Dealing with Emotions - by Guest Blogger Jason Brody M.S.
Pesky things, these emotions. They just keep showing up despite our best efforts to control them, make them go away, or bend them to our will. If only they would obey us and behave as we think they should, then of course we would be happy. But there they are again...
Let's back up a bit. What are emotions really...these seeming hindrances to our otherwise rational lives? Quite simply, emotions are a form of intelligence. They exist for one reason - to be experienced and integrated, and in so doing, to make us more conscious and aware of who we are and how we operate.
Our culture esteems the analytical (masculine) over the emotional (feminine) and tends to value the mind over the heart. Emotions are seen as frivolous, vulnerability as weak. School budgets are cut to eliminate art and music while math and science are inviolate.
Our parents, likewise, will often emulate this prevailing disparagement of the feeling nature, with orientation such as ""if you're angry, your face will stay that way"" or ""you're too sensitive"". We risk punishment or disapproval if we present ourselves as other than happy all the time. And so the battle against authenticity begins.
So in a myriad of ways we learn to be uncomfortable with emotional experience. We learn to see it as something to be managed, controlled, judged. Hiding our fears, hurts and shame seems like a healthy response. In the words of Wendy Strgar,
""Feelings are for many people a locked box; an experience that overwhelms and is difficult to express. We are taught in a variety of circumstances and for a variety of reasons to suppress our feelings. We learn to silence our feelings so well that the messages in our bodies are not even discernible. Suppressed feelings are not as invisible as you might think. They take on a life in our dreams and eventually become disease in our bodies. Our inability to express our feelings cuts us off not only from our own experience but limits the connection we feel with the people we love the most"".
This becomes problematic in a number of ways. First we cut off a valuable sense of wisdom. If we have become acclimated to shutting down our awareness of fear, we will not be able to respond appropriately when real danger is present. There are situations in which the most intelligent survival strategy is to flee - if we think we need to ignore fear when it is present, we lose the valuable resource that it can provide us.
And then there is the fact that ignoring, repressing, judging or avoiding feelings inside us doesn't make them go away, it just drives them into the unconscious where they continue to shape our perceptions and experience, only now beyond the realm of our conscious awareness. We become less able to effectively interact with them. In so doing, they will have to seek expression by creating circumstances that cannot be ignored - illness, injury, relationship stress, depression.
And finally, it takes a lot of energy to oppose the natural flow of emotion inside ourselves. It's like trying to hold back the tides. As a result, when they do break through anyway, they often express themselves in a way that is distorted, self sabotaging, and ineffective. We find ourselves recreating unsatisfying conditions again and again, wondering ""what is wrong with me?"" Try as we might, we cannot dissociate from feelings selectively - losing our connectedness with any of them inhibits our abilities to access all of them.
This is unfinished business. Some things got activated in you a long time ago and were not allowed to complete themselves, and so they remain operative, unhealed, seeking expression so they can be integrated and bring you closer to wholeness. They don't always feel good, but thats' the case whether you are present to the pain or not. It's like having a serious wound - we can put a bandaid on it and declare it healed, until it becomes so acute that we have to deal with it. Or we can go to a health professional and have it properly cleaned and treated. This might involve some temporary discomfort, but it will allow the wound to heal itself.
And so it is with our emotions. Completing the unfinished business of the past by experiencing now what could not be integrated then frees us from the power they have over us. Consigning them to locked dungeons and pretending we have dealt with them leads to all sorts of mischief. In this endeavor it is often wise to avail ourselves of the help available from those who understand how to navigate the deep waters of the inner world.
Begin to relate to your emotional experience with an attitude of meeting emotions and experiencing them fully, rather than judging yourself for having them. You might at them as weather patterns. Sometimes stormy, sometimes sunny and warm, they bring a dimension to the human experience that would otherwise leave us robotic. Our ability to experience and share our feelings is one of the most amazing aspects of humanity.""
Jason Brody, M.S