Let your difficult emotions be your guide to finding your inner wisdom
It’s often only deep down inside that we know what is the right choice for us. But sometimes we don’t know what we want, or we can’t hear our own inner wisdom or get anywhere close to it, because we have a flood or jumble of feelings about what we’re concerned about, and can’t quite get to the clarity underneath all the mental noise.
Often our uncomfortable feelings get in our way instead and send us in many different directions – mostly AWAY from the feelings.
The following four steps suggest how to move closer to our feelings – not forever away from them, and how surprisingly, this will help us to uncover our inner voice of wisdom.
1) First, is to have the feeling. You might know you have feelings going on that are sad, vulnerable, scared; anxious, or you might just know that you’re feeling bad.
But our usual typical human nature is to not feel what’s hard. We almost automatically engage in some effort to avoid, escape, reject, change, redirect, distract, etc. away from our painful feelings (sadness, loneliness, being hurt, wounded, rejected, uncomfortable, rebuffed, jealous, unimportant, like we don’t matter, etc.).
Our automatic reaction to our difficult emotions is to not welcome them; NOT feel like this; we don’t like it and we don’t want it – we don’t want to feel this way. We want to get away or stop these terrible feelings; we want to push away from or off of these feelings.
So the first – and most difficult step – is to allow the feeling to be present just as it is.
No need to change it or do anything about it. Notice, name, let be and have those emotions. Let them sit next to you, rather than keep them out at the door (with the door only open a crack as you try to tell them to go away). They are not thieves coming in to case your house, but these feelings do need to be let in and allowed to be present, to stay a bit; or later they will rob you of what’s most personal and important.
Get to know them – let them air a bit. See where and how you feel them in your body. See where you notice the twinge, or the tension, or the hurt, or the bracing that’s taking place that lets you know you are feeling this way. Just notice where that is and hold that for a moment.
See if you can just feel the feelings – even the most painful, hard, unbearable ones. Be conscious of not trying to make them go away or not trying to get rid of them – just for a few moments. Let them tell you their story – how they got to be this way. Be curious and welcoming about them, rather than distant, or rejecting of them.
I often think of visiting my grandparents who were always happy to see me, even if I was unannounced or interrupting something. They always welcomed me in. This is the attitude I try to have toward my feelings.
Learn to say to yourself, “Oh, this is what (enter painful emotion here) feels like for me right now.“
2) Next step, and also difficult to do, is to apply/offer kindness to these intense and painful feelings. Offer compassion to yourself for having these feelings.
There’s nothing wrong or inadequate about you for having these feelings. There’s nothing to do about them. Just pay attention and coat them with kindness.
Have your back as you notice the feelings flowing through you, tugging on your heart, furrowing your brow, or bringing a tear to your eyes. Just be present with this.
It’s hard enough to feel in your body your own heartache, or the disappointment you feel; or the woundedness from someone else’s mean behavior. If you have gotten connected to some painful feelings and truly allowed them to be, you are likely hurting or suffering or maybe feeling the unbearableness of it all, which is not easy. Be patient with yourself for all the ways you feel and experience your emotions.
Our natural human reaction, again, is to discredit ourselves in some way, when we’re feeling most alone, most down, most vulnerable. You might be impatient with yourself, or critical that you can’t stop crying, or judgemental that you’re overwhelmed and sensitive about such a small thing. You might feel shame about your big emotions.
Instead, this is the right time to offer peace, kindness, gentleness to yourself (and to those feelings of yours). Have an attitude of acceptance, forgiveness for being human and for being affected this way. Cultivate appreciation for your honesty of expression, your opened up heart, your tears. Have your back like you would a friend’s.
Be tender, gentle, warm, considerate, inclusive and accepting with yourself. Don’t repeat the unkind actions of others toward yourself (like not listening, being impatient, demanding that you change or take action, criticizing, ignoring).
Envelop yourself with a sense of value, security, permission, trust. Surround yourself with what helps you; not with what hurts you. See if you can connect with compassion to this state; that experience of providing support and comfort and caring to the difficult painful feelings that previously have been unwelcomed.
The attitude you have towards yourself when you are going through rough times and having big feelings is so impactful about how long the pain lasts and whether you can move through it or not. It’s often hard when in the midst of your feelings, to also bring loving caring attention of your own to the playing field and to stay steady with that. But it turns out to be really worthwhile hard work that paves the way for long-lasting benefits… And for the next step…
3) The next step, once you’ve let the feelings be; and offered some kindness and compassion to yourself about what’s hurting, is to consider what you might truly need, given these feelings and experiences. Maybe some trust that you will be OK; or some time to reconnect with yourself. Or some deeper understanding; or some fun; or some recognition of how hard you have been working; or some simplicity in your life; or a good cry; or a chance to have a heart to heart.
Maybe it’s some quiet, so you can tune in better to that inner voice. What’s the underlying need that may have been neglected some, that these feelings have so graciously brought to your attention? What would be most helpful to these feelings?
4) With this new information that has come from this intimate connection you have made with yourself, you can create an intention about how to address it, or make happen what’s important to you. You can carry this with you into the rest of your day’s experiences. Carry it like you would a precious gem that you don’t want to lose, and peek at it often.
This represents how you have used your difficult feelings to guide you to your own inner wisdom.
If you or someone you love is having difficulty bearing your difficult feelings and can’t seem to find your inner voice of wisdom, please contact me for a therapy appointment.
For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.