Many of us feel locked inside closets of fear, perhaps unrecognized. We learned to enter these places to protect ourselves whenever we felt fearful or scared as small children. As our brain strengthens behaviors we repeat, and imprints them as easily accessible strategies, the part of our mind that operates all the systems of our body, the subconscious, can activate these automatically. As discussed in Part 1, the problem is often a learned lack of permission to feel painful emotions.
Our protective habits are also given priority status as they associated with ensuring our survival.
Protection from what?
Feeling our fears. We avoid what is our destiny, an essential aspect of become whole and happy human beings.
Our two greatest fears are intimacy fears.
Our deepest fears, fear of inadequacy, rejection, abandonment, and the like, have to do with our yearnings to matter as unique beings for the contributions we make to life around us and meaningfully connect in key relationships. They are core intimacy fears.
- On the one hand there is the fear that we cannot be ourselves in relation to another (or others); and on the other hand is the fear of a distance growing between us, that we are not meaningfully connected, thus separated, alone, detached (emotionally abandoned).
More often, we learned these strategic ways of protecting ourselves from well-meaning parents who themselves did the same. Like us, they were not emotionally prepared by their parents to feel their fears without their activating their body’s survival system.
Throughout life, it is natural to experience emotions that distress and disturb our inner emotional equilibrium, even daily. If youre like most, your first reaction is to reject your feelings away, with thoughts such as, I am not going to get upset, even though I feel screaming” or There he goes again or I knew she would do this to me. These thoughts, however, merely intensity our core fears of failing to get our intimacy needs met.
When you bury your emotions, however, you miss out on a vital opportunity to be present to your emotions. You see, painful emotions are neither good nor badthey are simply an essential aspect of your design as a human being, that, like every other wondrous aspect of the human body and mind, serves vital purposes in the greater scheme of your life.
- Painful emotions are simply your bodys way of letting you know that you absolutely need to look inside to access your inner resources for healing or calming your mind and body.
Feeling and validating your painful feelings, while also knowing how to release and energize positive healing, is an important gift of love you can give yourself and the best time to do so is alwaysnow, in the present moment.
When you take steps to understand and embrace painful emotions as vital information, you can more fully enjoy the excitement of life. Though you may find it a challenge at any moment to regulate your fear and avoid getting worked up, your awareness of the forces acting on your emotions and physical sensations of your body will help you return to your center and accept that obstacles are never as high as they first appear.
In contrast, by avoiding, numbing or masking your feelings, you deny yourself your innate power to validate your experience, something you are wired to strive for in your relations with others, but also yourself.
- When you consciously connect empathically with yourself, and validate your own experience, you free yourself from anxiously seeking it from others.
Since others, for whatever reason, either cannot or may not always be there to fulfill this emotional striving for empathic validation, your willingness to step in to exercise this as a primary responsibility in your relationship with you is critical to your emotional health and fulfillment. Simply put, it means weaning yourself from the neediness position of believing that you have to have this person or that give you this or that before you can feel valued and worthwhile inside.
You will likely always love to receive gifts of empathic validation from those you love and care most about. This in itself is not something you can change, of should, even if you could. Its simply a delight to welcome and receive, when it happens, with open arms. Its getting anxious about whether or not you receive this that causes problems. Why? It is an act that, literally, leaves you feeling powerless. You have just told your subconscious mind that, unless you have so and so, you cannot feel fulfilled. Since your subconscious considers such beliefs as orders, it says, Your wish is my command. Is that what you want, however? Would your rather be right about having to wait on someone else before you can feel alive inside or would you rather experience the power of creating emotionally fulfilling states inside of you, at will?
- By taking action to feel and fully accept your painful emotions you accept rather than deny the validity of your emotions, even painful ones, and develop a relationship with them as valuable signals, personal, caring messages from your body to you.
Choosing not to experience pain, anger, or other intense feelings causes pain to get buried inside, held in the memory of cells, deep into our physical body. There, they could linger unresolved and blocked for days, weeks or years, affecting the way we experience the world. When you allow yourself to experience all of your emotions, including the painful ones, you use the power you have in present moments to come to terms with your feelings, by experiencing your feelings, understanding them, and allowing them to inform actions you take, so that, you can move on.
