The emotion that can break your heart is sometimes the very one that heals it. ~ Nicholas Sparks
What emotions do you repeatedly struggle with? It is anger, shame, anxiety, fear or something else? Last year was a year like no other, one that exposed our negative emotions. However, if we don’t deal with them, we are likely to re-experience them at a later time. It is easy to escape difficult emotions because who wants to face them time after time? But they can hold important messages, and when they keep re-emerging, it is a sign we need to heal or transform something in our life. The pain and suffering we experience are only a danger when they are at a distance from us. What do I mean by this? Our painful emotions are a danger because from a distance they cause us pain and suffering. But what if we become intimate with these feelings, instead of pushing them away?
That is, we get to know them on a deeper level, so we stop fighting and resisting them. For example, have you ever judged someone from afar, perhaps someone you didn’t like? Then, you got to know them and discovered they weren’t what you imagined? In fact, they were pleasant and likeable. The same thing happens when we befriend our difficult emotions. We invite painful feelings to come closer and in doing so, drop our resistance to them. Suddenly, they are no longer as frightening or overwhelming as we once thought.
When you make peace with your difficult emotions, they no longer have a grip on you and you discover joy and freedom in your life. This freedom was always there, but the difficult emotions obscured it. After all, painful emotions can’t control you when you are intimate with them because the role of an emotion is to move through you, not get stuck in your mind and body. Yet, many people unknowingly hold on to negative emotions for years, even decades. In earlier articles, I mentioned the neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor, who says an emotion takes two-and-a-half minutes to move through our nervous system.
Knowing this, it makes sense we get to know our emotions on a deeper level, instead of ignoring them. So, to stop resisting difficult feelings, inhabit your body when they arise. For example, if you had a heated exchange with a friend or loved one and you experienced fear and anger, move into the area of your body where these emotions are present and sit with them. Be with them until the emotion dissolves and you will discover expansive energy of love, joy and freedom. People often ask me: how long does it take to be free of negative emotions? Will it come back once I’ve done this exercise?
Heal and Transform the Pain of Your Past
Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings — always darker, emptier and simpler. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
As mentioned earlier, it takes two-and-a-half minutes for an emotion to be processed through our nervous system. However, if we’ve ignored our difficult emotions for years, it may take longer to process them. There have been times I’ve experienced anxiety that lasted 30 seconds and other times, I experienced anger that lasted 30 minutes. It will depend on how long the emotion has been alive in our nervous system and whether we are willing to face it. Remember: difficult emotions teach us important lessons that we have ignored. They shine a light on something that requires our attention, otherwise, they will reappear, perhaps as a disease or illness, if we are not mindful.
Are you satisfied that difficult feelings don’t have to dominate your life? That you can make peace with them and learn the lessons they’re trying to impart? It’s worth getting this idea, so you are not destined to repeat the same mistakes. To paint another analogy, what if someone continually showed up to your front door, and you didn’t answer? They might show up again until you open the door to see who it is. This is what happens with our difficult emotions. They keep returning and we turn them away because we don’t want to deal with them. But we must learn to embrace our negative emotions because they can help us learn about our past, so we don’t recreate it in the future.
So, if you’ve had a history of bad relationships with previous partners, pushing away your negative emotions may cause them to re-emerge in your next relationship. After all, you want to be in a healthy and loving relationship with a similar minded person, don’t you? Then, it requires healing and transforming the pain of your past, so you don’t recycle it in your next relationship. Otherwise, we will carry our emotional baggage from the past and unload it on our future partner, claiming it is their fault for triggering our painful wounds. But it is not their fault because the wound was already present and your partner is merely shining the light on the wound so you can heal and transform it. Therefore, to stop resisting your difficulties feelings, be open to the messages they carry and you will come to realise, everything has been working out perfectly for your highest good.