We readily accept the existence of mental and physical disabilities. But what about spotting emotional disabilities?
Physical disabilities can easily be spotted. We can tell when someone is missing a finger, is in a wheelchair or is blind. Even when the physical disability is internal, if a kidney is missing or the heart is faltering, then doctors will generally be able to diagnose the issue and we will become aware of it.
We can often also spot mental disabilities. We easily perceive a lack of memory or a split personality in someone. We recognise dementia, schizophrenia, Alzheimers or dyslexia.
Our immense challenge is to accept the existence of emotional disabilities and spot the people that have them.
Our situation reminds me of the story about the people who could not see three big sailing boats on the horizon. They had never seen boats that size before. It was only when the shaman of the people described the boats that the people could see what they did not know.
We are challenged with a blindness to that which we do not know exists.
Allow me to describe what many people do not know exists – emotional disabilities.
look out for:
- an abnormal need for controlling others
- a need to isolate people, keeping them away from each other. There are secrets. You are asked not to talk about certain things.
- humongous charm with much smooth talking
- people in their surroundings are not thriving, but seem down and depressed
- split seconds in which you can catch an incongruent glance
- callousness, often right on the edge of acceptability so that calling them out on it seems unreasonable
- unacceptable toxic incidents are followed by a couple of weeks of hope for improvement. This continuous cycle of toxicity and hope can be addictive
- your displays of emotions such as being angry, wanting revenge, crying your heart out, anxiety, are having no effect, no impact. There is no compassion. You feel alone and you feel guilty for having caused an outbreak. The blame seems to always be on you.
- your gut feeling that something is not quite right but you can’t quite put your finger on it
- you are being told that you are the only one who can heal them / help them / be their soulmate.
There are many versions and various levels of severity. Some emotional disabilities are just as though a person were missing the little finger or the thumb. Others can be compared to missing a whole arm. Every case of emotional disability is somewhat different. Some can sometimes feel real anger, some pretend their anger. Some can feel real love, some just pretend love.
Why do we not see emotional disabilities? It seems absolutely incredible, that someone does not feel anger, fear, joy or grief. And so we accept the act, the pretence of emotions as a real emotion. It does not even cross our mind that someone might have practiced to display and act out emotions all their lives for the sake of manipulation and power.
People with emotional disabilities will realise as very young children that they are different. They will meticulously observe other people. They will know within minutes of meeting you how to manipulate you with a cascade of pretended emotions.
This is the hardest thing to grasp: there are people who have shallow feelings. There are people with no conscience and no ability for compassion.
When we hear this we tend to immediately want to rescue, heal or change a person with emotional disabilities. We might find reasons for their disabilities in their childhood. If only we love them more, they will be healed. If only we are patient with them, they will be healed.
There are some people who, yes, have been affected by circumstance and can be healed. The difficulty lies in differentiating these people from those who are born with an emotional disability. There is evidence that when the limbic brain (which deals with emotions) is damaged (often since birth), then the emotional disability is such that, so far, there has been no success in healing these people. The only way of getting along with them is by controlling them constantly in a very hierarchical, commanding, domineering way. The alternative is to run for the hills.
Even though the limbic brain of emotions may be damaged, the reptilian brain with its instincts and first chakra issues of power, money and sex is likely intact. It may be confusing at first to realise that people have excellent instincts and yet very shallow emotions. They will instinctually know what you crave, what hurts you, what makes you happy, and what motivates you. Although this may seem like empathy, it is purely instinctual. Because of the lack of empathy and compassion this instinctual knowledge is abused in a callous way for the sake of power, sex and money.
Two fictional figures with emotional disabilities are:
In my experience women with emotional disabilities are more likely to prey on family members. They commit their abusive acts behind closed doors. Men with emotional disabilities are more likely to extend their abusive manipulations from their families to their workplace, often in big companies where there are many possible victims.
For our empowerment we need to:
- know that emotional disabilities exist
- spot emotional disabilities
- move out of dramas of
- wanting to heal and rescue those with emotional disabilities
- wanting to extract a reaction, such as pity, remorse, regret, guilt or shame
- let go of the attachment and addiction to a person with emotional disabilities
By Oona Fergusson
Oona teaches highly empowering Emotions Courses for understanding and dealing with everyday emotional dramas and manipulations.