What’s “Good” About Feeling “Bad?”

One of the most powerful keys to healing from chronic pain, anxiety, or loss is allowing, honoring and accepting our full range of emotions.  We live in a society that relies on intellect at the expense of feelings.

The dark or commonly called “negative” emotions of sadness, fear, grief, and despair are not honored or viewed as socially acceptable; and yet these essential and powerful emotions carry compelling energies that lead to deep healing and transformation.

Most of us never learned how to experience and allow emotional energy to flow in our bodies. I know I spent most of my life ignoring myself and any hint of “negative” emotion that arose. Ultimately this blocked energy caused severe, chronic painful symptoms.

I finally learned that all we need to do is TO BE WITH our emotions – allowing them to move through the body. Let them all wash through, like the ocean waves at the beach. Feel the emotions as physical sensations, and let them happen. No need to analyze or think them through. Like waves, the emotions subside. They pass through.

Emotions are energy – they are NOT positive or negative.  It is our thoughts and attitudes about emotions that cause us to label them as good or bad. 

When we hide or banish these uncomfortable painful feelings from our conscious awareness, they remain stored within us and often manifest as chronic physical pain, anxiety and/or depression.

“The dark emotions are attention-grabbers, goading us into awareness. They’re like young children: If you attend to them they reward you. If you don’t, prepare for trouble. They have their ways of letting you know they need your attention.”  Healing Through the Dark Emotions, by Miriam Greenspan

My body tried to get my attention for decades. I suffered from a multitude of chronic painful conditions.

 My life was totally out of balance. I said yes when I meant no. I continuously suppressed my emotions.

 I had totally unrealistic expectations for myself and others while ignoring myself and my own needs. I was a slave to self-pressure – constantly pushing myself to do more, be more, work more, try harder.

 The way I was living my life led to severe unconscious muscle tension producing intense emotional and physical pain.

 After exhausting traditional and alternative treatments without relief, I underwent back surgery. One year after surgery my symptoms were worse than ever.

I finally learned that, for me, healing is an inside job. I opened my mind and my heart as I examined my life and claimed my healing power – a power that is available to each of us.

When I learned to honor and allow emotional energy to exist in my body, I was free to heal.

 “We begin to see the dark emotions as messengers, information-bearers and teachers, rather than “negative” energies we must subdue, tame or deny. We tend to think of our “negative” emotions as signs that there’s something wrong with us. But the deepest significance of the feelings is simply our shared human vulnerability. When we know this deeply, we begin to heal in a way that connects rather than separates us from the world.” Miriam Greenspan

 So how do we honor and experience the emotions that our culture has taught us to ignore?  The very thought of allowing these painful feelings often evokes great fear within us. 

 Here are some action steps to facilitate emotional awareness:

 Bring your awareness to your body and your physical sensations. What do you notice in your throat, chest, abdomen, etc? Notice sensations of hot, cold, heavy, light, etc. and allow your breath to support you as you allow all sensations.

 Simply turn your attention toward any emotional sensations you are experiencing right now in your body. Just focus on the experience of the emotion itself allowing the physical sensations to be present without trying to figure them out or change them.

Remain with this emotional energy until it begins to shift or until you choose to stop. As little as a minute or two is fine. Uncomfortable feelings of worry, fear, sadness, and anger will not harm us and will pass.

Offer comfort and care to yourself with a compassionate message: Place your hand on your heart and say “It’s okay right now, I am safe,” or other words of kindness.

These simple practices facilitate healing. They reduce tension and resistance while boosting relaxation and activating our body’s natural self-repair mechanisms. They also help to keep us grounded in the present moment.

I encourage you to acknowledge, allow and accept these sacred feelings which will enable them to flow and transform – after all –

“There is nothing so whole as a broken heart.”    Rabbi Menachem Mendel

And remember, YOU hold the key.

Elaine

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