15 thoughts on “Trapped in a Circle of Your Own Self-Doubt? 3 Steps Out

  • January 13, 2019 at 12:19 pm

    After reading this article, I have a question. I feel I’ve done a fair job of dealing with my own CEN. As a consequence, I have made decisions that some other family members were antagonized by. My whole family is very strong-willed as am I. Another characteristic of the family dynamic is a refusal to discuss anything. I’ve been told by someone that they “don’t do feelings and emotions.” As a psychologist, my understanding is that feelings and emotions are everything and if you don’t talk about them, they fester. I am perplexed; is it because I’m a psychologist they don’t want to talk? Or do they feel I will out-maneuver them. This “I won’t talk about it” was a strong bone of contention in my marriage and my husband of 54 years finally came to the conclusion that he probably should talk about it. I’ve never been happier in our relationship. True to my CEN upbringing, I tend to feel this is my fault and I should be able to resolve it. However, when I observe the current state of society, I’m wondering if families just don’t love, care, and honor one another anymore and I’m not alone in this dilemma.

    • January 13, 2019 at 3:37 pm

      Hi Sharon, I have seen that many families do not know how to talk about difficult things; they fear conflict or intense emotions make them very uncomfortable. So they stick to everyday planning, the weather, traffic, logistics or jokes, for example, which all feels safe. This does great damage, unfortunately. I’m glad you and your husband figured out how to do it right.

  • January 13, 2019 at 4:16 pm

    I read “Running on Empty” just last month. I’ve been digesting it, while life goes on and I keep on trucking. BUT just yesterday my boss and I were discussing some difficulties I’ve been having at work and her feedback to me was “you don’t trust yourself, you get overwhelmed, and you second guess your work”. Whee.
    BUT-all the strengths you list I have in spades, and have only recently been able to give myself credit for them.
    Before I found you and your work I had a vague sense I wasn’t “processing” things the same as others, and that I was somehow apart. Those feelings don’t lead one to trust oneself any better. Finally CEN-and I’m beginning to be able to cut through the fog.
    Thank you so very much.

    • January 13, 2019 at 5:49 pm

      I’m so happy to hear this Edie. It sounds like you’re on the right path toward growing to trust yourself. I’m impressed!

      • January 13, 2019 at 9:35 pm

        Thank you.

    • January 13, 2019 at 6:54 pm

      Hi Edie,

      “I had a vague sense I wasn’t “processing” things the same as others, and that I was somehow apart”

      You just accurately described how I’ve felt my whole life. For me it’s like I just don’t understand how to be a person the way most folks do by instinct.

      Learning about CEN has been great, because I’m understanding that experiencing, recognizing, trusting, and interpreting my emotions and feelings is the method of “processing” that I sensed I was missing, and that it’s a skill that can be learned and practiced. I’m also discovering that I do have a good sense of emotional intelligence, it’s just something I’ve always silenced so under everything the skills are actually there.

      Doesn’t mean it’s easy to work on this stuff but for me I’m finally seeing some of the improvements that I’ve been blindly seeking for decades. Have hope and faith that it will be the same for you, and I’m sure you’ll get there too.

      • January 13, 2019 at 8:21 pm

        Thank you so much. It does take faith doesn’t it!

      • January 13, 2019 at 9:19 pm

        Yes. Faith in yourself and in the fact that your feelings make sense and do matter.

  • January 13, 2019 at 5:40 pm

    “When you are disconnected from your emotions, you are like a sailboat without a rudder.”
    As a sailboat owner and generally very clever guy, I can tell you that anology is even better than you might have realised.

    Sailing a sailboat without a rudder is VERY possible! It is more difficult for sure, but that adds to the challenge and allows you to learn more. It’s actually one of the skills I want to work on when my boat goes back in the water in April.

    Likewise, I’ve deliberately ignored my emotions for the vast majority of my life, because of CEN in my family. But by over-thinking things in the right way, I’ve very often been able to reach the right conclusions to complicated questions. And when I was wrong, I could learn from it and get it more right the next time around.

    It’s definitely been a lot more difficult and challenging to go through life this way and I’m glad that time seems to be coming to an end. But by doing the job that should be done through emotions with my conscious brain instead, I’ve learned a huge amount; about myself, about other people and about the world.

    Eventually it even taught me that the emotions I was deliberately ignoring had been surprisingly accurate all along. And that gives me the confidence I need to better trust my emotions in the future.

    • January 13, 2019 at 5:48 pm

      Dear Pieter, thank you for describing so well the experience of going through life without a rudder. I’m so glad you’re listening to your emotions and reaping the great benefits of that. Keep up the good work!

  • January 13, 2019 at 9:20 pm

    That is just fascinating to read about cen. How to breathe and follow your gut. Certainly will take lots of awareness to manage the way the brain has become to communicate its messages.
    I’ll certainly read again.
    Takes a bit for myself personally to grasp it all. Although it is pointed out simply.
    Wonderful to have stumbled across your work. A little the same as self love deficit .
    Thankyou for the email

    • January 13, 2019 at 9:25 pm

      Dear Vickie yes it does take lots of awareness and some work to begin to trust yourself but makes your life so much easier.

  • January 15, 2019 at 1:53 pm

    My biggest problem is that “What are you feeling?” doesn’t seem to have an answer. I’m pretty sure that CEN applies to me, but whenever I know I should be paying attention to what I’m feeling and I ask myself that question like I should, the only answers ever seems to be “like I’m being electrocuted slowly and can’t find the wire,” “completely drained and numb,” or “like I want to scream until I run out of air or hide.” Asking that question just isn’t doing me any good. “Like I’m being slowly electrocuted” or “like someone tied a rock to my esophagus and I can barely move” isn’t an EMOTION.

    • January 15, 2019 at 4:19 pm

      Dear Janis, I suggest you read Running On Empty and/or download the Feelings List from my website. Read through the list and think about what each word means. Then start using single words instead of long phrases to describe your emotions. That’s a start, but then it’s important to move forward to processing your feelings. There are steps to take to heal.

    • February 4, 2019 at 10:48 am

      Hi Janis, I struggle with this too. Some of my emotions are easy for me, and some of them are vague and confusing, and I don’t have words for them other than knowing they are uncomfortable and I don’t like them. It’s incredibly frustrating and I especially relate to the feeling of “like I want to scream until I run out of air or hide.” I’ve experienced the exact same thing and in my experience that happens when I’m getting very close to reaching something I’ve previously blocked myself off from. It’s like I’m simultaneously trying to suppress and express whatever it is, and it’s scary because of the sudden internal change that represents. Almost like I want to yell to force out the feeling and finally know it, and I want to hide because I’m scared the feeling will hurt me (it won’t, it’s just really uncomfortable). I’ve come to recognize that particular feeling of wanting to yell and hide is actually a good sign even though it never seems like it in the moment.

      I think Dr Webb gives good advice about expanding your emotional vocabulary to get a better grip on this, but I think you should also give yourself credit for being able to express how you’re experiencing the raw feeling. “Like I’m being slowly electrocuted” or “Like I want to scream” are both valid feelings and you’ve described them well enough that I can picture what that feels like. So you’re already doing the hardest part, now you just have to figure them out.

      When I’m having the same experience, the ways I try to deal with it come from Dr Webb’s advice and involve a few different approaches. You can try to put a name to the feeling. You can think about “when have I felt this before and what was happening” which sometimes has surprising results. Sometimes the simplest thing is to just say to yourself “why am I feeling like this?” and try to accept all the different answers that come up, no matter how simple or obvious or silly. Doing this when journaling helps me get my thoughts straight sometimes and helps me get things out in a coherent way.


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