Monday, July 18, 2011
Getting Started Living Consciously - Managing Emotions
Over the last decade (if not more) I have been obsessed with one thing, escaping suffering. For most of my life I have felt like a stranger in my own life. I have no control! Everything I say or do is driven by one thing and one thing only. My emotions!
In my search to escape suffering I have read most everything I could find in an attempt to escape. I soon realised that I hadn’t a clue who I was being emotionally. Around me people reported that I was angry or sad, but I was oblivious. How had I become so disconnected from myself. With an effort I started to pay attention to these pesky things called emotions, and soon realised why I had spent to so long with amnesia – they were out of control. Bottled up for so long, my emotions were so desperate to move and flow, to be heard and acknowledged that I felt almost completely overwhelmed. Ignoring how I felt because it was uncomfortable feeling was no longer an option. So I let them go, let them be what they needed to be. I let the memories come and go, holding onto nothing, just acknowledging that this is who I am, who I was…. And to my surprise after a while they were spent out. There, but no longer a controlling force. They no longer demanded my attention. I had survived the emotions that my child’s brain had told me would destroy me!
When I look at the journey I am on, I realise what an important first step just acknowledging your emotions is. These days I talk about making choices in spite of my emotional attachment to ideas, people or places, but that is not an option if you are not able to let your emotions just be. My goal is to be Living Conscious Enlightenment which means that my emotions no longer dictate what I say or do (some days are easier than others). To get to that point I had to first dive into those emotions. I no longer fight my emotions but to get to that point where I could choose who I want to be in spite of what I was thinking and feeling, I had to first step into my biggest fear, feeling.
Avoiding emotion is something a lot of us learn as children, indeed, it was the only way I could survive my parent’s divorce. I remember taking pride in never feeling, never crying – I could handle anything. And then, one day I could not. The problem was that hiding from my emotions had become a habit. The mere thought of experiencing one of those troublesome and unwanted things petrified me. How ? What was I supposed to do with them? How was I supposed to control them? For my whole life I had learnt that emotions were bad. They got in the way, they got me into trouble. They were the reason I overreacted at work, they were the thing that made me break out into frustrated and angry tears at the drop of the hat. I was spending so much energy keeping them in I had no energy for anything else. No-one ever told me that emotions are a part of being human. They need not control your every response, your every moment. Emotions are water, they need to flow and slowly, step by step, I let them in.
It started simply enough, with just acknowledging what I was feeling when I was feeling it. Then as I started to become aware of this world inside me, I started to allow them to express themselves. First in the privacy of my own head (where there are no witnesses and no judges telling me I am wrong), then in public. I can’t say my first attempts were very successful. I had never had any experience or practice telling people how I felt, so I had no clue what words to use. But as I gave myself permission to exist and feel, it started to become easier. Is this what all those books on Emotional Intelligence were talking about ?
These days I find that I still have too much energy in my emotions, which means that often the words I use come out with too much force, so I am not focusing on taking the time to acknowledge and be present with my emotions, to let all that energy spend itself before I express myself. Some days that is not possible and on those days I just give myself permission to exist. It is no longer about getting it right, it is now about not backing down and letting my fear get in the way. Every time I engage with both my emotions and express what I am feeling (and needing ) is a success and every time I do it, I get a little better at it. One day I will re-read this and wonder how emotions were ever an issue. I hope I remember the journey to get to that point and how it took a conscious choice and yes, courage. No-one ever said that Living Enlightenment was going to be easy, but as I walk this road it seems to get less difficult, or maybe the rewards become more present as I reconnect with me.