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There is a really dangerous narrative circulating out there, and it’s hurting us all.
That happiness and healing means the erasure of difficult internal experiences.
This narrative masquerades as empowerment (i.e. “Feel good everyday!” or “good vibes only“), when really, this narrative serves to keep us at war with ourselves.
As a transformational coach who has worked with hundreds of individuals one-on-one, I’ve discovered that the one thing that trips people up the most on their healing journey is their ideas about which internal experiences are allowed, and which are not.
Something I often hear from clients is, “I’ve done so much work on myself, why do I still feel shame/anxiety? Why do I still have judgments?”
There is an illusion perpetuated in the spiritual/empowerment community that once someone is “healed enough,” they will no longer have challenging thoughts and emotions.
I’d love for you to do some honest introspection to see how much this narrative has gotten under your skin:
On a scale of 1-10, how welcoming, loving, and accepting are you of yourself when you’re feeling angry, anxious, judgmental, ashamed, sad, bored, afraid, or insecure?
On a scale of 1-10, how willing would you say you are to feel these emotions fully and completely, and without judgement?
When you notice one of these emotions coming up, do you ever turn to a coping mechanism like spiritual bypassing (i.e. reading your horoscope or forcing gratitude, rather than really sitting with the emotion), online shopping to diffuse the boredom, drinking or smoking to numb the anxiety, overworking or overexercising to compensate for the insecurities, or overeating to alleviate the shame?
If so, you’re not alone.
If you’re like most of the people to whom I’ve asked these questions, you probably fall between a four to six on the willingness scale, and have at least one coping mechanism you turn to.
And this quick-fix coping mechanism probably creates more dis-ease (and maybe even disease) in the long run.
That’s because we’ve been made to believe, from a young age, that the way to deal with difficult internal experiences is to resist them—which actually just creates more pain for us in the long-term.
And even though many of us know the phrase “whatever you resist persists,” there is a big difference between what we know and how we live.
Trust me, I understand how hard it can be to accept these difficult emotions…
I spent most of my life trying to avoid the pain of the shame, anger, obsessive thoughts, insecurity, confusion, anxiety, and deep fear of loss and death that I carried and buried since childhood.
I tried overachieving. I tried overexercising. I tried starving myself. I tried judging and condemning my emotions. I tried drowning myself in academia. I tried stuffing parts of myself deep down into the shadowlands of my being, praying they would never surface again. I tried lying to myself and others. I tried compartmentalizing. I tried dissociating.
Not only did none of my avoidance strategies work, they actually ended up creating so much more pain for me. After all of my futile questing to silence my unwanted thoughts and emotions, I still carried the pain of these emotions, and, because I was so busy numbing and avoiding these feelings, I also acquired the pain and regret of missing out on the life that I truly wanted to live.
I spent so much energy resisting the emotions (energies in motion) that needed to be felt by me, that I stopped myself from being the person I was committed to being.
Though I have always wanted to be a loving, accepting, generous, and courageous person, I was being hostile, judgmental, and even abusive toward myself. I didn’t know a better way. I felt so stuck.
It wasn’t until I discovered Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and learned the work of willingness, that my pain no longer controlled my life. When I learned the art of being with all parts of myself and holding space for intensity, my true healing began and a whole new me was born.
In this video, I talk about what willingness really is, how to do it, and how it can change (and maybe even save) your life: