There’s wisdom in ocean waves. They arise from the flat ocean bed, grow into gigantic bodies of water and knock everything down on their path. Yet, once they subside, this body of water returns flat and stable, as if it never got shaken up. It’s an embodiment of life difficulties at its best. They are inevitable as long as we live and breathe. They emerge strong, run their course, then disappear – but may leave a trail of complex emotions behind. When difficult emotions show up, do you weather the storm or take off? I’d love to hear your answer, please let me know in comments.
Truth be told, we all disconnect from painful emotions. Society and caregivers taught us to do so. “Pain is bad. Don’t be negative, shift your attention on something more positive.” we’ve been told as children. Sounds legit right? Who enjoys suffering after all?

The thing is though, disconnecting from difficult emotions doesn’t eliminate them. These emotions are stored in the mind and body. They impact negatively on perceptions of ourselves, our relationships, beliefs, and behaviors. We see life through these beliefs. When events bring up these emotions and beliefs we get triggered and may respond with extremely intense emotions. This can bear negative repercussions on critical life areas.

For instance, the child who was constantly shamed by his caregivers may develop an aversion for criticism. This causes him to go violent when criticized later on in life. To others, he has anger issues. However, deep inside him, criticism brings back the shaming, feeling of unworthiness and consequent negative self-talk instilled in him by caregivers. He chose to disconnect from the painful emotions that emerged when he was shamed as a child to protect himself. Every time someone else criticizes him, these beliefs of being inadequate and not enough resurface. He doesn’t know how to handle this pain he’s always avoided. He flies off the handle to take it away. Had those emotions been processed, felt and explored, he would not have been overly upset every time he got reminded of his shaming as a child.

Pain and difficult emotions are imbalance signals from the body’s wisdom. Disconnecting from emotions will trigger irrational responses when life forces us to face them later on. We only fear what we know not. Welcoming difficult emotions with curiosity is the first step towards managing them well. It also involves:

1- Getting real with problems by acknowledging that something we dislike is triggering difficult emotions in us
2- Observing the emotions, reactions and thoughts that emerge consequently. It is simply about noticing, giving space and letting them be
3- Embracing and accepting emotions that emerge, as painful as they can be. They are part of us. They are messages from the body pointing out to parts of us that need to heal. Let’s welcome and explore them with curiosity without qualifying them as good or bad. Let’s get acquainted with the way they feel and the sensations they trigger in the body. It is ok to feel vulnerable with this practice. It is a way to let go of control and insecurities so as to heal. Just surrender.
4- When difficult situations/emotions hit, there is an innocent and fragile part of us that gets hurt. It needs to be comforted, to feel safe and be nurtured. It’s the part of us we neglect when we disconnect from emotions. This is why we carry loads of past hurt and trauma in a lifetime. She is the fragile voice that feels scared, hurt and inadequate when we are afflicted. No amount of external support can console and make her feel safe unless we do so first. Let’s uplift her with positive affirmations. She believes the criticism we express about ourselves. When we hear her hurt voice, let’s wrap her up in a hug, connect to her and sense how she feels. Let’s comfort her with positive affirmations and sweet loving words we do mean and believe in.

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5- Let’s also weave self-compassion in the process knowing we’ve done the best we could have done given the circumstances.

Once more, what you know well can’t hurt you. Familiarity brings about ease. I hope this practice I shared will encourage you to explore and stay with difficult emotions next time a challenge knocks on your door.
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