Does your nervous-system sometimes get so flooded that it’s hard to stay present to yourself and others?
Do you notice yourself habitually converting your feelings into thoughts, trying to classify and analyze them instead of just feeling them?
Would you like to widen your window of tolerance for the feelings that you don’t like?
A core practice along our journey from self-sabotage to self-mastery involves developing a new relationship with our feelings, our reactivity and our wounds; it takes courage to feel into ourselves and our lives in a new way.
There are many reasons why we might struggle with our feelings, including experiences of childhood trauma or neglect.
Bessel van der Kolk explains this succinctly in his book, The Body Keeps the Score, “Traumatized people go immediately from stimulus to response without being able to first figure out what makes them upset. They tend to experience intense fear, anxiety, anger and panic in response to even minor stimuli. This may lead them to either overreact and intimidate others, or to shut down and freeze.”
The good news is that even if we didn’t get enough nurturing, healthy touch and co-regulation from safe, emotionally available adults when we were little, we can still reflect, heal, learn and grow our emotional intelligence today.
Emotional competence often involves learning how to:
Feel our feelings
Name our feelings
Tolerate our feelings
Soothe our feelings, and
Regulate our feelings as adults.
And, learning how to do these things is best done in the context of a safe, empathic, healing relationship with emotionally available people.
If you struggle with your feelings, please remember that your triggers simply show you where your wounds are still waiting.
Don’t judge them.
Don’t shy away from them.
Instead, turn towards and lean into your wounds, listening to them, attending to them and getting to know them. They will guide you down your own unique healing path – a path that will take you on the journey from self-sabotage, self-negation and inner conflict, to self-mastery, self-connection and authentic, aligned living.
Many of us are feeling the inner promptings of a new way of being that wants to emerge through us. Our old, shut-down, reactive and fearful selves cannot help us inhabit the lives we are trying to lead.
If you want to keep growing and evolving, if you want more aliveness, freedom and well-being, you will need to release your old, defensive, scared self. You will need to surrender to the feelings of aliveness that arise inside you, and learn how to ride them and tame them.
Sometimes this will mean grieving the loss of your old self – the coping self who brought you this far. It may mean realizing that your old ways of being don’t give you the skills and capacities needed to carry you forward.
Sometimes this means developing a clear vision of what you are reaching for next, so that you can activate the heart courage needed to keep going when things get difficult and dark.
Cultivating a compassionate heart, an open mind, a curious disposition, a readiness to meet life – no matter what it throws your way – is a far wiser way to live life than constantly trying to repress and suppress feelings, to divide the world into good and bad people, or to continue the cycles of addiction and anger that are keeping us collectively so stuck.
Instead of shutting down or acting out …
Allow your heart to open to whatever life wants to bring you next.
Surround yourself with strong healing communities, and empathic, kind, awake friendships. Join my membership community if you’re looking for more support.
Develop daily habits that nurture your well-being. Sleep well. Move often. Eat nourishing foods.
Set and enforce good boundaries; protect yourself well. Take my boundaries course now if you could use a reboot on your boundary-setting skills!
Unmerge the past from the present in your body and inhabit the present moment more often.
Embrace your insecurities, flaws, mistakes – allow yourself to be imperfect.
Strive for balance in all things, embracing the flow between poles. Take my Both/And Bootcamp if you’d like a practical tool for how to do this!
What are tips and tricks you’ve used to lean into your feelings, as opposed to shutting down or acting out? I’d love to know! Leave a comment below.