Why is it that feeling okay about our emotions is often so challenging?
Emotions provide the vibrancy and color – the spice or “juice” of life we could say. But our emotions can also be the source of tremendous anguish, self-recrimination and struggle. Because of their power, we often fear being overwhelmed by them.
And so the endless project of suppressing, avoiding or fixing our feelings begins, and we invest untold energy in finding ways to change or manage our emotions so we can tolerate, transform, or make peace with the discomfort they present. Though this intimate melodrama takes many shapes and forms, they tend to fall under two large categories.
In the first one, we reject the feeling or emotion itself by pretending it doesn’t exist, pushing it away, or trying to change it. In the second all-too-familiar category, we simplify the situation by making ourselves wrong and basically rejecting ourselves. The end result, since our emotional energy has nowhere found a proper landing pad, is that we remain stuck in a swirl of unresolved feelings that become more frustrated the more they are rejected, and perhaps more toxic, especially when secrecy and shame are added to the mix.
Carl Rogers, the American Psychologist, gave us an important key to this situation by saying:
The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.
Could our emotions really be nothing more than wanton trouble-makers, stirring up all this internal chaos and trouble for no good reason? Or could it be that we’ve simply never been taught to properly hear and receive their message, along with the raw intelligence contained within? Could our fear of accepting them and thereby accepting ourselves be the real reason for the distress we feel? And if this is the case, how do we go about reversing the attitude of rejecting ourselves and our experience?
It may help to understand that most of us are unconsciously identified with a variety of critical internal judges that reject our feelings before we can even hear what they are trying to do for us. So the first step is becoming aware of these NO voices − the critics or censors who would do anything to destroy or get rid of our uncomfortable or so-called negative feelings in order to keep us safe. Instead of rejecting these voices and the underlying feelings, or rejecting ourselves, we can try letting them be exactly as they are, and then watch as a strange kind of magic happens.
By deliberately choosing to let our feelings, emotions, and critical voices be just as they are, we create a larger space of awareness automatically − a neutral, unbiased space that allows each feeling and voice its own right to be. This interrupts our inner conflict so we can see each one fully, and realize its reason for being here.
Suddenly a white flag unfurls in the battlefield and we breathe deeper because we’ve offered a gentle YES to our rigid and fearful NO. We’ve momentarily become bigger than our conflicted feelings and we no longer have to choose one and destroy the other. Even though this “getting bigger” may seem like a simple or even mechanical movement or choice, it connects us to the inherent ability of our hearts to expand and stretch. It is also the expression of our deepest capacity for growth and true happiness.
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