whale in the pool" experience, I noticed and mentioned that "this sounds out of place -- I'm feeling a dull feeling of fear that my dad is about to scream and attack me." "That's it!" the therapist chimed.
He explained that often messed up feelings do not have anything to do with the experience in which they manifest themselves. My fear of getting attacked by my dad -- who is now many hundreds of miles away from us, and who is now an older man no longer in an authority role where he can yell, scream, or burden us with his explosive temper tantrums -- was not logically related at all to me feeling happiness in spending time with the kids. "It's not logical!" I explained to the therapist, whereas he responded, "specters such as these are not supposed to be logical."
In other words, the therapist believes that somewhere up in my mind machine, it has linked together the concept of "what-would-be-endorphin-producing-pleasurable-experiences" and this "pain." I imagine a loving child wanting to climb on his daddy, and his daddy explodes out of anger for whatever his reason, only to leave that child cowering in a corner wondering what he did to elicit such an explosive anger reaction when he only wanted to play with his daddy. In other words, I was probably spooked a few times (or at a minimum, ONE traumatic experience) which caused my mind machine to overwrite the "pleasure" signal with "fear" or "pain." Thus, when the pleasure signal is triggered, I feel the sensation of pain.
"What a sucky experience that must be," I thought. I have resorted to paying attention to the feelings, and breathing through the overwhelm when I sense it, all the while reading books on the topic and doing work on myself to hopefully fix this "problem" I appear to be experiencing. But, so far, no dice.