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On this ride of untangling the knots I’ve accumulated along the way, conditioned and then self-perpetuated, I’m learning to work with my emotional swells with a lot more clarity and calm than ever before.
This has been one of my biggest struggles along the healing path—being present with my emotions vs. coyly slathering them in convincing statements of spiritual bypass, or distracting myself in any one of a million possible ways, usually for fear of being swallowed up by my own feelings.
Really, my emotions aren’t the threat I thought they were. They’re just information about where something in me feels askew. And the better I get at shifting into presence with myself, the more curious I am about the little storms I feel, and the more my own healing is a direct byproduct of this presence.
What this process of getting present with myself is looking like lately is: I’ll feel something particularly intense come up, something that leaves me a little unsteady and ultimately extremely uncomfortable. I then often take a night to sleep on it. When I wake up the next morning, I start the self-investigation through writing from a calm and open place.
A recent one was the insecurity complex. It’s this sense that if I don’t get overwhelming approval, I must be worthless. And if I do get approval, it only sinks in so deep before I’m launched back into that same inner drama again of not believing in my own inherent value.
Sound familiar? I think it’s pretty common, especially for anyone coming from a dysfunctional childhood household. It’s just easier to take on the story that I’m flawed than that my caregivers are flawed, because otherwise what does that imply about my safety? It’s strategic and wise to adopt coping mechanisms to keep our mental and emotional health intact, and kids are masters at this.
Fortunately, as adults, we get to bear witness to which of these strategies have taken root in ways that aren’t serving us anymore by seeing the degree to which our lives feel dysfunctional. It’s not always easy to see the forest for the trees in regards to understanding our own pain and the root source of it.
After a lot of guided and personal investigating, I’ve come to have a better sense about which of the more challenging emotions are a byproduct of some strategic storytelling I’ve done about who I am, and which ones just need to rip through.
Grief is one that needs to crash through my system wildly and freely. I’ve stopped wishing I could live grief-free because it’s simply a part of my human experience. And, really, when I allow it to exist in all of its authenticity—slowing down when it’s visiting, crying whenever it surfaces and needs to be released, and being honest with my loved ones about it, I feel a little purified afterward. I feel more alive and more congruent with myself. It feels peaceful even to surrender to that experience, which only comes from relaxing into it, rather than resisting it.
The insecurity complex I mentioned before, however, is one that needs my assistance in dismantling it. I know this because the wisest part of me is clear on the fact that my inherent value isn’t even measurable, let alone dependent, on anything outside of me. I know it’s just a dysfunctional story in my head. With that information, I get to approach it as such—something that needs adjusting so that my energy can flow freely through my system without getting snagged on this particular untruth.
And so how I approach the journaling part is: I get very clear about what I’m feeling, and I write down any descriptions, current experiences, and past memories I feel linked to it. Essentially, I let myself have my story about it.
That’s where the pain is living, after all—in the experiences of the past that I’m clinging to, and are thus looping in my psyche where they repeat themselves in my life experiences.
I fully feel whatever comes up along with facing these details, that’s often; resentment, sadness, shame, and rage. Then I allow the wisest part of me to step in and speak, still through writing, and I offer myself the solution that truly is within me. This can be; clarity, wisdom, self-love, compassion, or a spiritual perspective, but all of it is coming from a deep, honest well vs. just trying to bandage up the pain with the right perspective. This isn’t optimism, it’s honesty. I’ll keep going until I feel done with the process, which is evident by how emotionally clear, light-hearted, and joyful I tend to feel.
It has taken me years of experimenting to find such a bright and powerful resource in writing. There were many years where it served to help reveal the painful stuff, but not much more. And there were some years where my “wisest-self” perspective was quite limited, and I would still feel heavy and a little stuck after journaling, maybe just slightly less so. Where I find myself now with it will likely also continue to evolve. This excites me.
What feels most amazing about it all though, in this journey of navigating my emotions through writing, is that when I stick to something that feels like it’s genuinely nurturing my well-being, there are bound to be changes, growth, and healing. Healing happens. It’s just a matter of how.