How to feel at peace with our emotions
This column is intended for those who tend to shy away from emotions. Let’s dive deep into the raw, dark, vulnerable, most human part of ourselves.
Why would we want to go down there? Well, this may sound paradoxical, but in order to achieve sustained inner peace amidst the unrest of the world and our fluctuating personal lives, we must acknowledge and embrace its counterpart.
Too often, our first reaction to an emotion is to turn our attention away from it. When intensity arises inside our bodies, we say, “shhh, be quiet” to the sensation, “I don’t want to feel this right now.” The rational mind comes in to tell the emotion that it doesn’t have a reason to feel the way it does. We judge our anger or jealousy as lowly, think that we should have let go of grief a while ago, or tell ourselves that our anxieties are preposterous. These rejected emotions then manifest as body tensions, addictions or outbursts in an attempt to catch our attention in less subtle ways. Subtle or overt, because we don’t like to feel uncomfortable, we look at our phones, eat some food, have a smoke and keep busy.
When we habitually distract ourselves from our emotions, we become out of touch with our inner guidance. Emotions are not problems, they are intuitive indicators with important messages. Emotions tell us about our past wounds that might be triggered; they tell us what we need but are not receiving, or that we feel wronged, misunderstood or need more time to heal. Validated emotions gift us deep insights about our own perception and experience.
So instead of distracting yourself or telling yourself to “just relax” as soon as you start feeling off, recognize such resistance as a cue to compassionately hold space for the hurting part of yourself. Pause to inwardly acknowledge “I’m feeling upset.” Even when we do not have a choice of situation, we can choose to have a positive attitude toward difficult circumstances and emotions. So, when our inner wisdom arises to communicate with us, let’s hold the open, embracing attitude that it is good that this emotion has arisen because it is showing me a boldly honest part of myself. Accept and open to exploring this discomfort.
With the awareness that an emotion is here, allow it to be felt through your whole body. From a place of self-acceptance, listen to the thoughts running through your mind. What are your emotions alerting you to that needs action, self-validation or self-soothing?
Instead of saying, “emotions, you’re painful, go away,” we can hear them out like we would ask a crying child what’s wrong. With open curiosity, hold council with your hurting: “Sadness, how can I let go and lift my spirits? Anxiety, what action can I take in order to feel comfortable? Anger, how are you showing me that my boundaries have been pushed or that I have given my power away?”
Notice what ideas come to mind in response to these questions that help you to feel better. This visceral information is your inner guidance showing you what the emotion is trying to move you toward or away from.
When we acknowledge our emotions, we let go of the inner struggle of telling ourselves we don’t feel as we do, or that there is something wrong with feeling as we do. Instead, we validate the visceral truth of what we are feeling in the present. As we continue to open to and trust our inner guidance, we create deeper intimacy within ourselves, and from there may join others to celebrate in their healing and growth.
Julie Sarah is author of the self-help booklet series “Lucid Reflections.” As an apprenticing counselor, she offers an email counseling service at email@example.com.