Being Queer is something that you’ve worked hard to embrace. You’ve accepted your identity as a fact that you can’t and don’t want to change, and this level of self-acceptance has come with some major benefits.
- Your anxiety and depression have decreased.
- Your understanding of yourself, your dreams, and your likes and dislikes have all increased.
- Your friendships are rich and complex because you are living as your authentic self.
But while you’ve bulleted forward on your path of understanding and self-acceptance, you’ve left others behind- family members and former friends that you wish would understand and accept you more than they do. When you’re confronted with the vast difference between how far you’ve come and where your loved one is, it can make you feel like the gains you’ve made don’t matter. However, this cannot be further from the truth! Emotion regulation can help when you’re in these situations.
You likely have a high sense of empathy due to the ways you now understand yourself. As an LGBTQ individual, you have likely spent upwards of hundreds or thousands of hours contemplating your identity, what it means, and how to exist in a world of heteronormativity and cisnormativity.
Your family (unless they also identify as LGBTQ) has likely not spent nearly this many hours on the topic. This may mean that some of them are stuck in ways of thinking that have been dictated to them by broader heteronormative culture, and others may be deeply entrenched in an anti-queer bias that seems relentless.
Emotion regulation to survive reactions to your Queerness.
Whether a loved one makes an innocent but uneducated comment, or a hateful comment meant to degrade, your emotions can easily get hijacked. It’s important to take a step back and have a quick conversation with your thoughts and emotions to remain centered.
4 CRUCIAL QUESTIONS TO REGAIN EMOTIONAL CENTEREDNESS
- WHAT DOES THIS INTERACTION MAKE ME BELIEVE ABOUT MYSELF?
Behind our anger, our sadness, our disappointment, is a negative self-belief in response to our loved one’s actions or words. The crucial first step in emotion regulation is to ask yourself- what is the negative self-belief message that you are getting from this interaction. Some of the messages that you might be receiving are:
- Something’s wrong with me.
- I’m not loved.
- I don’t matter.
- I’m not wanted.
- I’m not safe.
There are many other potential negative self-belief messages that could be attacking you. Listen to your heart and mind, and name which one(s) plague you the most often.
- WHEN I BELIEVE THIS WAY, HOW DO I NORMALLY RESPOND?
Negative self-beliefs are brutal. These messages really want you to self-sabotage. It’s important to know the behaviors and emotions these negative beliefs try to get you to adopt. Typically, a person tends to respond to these messages similarly each time these beliefs come up. The more you ask yourself these emotion regulation questions, the more solid your skills will become. Here are a few examples of unhelpful responses you may experience in response to negative self-beliefs:
- Anger, retaliation
- Self-medication (drugs, alcohol, sex, TV, video games, etc.)
- Running away, escape
- Self-hate, self-blame
- Body symptoms
- WHAT’S TRUE ABOUT ME?
Now it’s time to fight the negative self-belief. In this step, you want to search for evidence that the negative self-belief is untrue. As an LGBTQ individual, it’s also important in this step to ask yourself if the loved one is truly a safe person for you. Many heteronormative individuals have never had to confront their own thoughts, beliefs, and values about Queer identities. Because of this, they may need some time and education in order to change beliefs and decrease problematic comments or responses. For others, their anti-LGBTQ bias may be so entrenched that they may never be safe to be in a relationship with. You might find that this step of searching for truth looks different for the two following categories of truth statements.
With individuals who want to understand but aren’t there yet:
- This person seems curious, and that curiosity makes me feel seen.
- This person is communicating that they love me and I feel loved.
- I have this person’s attention. I am important.
- This person seems shocked, but maybe they just need time. They’ve shown me in the past that I really matter to them.
With individuals who show no interest in understanding or accepting me:
- I’m loved. The people who love me are not in this room, and that’s okay.
- This sucks but this will end and I can leave. I can choose to walk away at any point.
- My journey matters. I won’t abandon it.
- This is not a safe topic with this person, but I have others I can speak with openly.
- IN LIGHT OF THIS TRUTH, HOW DO I WANT TO RESPOND?
Having fought the negative self-belief with evidence of what is true about you, you are now empowered to take control from the negative self-belief and step into the confidence and peace you long for. Some affirmations to move forward are:
- I will exercise patience and understanding with those putting in an effort to understand and love me.
- I will walk away from dehumanizing interactions when I need to, knowing that at the end of the day I still matter.
- I will spend extra time thinking of and appreciating those who truly care about me.
- I recognize that I know my body, soul, and experience better than someone who has never lived my story.
How do I know when I need more than emotion regulation- do I need therapy?
Look, I get it. You’re a queer individual in a heteronormative and cisnormative world. You want to love yourself well and be free to love others authentically. Sometimes, we need a little help getting there. You can always ask a therapist for a free consultation to see if therapy could be a good fit for you.
Stand in your strength!
Incorporate the 4 questions of emotion regulation into your routine when dealing with difficult conversations.
- What does this interaction make me believe about myself?
- When I believe this way, how do I normally respond?
- What’s true about me?
- In light of this truth, how do I want to respond?
Remember that you have so much value. Negative self-beliefs want you to ignore your value, but it’s always there. Tap into that truth and stand in the confidence and strength that you deserve.
Hargrave, T. D., & Pfitzer, F. (2011). Restoration therapy: Understanding and guiding healing in marriage and family therapy. Routledge.