Emotional awareness and relationships
It is not uncommon to experience fear of our own feelings and then to learn unhealthy coping strategies not to engage with them.
Fear of, discomfort from our own feelings creates a sense of panic from feeling anything at all.
What happens when we suppress our emotions? They don’t go away, instead they fester inside, drain us of vital energy and eventually are experienced as anxiety, fear, restlessness, compulsive business, irritability, procrastination, insomnia, stomach and intestinal problems, teeth grinding, relationship problems, poor self-esteem, worry, depression, lack of motivation, chronic fatigue, headaches, violent outbursts, sexual difficulties and emptiness;
We are hardwired to feel and experience the whole spectrum of emotions. In fact, feelings are what makes us feel alive and vital; they energise us to meet life challenges and brings us insights by providing a valuable information on our life journey. When we are able to meaningfully engage with our felt sense, we can bridge gaps/distances between ourselves and others, enliven our relationships and feel close and connected.
When we fear or experience discomfort with our own feelings and our inability to share them with others is what keeps us disconnected, isolated and creates a profound sense of not belonging and hence not wanting to engage with life itself. We are often afraid to feel the full extent of our emotions and to be emotionally alive and present with others. We are afraid of being vulnerable, of drawing attention to ourselves; afraid of becoming overwhelmed, of losing control; we are afraid of being seen for who we really are.
As a result, we avoid our feelings, we keep them hidden at any cost; we push them aside and we create distractions and divert our attention on anything else rather than feeling.
We hope that all of those strategies will help and make our feelings go away. Luckily, they don’t’; instead they keep getting our attention, they keep resurfacing and general feeling of malaise, discomfort, uneasiness, anxiety, irritability, depression begins to settle into our experience. That seems to create yet even a more extreme attempt in us to numb them, hence we begin to engage
in more self-destructive behaviours – under/over eating; excessive drinking; workaholism; excessive exercising or shopping; excessive internet use; use of recreational drugs; excessive viewing of pornography; excessive playing of computer games; etc.
Anything to keep us distracted, but allow ourselves to feel the feelings, can become our second nature. Anything to numb the fear of our own feelings arising, but allowing ourselves to feel the feelings, can become a way of living. As a result, we can potentially move into this semi-mechanistic ways of constantly being on autopilot; we no longer feel fully alive and present with our own self; we become our only obstacle of living life to the full.
In the last few decades cognitive approaches to psychological health seem to occupy a centre stage in the way we understand human distress. Messages of “think positive” in the media and self-help material can potentially highlight only one side of the coin. However, more and more research on human emotions has been emerging in the last few years. It is revolutionising our understanding on how our nervous system works, develops and changes. We now know that emotions play a very significant role
in bringing about wellbeing, psychological health and lasting positive therapeutic change. Studies on neuroplasticity show that emotional experiences hold the power of literally rewiring our brain and creating even structural changes to our brain.
We have innate tendency to seek connection. Our nervous system functions at its optimal level when we feel safe and secure connection to another. The experience of safety and security is always relational. The optimal experience of wellbeing is one
of being emotionally alive and aware and it seems to be the starting point of any future development and explorations that
we engage in.