Pretty much everyone I speak to is having to confront their deepest fears these days. We are being hit from all sides. The underlying theme in most of these situations is that of loss and grief. There is loss in relationships, jobs, health, finances, familiar social structures and perhaps, worst of all, basic trust and faith in that which we thought was true.
We are being stripped down to face ourselves and our lives in ways that can make us question everything and everyone. We are seeing erratic, irrational, cruel, manipulative and dishonest behavior on the part of authority figures and those who we thought were meant to protect us and keep us safe. Relationships of all kinds–personal and professional– are falling apart and leaving an unexpected void to be filled.
What are we to make of this and how do we move through it without completely, and perhaps permanently, closing our hearts due to the immense sadness and grief?
This is a time of reckoning. A time for deep self-reflection and decision making. We need to ask ourself how we want to proceed.
It can be so easy to shut down to one’s feelings and simply avoid, deny and go numb. There are countless ways to numb out found in our endless electronic devices, mind altering substances–including food and sugar, or any other addiction of choice. If you are going there in your life, it is understandable, but it is not a sustainable choice.
Our feelings catch up with us sooner or later. Our lives show the effect of our unprocessed and undealt with pain. Our bodies pay the price as do our relationships, finances and careers.
It is an act of courage and bravery to admit we are hurting. It is an act of self-love to reach out and express this pain to another and be honest about what is going on.
When I work with clients, it is not uncommon to see them hold back when they feel flooded with emotion. I can often see the tears well up, but then see how their breathing stops, their bodies freeze and their eyes glaze over. They are so used to keeping their feelings undercover in the attempt to act “normal”, “appropriate”, “strong” and “unaffected” by the pain of life.
There’s so much shame that we all carry around feeling hurt, betrayed, abandoned, rejected, scared, alone, etc. This shame causes us to self-abandon and create a false self. In order to do so, we close our hearts. When we close our hearts to ourself and to others, we live a half-lived life of inauthenticity and unfulfilled potential.
What is the alternative?
Let’s start with a little self-compassion and non-judgment. What you are feeling is Ok. It is actually more than Ok. It is true for you and the feelings just want to be acknowledged and felt. There are no wrong or bad feelings. If someone tries to tell you, you are wrong, bad or weak for feeling what you are feeling you may be speaking to the wrong person at the wrong time. Most likely you are triggering their unprocessed pain and they may defend themself from those feelings by blaming you and making you wrong. This is the drama of a toxic relationship. Unhook from this and be true to yourself.
Find a safe person to speak with if you can. Perhaps ask them upfront to just listen and provide a safe space for you to express yourself without them feeling the need to fix or resolve your pain. That’s not their job. Empathy and compassionate listening from another is often all that is needed for you to find the inner resources to heal and solve your own painful feelings. We all just want to be heard, seen and validated. Most of us don’t want to be “fixed” or told what to do.
If you have no one who feels safe to speak with, try writing in a journal and express the feelings to a higher power or resource that feels supportive to you. It could be a deceased, beloved relative, an angel or historic figure you honor and trust. Let yourself feel held and listened to by this other force and be open to receiving guidance and support back from this source. If that doesn’t resonate for you, simply journal and let the energy behind the feelings be expressed and move out of you.
There are other methods, as well, to allowing one’s feelings to be acknowledged and felt. We can do this by moving our body in nature or to music or any kind of exercise. Let yourself cry and feel whatever wants to be felt. Feelings and emotions that are not blocked and denied will eventually move through you and be released.
The bottom line is to remain committed to keeping your heart open during times when it is so easy to close, shut down and go numb. When we feel the intensity and rawness of our emotions, we remain alive and open to life and all it has to offer–the ups and the downs, the tragedies and the triumphs. Most of all we honor who we are and offer our ability to love ourself and others while also being open to receiving love from those around us.