“Permission to Feel” Exercise
It is possible to bring forth the old feelings you have pushed aside and experience them in a safe and enriching way. It may sound silly to set aside time to feel your old wounds, yet this can be a beneficial healing experience.
Why shrink from the pain of fear, when you are designed by nature to grow by transforming fears into assets? Heres a five step approach to convert any fear to powerful energy using a five-step process.
1. First, resolve to never let fear take over your imagination and instead to “make friends” with emotions of fear as messages that enhance your wisdom and understanding of your self and life.
Allow any thoughts that are connected to your emotions to surface. Objectively assess these thoughts, the underlying beliefs are they calming, assuring, directing you to thoughtfully reflect and respond or are the limiting your reflective capacity, i.e., either-or-thinking, and fueling survival fears? Remind yourself that you are not your thoughts (or emotions), that you are instead the creator and choice maker, that your choices are pure power, and that “words” are powerful as they literally activate chemical reactions inside you. Resolve to be in command of your thoughts, and thus your emotions, and disallow negative, limiting thoughts to control your life.
2. Second, pause to understand what the fear tells you about your deepest yearnings.
Find a safe place and pick a time where you can feel secure and comfortable to spend some alone-time with yourself.Engage in a mindful practice of deep breathing as you bring a certain painful situation to mind while you are in a calm state. The deepens your understanding faster than years of thinking that risks triggering reactive thinking, which is not thinking at all.
Take deep long breaths as you bring to mind a circumstance that triggers painful emotions, perhaps one youve been pushing away.Let yourself feel your feelings, and try not to judge your reactions. Cry or sound your emotions if you need to, and dont block the flow of your feelings.Recognize the pain and honor it by moving your awareness into it.Notice where in your body that you feel the emotion and keep breathing and releasing the sensations.
3. Third, shift to a clear and inspiring vision of what you want, yearn for, aspire instead — and why.
Consciously empower a present state of calm in your mind and body, love inside with a clear vision of what you most aspire instead.Get into the vision of the person you yearn to be and the life you long to live, heart and soul, taking actions big and small that energize and express feelings of great compassion, and other powerful emotions of gratitude, confidence, belief, enthusiasm. Smile. Be in awe. You are the greatest wonder of the world.
4. Fourth, get into emotions of gratitude, confidence, belief, enthusiasm, compassion.
Speaking of power, especially the power of your thoughts, words and emotions, consider the using the power of your choices of action to practice gratitude. It is an amazing and wondrous emotion, and the fastest way to “reset” the emotional vibration of your mind and body, to be in a clearer state of mind, yes, to feel action energy (healthy anger) from the place of gratitude. Practice gratitude; think of all you do have that you’re grateful for. If this is challenging, start with your eyes, your ears, your limbs, the parts of your mind and body that are healthy, and so on; let your first thoughts in the morning, and last thoughts before sleeping at night, consist of somethings you are grateful for.
5. Five, think of some action you can take that follows your bliss, expresses what you most love.
Contemplate what action or actions the pain or fear may be asking you to take, perhaps something you’ve been avoiding.Reflect on what this pain tells you about your deepest yearnings and values, what’s important to you.Connect with the fear underlying the pain.Consider whether it is something you can deal with on your own, with self-study methods and programs, or whether you would need and benefit from working together with a professional psychotherapist or coach or consultant.
When you deal with your feelings directly, they can move through you rather than staying stopped up in your body as emotional blocks that can sometimes turn into disease. Acknowledging your emotions, instead of pushing them away, allows you to stay emotionally healthy and in touch with your self, and the amazing powers you have inside for reflective thinking and making optimal choices.
Resolve to never ever let fear control your imagination;and instead to feel your painful feelings, remain present, understand what purpose or message the pain is sending you, so that you can release them fully, and set yourself free.Take steps to grow and deepen your compassion for your self and others, and consciously choose to allow compassion-based actions lead the way. You are so much more powerful when you opt to stand in kindness, than cheap-thrill fleeting rewards of being right or proving others wrong.