Feelings don’t kill!
Nobody ever dies from experiencing uncomfortable emotions. But most people behave as if they would.
We in the West are very ill equipped to manage any difficult emotions.
Our current instinct is to reach out for something that will numb us and extinguish our pain immediately.
In our drive to avoid any emotional discomfort we develop all kinds of numbing strategies. Strategies that are self-destructive and ultimately can destroy our passions, our relationships, our opportunities and ourselves.
The emotional pain we feel is not a curse, or a punishment. It’s not something to feel bad or ashamed of. Rather it’s one of the most extraordinary marvels of human beings. Our difficult emotions are a cry from our heart and soul telling us that we are hurting, and begging us to pay attention to our inner life.
We are hurting because we are not living life with integrity. We may be in a relationship that we don’t really want to be in, but are too afraid to be alone and leave. We may not be pursuing our passions because we have told ourselves that we are not capable or deserving. We may be ignoring the abuse we are receiving from another because we are too afraid to speak up and cause conflict.
In myriads of ways we lie to ourselves about what we want or don’t want, about how we truly feel, about the truth we see before us, and in doing so, we abandon ourselves.
But luckily our conscience won’t be silenced. Our conscience is the voice of wisdom, the seat of our soul. It reaches out to us through these difficult emotions
Alina entered into a relationship with Drew never intending for it to last. The day they moved in together she had a panic attack. The first warning sign that she was lying to herself. Eight years later, she was more anxious and depressed than ever. She had always told herself that she would never move in with anyone unless she would marry him, because she felt she could not endure the pain of splitting up.
Alina had a belief that if she spoke her truth, everything would fall apart. And if that happened, it would confirm that she wasn’t good enough and worthy because she couldn’t make things work. Of course this belief made sense given her tumultuous past. She was always conflicted between one high drama parent that was alcoholic and severely bipolar, and the other that was insistent that nobody talk about the truth.
Alina became a prisoner of her own beliefs and fears, which in turn sustained her anxiety and depression. The only way out was to tell the truth and be willing to go through the discomfort.
Rachel speaks to me about her disgust and repulsion towards her own body. She can’t stand having her own husband see her naked. Rather than acknowledging and facing her shame, she struggles with an eating disorder.
Anxiety, depression and addictions are all the result of our inability to manage, face and resolve difficult emotions.
When you reach out to numb your pain and turn away from it rather than towards it, you are effectively sending yourself the message that you don’t matter, you’re not important, you don’t want to listen to yourself. Turning away from your emotions is like ignoring the fact that you are bleeding when and where you shouldn’t be!
You are not responsible FOR your feelings. You don’t choose the feelings that come up in you. But you are responsible TO them. In other words, what will you do with your feelings? How will you relate to them?
Our feelings are a doorway into our thoughts, and beliefs. They help us access a deeper understanding of ourselves.
You can’t escape your inner life. You can’t keep running away from yourself, by always keeping busy, by telling yourself lies, by being plugged in to something or someone, getting frustrated, or creating drama and chaos.
You must learn to stay present with difficult emotions and develop strategies to soothe yourself. There is no escaping truth.
To feel your deepest and most vulnerable emotions, you first need to create safety. This can be in a relationship with your partner, a trusted friend or with a therapist. This will help build the safety you need to be with yourself.
Alina ultimately had to speak the truth to her partner, to lift the cloud of deceit and deception she had lived under for so long. With the help of others, she learned to hold onto to herself even though she felt profound fear and dread in speaking her truth.
Rachel had to admit her secret shameful beliefs to her supportive husband. In his loving embrace, she was able to face, feel and move through difficult feelings.
You can’t heal what you can’t feel in life. So learning to get comfortable with uncomfortable emotions is a required step in overcoming anxiety and depression and living a happy and productive life.
Counselling is a powerful vehicle to help you embark on this journey.
Feel free to contact us when you need help.
Claire Maisonneuve, MA., RCC.
Director of the Alpine Counselling Clinic