Many of us are taught from an early age to suppress, hide or run away from our feelings. We often engage in a myriad of distractions to avoid looking within. Yet by doing this those feelings continue to live inside of us and they may resurface in the form of dysfunctional behavioural patterns or coping strategies and beliefs that keep us stuck or limit us in some way.
Instead of turning away from our feelings and avoiding looking within, it’s a very powerful practice to choose to dive deeply into the feeling of whatever it is that we are resisting. Yet this time, we’re not plunging back into the story of whatever has happened or stepping into the role of being a victim of the person or circumstance that felt difficult and becoming totally identified with it – rather, we’re revisiting that part of us that is feeling pained and wronged, but this time from the stance of a wise, loving ‘witness’.
It can be a deeply healing, freeing and very empowering act, if we’re willing to sit with that part of ourselves that is hurting still and honour and acknowledge and validate all that they have experienced, all that they have lived through – and any pain, trauma, loss or hurt that still remains from whatever happened to us.
This is how it works – if we try to ‘get rid of’ something – usually that’s a painful feeling or emotion that we want to avoid – it then just stays buried and suppressed within us. It lies there dormant, either waiting for something or someone else in our life to come along that will retrigger that old painful pattern and emotion – ‘what we resist persists’.
We may then continue to attract difficult or challenging situations, relationships and people into our lives who retrigger that painful ‘wound’ within us in a similar way over and over and over again. It’s like taking a ride on the ‘not so merry-go-round’ of life without being able to get off!
That is, until we stop trying to ‘get rid of’ it and instead, sit with our pain and bring the attitude of a wise witness (like a loving adult or parent) to that younger feeling self that lives within us (some people call that our inner child or wounded self but it’s that part of us that got trapped in a moment of pain or trauma that occured at an earlier time in our life, usually when we were younger).
Even if it’s a recent hurt or misunderstanding – maybe with a boss, neighbour, friend or our partner – our painful feelings around what has happened will often reflect similar instances from childhood or adolescence which made deep impressions on us and caused us to take on inaccurate meanings about ourselves (interpreted through the mind of a child) and it’s these original feelings that this more recent situation is retriggering in some way.
Most people have experienced some form of difficulty or trauma in their life at one time or another. This doesn’t mean that you have to have experienced extreme abuse, a heinous crime or come from a very dysfunctional family. Even if your upbringing was predominantly supportive and loving, there will still have been incidences in your childhood or adolescence that were very influential in shaping and forming your beliefs about yourself, life and others in some way.
You may have been shamed or scolded or blamed for things that weren’t your fault, or given responsibilities or exposed to situations that made you have to grow up too fast and caused you to lose your childhood innocence and playfulness and develop a serious, rather than a carefree attitude. Maybe you were subjected to and influenced by the emotions, judgements and behaviours of parents, caregivers, siblings, teachers, or others that caused you to form your beliefs and perceptions about yourself, others and the world.
These then set in motion a number of unwritten ‘rules’ or limits on what’s available or what you believe you deserve. So it’s these original memories that occurred during our formative years that then get buried in our subconscious and form our beliefs, attitudes and perceptions about ourselves and how life works and govern how we live our lives and what we will experience.
Acknowledging and Validating Our Feelings
If we’re willing to turn towards our feelings, rather than losing ourselves in distractions in our outer world then we will finally honour and acknowledge those parts of us that are still hurting. We no longer have to buy into the story or drama – but it’s important to acknowledge that yes, these things did happen to us and yes, part of us may have closed down or made that mean something about ourselves or about life that’s actually untrue.
We can acknowledge that it’s totally understandable and in fact, a healthy and ‘normal’ response to feel these feelings – whether that’s sad, hurt, lonely, betrayed, rejected, abandoned, abused, neglected, slighted, angry (you can fill in the blanks of whatever resonates most for you)….it’s also important to realise that often it didn’t feel ‘safe’ to feel these feelings at the time of the original incident, so that’s why we suppressed them and maybe part of us contracted and shut down as a result.
So by taking this action to fully honour and acknowledge our ‘humanness’ – and to actually validate the pain or suffering that we experienced in that situation or moment of trauma – then this is what releases these trapped emotions and finally frees us..
True ‘freedom’ and acceptance is inevitable when you fully honour and acknowledge these feelings and allow yourself to feel into the resistance of what you’re not wanting to fully accept or still trying to suppress.
When we see and acknowledge that part of us that’s still been hurting and hasn’t been able to ‘let go’ of the pain, then that part finally feels ‘validated’ and it can soften and relax and not stay clenched up tightly holding on to the ‘story’ or the trauma or the upset. The emotional charge is finally released when we acknowledge and witness its suffering.
Instead of ‘getting rid of it’ – we’ve taken the opposite stance and honoured that part of us that was still hurting. The paradox then is that this actually allows that part to finally let go of and dissolve the hurtful emotion that’s been trapped within us.
We have to learn to be ‘comfortable with our discomfort’.
One very important thing to note is that we need to have compassion for ourselves and to realise that this part or these parts of us that were hurting have adopted dysfunctional coping strategies or limiting behaviours in an attempt to try to protect us and keep us ‘safe’. Now that we’ve brought awareness to what was unconscious, we can thank that part for trying to keep us safe and let it know it no longer has to perform that role for us and we’re releasing it from its duty!
This practice can free us and allow us to finally let go of and get beyond the story of whatever has happened to us that may have been keeping us chained to the past on some level. We can finally find peace and acceptance with our circumstances – whether that’s to do with our health, relationships, work, childhood or any other situation that is or has been playing out (consciously or unconsciously) in our lives at any time.
In summary, when we try to ‘get beyond’ something without giving it proper validation and acknowledgement, then our body and mind may to want to resist and cling on to the story or the pain as it feels our ‘human’ experience of suffering hasn’t been fully honoured.
