Emotional pain: why numbing it isn't the answer
"The Buddha called suffering a holy truth, because our suffering has the capacity of showing us the path to liberation. Embrace your suffering and let it reveal to you the way to peace." ~Nhat Hanh
Do you avoid painful emotions in one of the following ways?
- Racing mind/obsessive thinking.
- Any tool used to distract yourself: TV, smartphone, laptop, tablet, radio, games console etc.
- Keeping really busy all day, without stopping until it’s time for bed.
- Any kind of addiction.
Ever wonder about the difference between emotions and feelings?
Emotions are your response to external stimuli and are physical states that can be observed by a physical reaction. Feelings are mental associations and reactions to emotions so can be hidden. For example, nerves in the pit of your stomach before a big presentation would be the emotion and the feeling would be one of dread because of what you tell yourself: “I’m no good at presentations, I always mess things up.” The emotion is the ‘messenger’ and the feeling is like the person who decides what meaning to give to the emotion and what action to take. This, however, is often an unconscious process, so we may be on auto-pilot in the way we react to an emotion and create an associated feeling. The good news is that there’s a better way!
Types of emotions
Robert Plutchik's theory says that there are eight basic emotions: fear, anger, sadness, joy, disgust, surprise, trust and anticipation.
Why suppressing your painful emotions isn't a good idea
Your emotions have something useful to tell you - a 'wise friend' if you like. The learning of which can help you move forward in your life, bring awareness to limiting beliefs and patterns that do not serve you.
By suppressing your emotions, the calls will only get 'louder' and if ignored long enough may even produce chronic physical symptoms.
Exercise: Learning from your emotions
1. Bring awareness to your emotions - where in your body do you feel the emotion? Butterflies in your stomach? Tightness in your chest?
2. Name the emotion! I feel anxious in my stomach or perhaps fear in my chest?
3. Observe without judgment or attachment (create some distance between 'you' and the 'emotion.’ Almost like you're a witness observing something happening to someone else.
4. Wrap the emotion in a positive ‘blanket’ such as love, joy, gratitude or peace
5. Ask yourself: What is the learning I can take from this emotion? If you're doing this for the first time and you don't know what the learning is, that's okay - just allow yourself to observe without attachment or judgment. Ask the question and just listen to your intuition - over time you will learn to 'hear' or come to know the learning/insight available to you.
6. Observe the emotion move around and out of your body
Ignoring your emotions just keeps you stuck! Learn to listen out for and embrace the learning that will help you move forward in your life.
If you're worried or can no longer keep yourself safe, please seek urgent support from a trained healthcare professional.
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