May 14, 2022

How to be Present with Difficult Emotions—Instead of Trying to Avoid Them.


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I had an emotionally tough morning.

It felt like an old core wound ripped open and suddenly I was left feeling it in all of its intensity—with a potency I don’t usually experience, though I know that it’s always there, lingering there, somewhere there inside me.

It’s been there for as long as I can remember. I’m not sure if I was always conscious about it, but through the years as I’ve gained awareness, and self-understanding, I’ve seen the different ways it has played out.

The different parts of my life it has touched—all of them.

I can see the effects of it, the ramifications, how it influences me—how wanting to not feel it moves me, guides me, initiates many of my tendencies and patterns.

And I can see that because it has touched everything, it’s not about each individual thing—the parts of my life it has touched, how it shows its face, each way it’s affected me, but it’s about that wound, that belief itself.

That’s the thing that needs to be seen, heard, learned from. Tended to. Acknowledged. And held.

It’s what needs the light of awareness.

When we’re experiencing difficult emotions, or painful experiences, it’s important that we be gentle with ourselves. Soft. Kind. That we seek to bring understanding to ourselves and to our experiences. That we allow ourselves to experience whatever we’re experiencing.

We need to honor ourselves and how we’re feeling.

It’s important that we find a way to gently hold space for ourselves—nurture ourselves, take care of ourselves in the way that we need.

There may be things we have to do, and we’ll have to find a way to do them, but can we hold softness for ourselves through the process?

Can we rest? Be kind? Be soft? Be loving?

Can we turn toward self-love, gentleness, and patience?

What do we need? What would help to soothe us? To center us?

Can we choose to be present with what we’re experiencing instead of doing something to avoid it?

Can we allow ourselves to just sit and feel the fullness of what we’re feeling so that we can learn from what we’re experiencing?

Too many of us give in to knee-jerk reactions to avoid our emotions—to do something, anything, to just not have to sit there feeling whatever it is that is begging to move through us.

But these knee-jerk actions don’t help us.

The only thing that has ever helped me move through a tougher experience was by literally sitting there and feeling it, or lying in bed and allowing the fullness of it to fill me and flow through me. To allow those thoughts to flow freely. To allow the physical sensations to pull and tug at me. And to be there present with them, with what’s happening.

We won’t learn or grow or become more whole people if we’re always avoiding difficult emotions, or if we try to pretend like they don’t exist.

It’s like our culture is so uncomfortable with discomfort that there is an undercurrent of nonacceptance when it comes to them. It seems as if people think there’s “something wrong” with us if vocalize that we feel sad or that we’re struggling in a moment. But we all struggle and we all feel sad sometimes.

And that attitude—of wanting to deny the discomfort—only reinforces a tendency to suppress our emotions; it fosters an atmosphere of shame. Both of these are harmful and will cause us more pain in the long run.

It’s much better that we allow ourselves to fully feel and process our emotions—to allow them to move through us freely.

We can’t actively begin to move in a new direction or unwind ourselves from things we don’t know we’re carrying, if we don’t allow ourselves to feel what we’re feeling in the first place—if we’re not aware of what we’re carrying in the first place.

We have to hold space for ourselves and all of our emotions.

We have to allow ourselves as much time as we need to move through what we’re experiencing. We can’t force a timeline or will ourselves to snap out of it.

We have to just be willing to be there with ourselves, for ourselves.

Today I wanted to work early, but I couldn’t. As I sat at my computer, I felt so stressed at the thought of just beginning. I had so much to do, but I just couldn’t force myself to do it.

So, I closed my computer and went back to my room.

I rested, I lay in bed, I felt my emotions, I watched thoughts and feelings move through me. I meditated. I allowed whatever was happening inside me to just happen.

And then when it felt like time, I got up, made some tea, and I felt better.

That wound hasn’t healed or dissolved, but I feel better.

And because I am willing to sit there and be with it, feel it, I know I’ll learn the lesson.

I’m already learning the lesson.


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