We’re actually denying our own humanity.
By choosing to validate and acknowledge how the situation and circumstance has left us feeling, rather than suppressing this, the emotional (and often physical) ‘charge’ around it dissolves.
Emotion literally means ‘energy in motion‘ so if we’ve released the energy that was trapped in that memory, it then frees us up to move forwards (in motion) once again in our life and be in more of a state of creation in the present and future, rather than resistance to what ‘is’ or ‘what has’ already happened and is now in the past. Each and every moment then has the potential for something new to occur, if we’ve let go of any resistance and moved into a place of acceptance instead..
What Will This Do?
This practice will allow you to release any self-sabotaging or self-limiting patterns in your life. The reason these patterns exist is purely because of the trapped emotional content that lies beneath them. Each pattern was put on top in order to try and suppress the emotional content – the first instance of which usually occurred in our life at a time when we were younger and either ill-equipped to deal with this or it was too painful to face.
Once we choose to feel into and release these painful feelings and emotions, the content that sits underneath the pattern is returned to ‘space’ (it’s neutralised and there’s no longer any emotional charge when you think of it). You’ll then have created space once again in your life to make different choices, rather than continuing with unhelpful patterns or coping mechanisms.
The evidence of how this works…
Throughout my own life, I’ve experienced significant loss in various ways (if you’re interested, see my blog post Developing Resilience and Becoming My True Self). The benefits that I’ve gained through these experiences are that it’s made me stronger and more resilient, helped me to look within and to cultivate a different perspective and a deeper appreciation for life.
Yet I sometimes still felt very stuck and continued to attract repeating patterns of people, situations and challenges that all had a similar theme running through them. I often felt like I was one of life’s ‘victims’ – I would attract good things and good opportunities, but then in equal measure, I would attract loss and challenge. It seemed I was always having to ‘deal with something’ or ‘get over something’ or facing one challenge after another.
Through practising the process outlined above, I’ve finally made peace with and moved beyond many of these patterns – although I’m only human, so sometimes I do still get caught up in my mind’s thinking whenever I’m facing something that feels very challenging or difficult.
But these days, as I’ve trained myself to adopt the perspective of loving witness to whatever is going on, then this helps to bring me back to a more empowered and resourceful state so I can move more quickly through and beyond it.
This powerful shift in my life has occurred since I’ve really made it a conscious practice to ‘be with’ my feelings and whenever I’m feeling stirred up by anything, I’ve learned to step into this witness position and bring my wise, loving adult self to that younger feeling self that still lives within me.
I now know how to witness her and to give her the unconditional love, compassion and acknowledgement that I didn’t necessarily receive as a child – like I’m ‘reparenting’ this inner feeling self. I do find it very helpful being a parent myself as I can see how this works in real-life – I have a very close and loving bond with my boys and have always been mindful and conscious to encourage them to feel and honour their emotions and by doing this, they can quickly disperse any charged energy and rather than getting caught up in situations, they can quickly move through them. By adopting the stance of witnessing them and ‘kissing it better’ and offering them perspective on what’s going on, they are more likely to calm down, carry on and use whatever’s happened as a learning and growth opportunity – so now I just try to remember to apply this same approach to myself!
By using this practice I’ve found that it’s finally helped me to heal any dysfunctional coping strategies and limiting patterns – and this has freed up my energy, turned pain into possibility and transformed any ‘wounds’ into deep wisdom.
It’s amazing how so few of us engage in this practice of offering ourselves compassion, love and a ‘safe container’ in which to live our lives – a constant theme amongst my clients is that many of them experience a self-critical inner voice which provides a running commentary about all of their flaws, faults, insecurities and everything that they are doing ‘wrong’. Many of them say that this voice acts as a regular or constant backdrop in their lives. It can sometimes even take on the familiar tone of a critical parent or other influential figure who made similar judgements about them.
It’s been my experience that by changing my emotional energy, I’ve helped to calm that critical voice and I’ve literally changed my energetic vibration of how I show up in the world and that has a knock-on effect on the situations, opportunities and people that I now attract into my life.
I’ve freed up the energy that was trapped in those old stories of loss and dived deep into the painful feelings that were still lingering and through doing that, finally dissolved them. By letting go, I feel free to move forward and recreate my life on my own terms in a way that feels happy, enlivening and new.
So I encourage you, if you’re feeling stuck on any level to explore this practice of consciously going within and ‘being with’ and honouring your feelings, rather than avoiding them. When we run away from our painful feelings and try to bury them with distractions, it’s like we’re abandoning ourselves – in fact, we ARE abandoning that younger feeling self that still lives within us.
If you’re a parent, it’s unlikely that you would do that to your own children, so try and bring that same attitude of loving kindness, awareness and compassion that you have for your children to yourself too. Children want to be free and happy and not ‘burdened’ – it’s our natural birthright. So that child self within you is likely to breathe a sigh of relief as they don’t then have to hold it all together or hold these painful emotions within any longer and they’ll be happy to finally let them go.
Try it – I guarantee it works!
Note – I know that this was a long post but the results that can be accomplished through this practice are so transformative and life-changing that I felt it was important to really provide in-depth details of this process in the hope that it will encourage you to try this for yourself.
Sometimes it can feel daunting to embark on this journey of inner exploration and exploring your feelings. If possible, either try and reach out and share your experiences with a trusted friend – it may even open up a dialogue that will be helpful and useful for them as well – plus, by being vulnerable, this allows you to build deeper connections with others, as demonstrated in the fascinating research by Brené Brown. Alternatively, if you feel you’d like support to guide you through the process, then see our Coaching and Mentoring Services and Life Transformation, Resilience and Wellbeing Coaching which outlines the ways that I can help you.
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