I also never knew how to deal with my emotions. At all.
I am a highly sensitive person and this can mean that I love hard and deeply, I’m highly affectionate, very giving and if you add in confusion, overwhelm, anxiety and trauma then it’s like the perfect toxic bomb.
This pretty much sums up most of my uni life and adult life up until I turned 33.
These all created massive imbalances in my emotional behaviour and in my physical body. It is true to say that it was destructive.
At the same time as all of this was going on I started searching for a deeper meaning to life, I started to ask the big questions “What’s it all about” from about the age of 12 when I went to do communion classes at my school.
I remember asking the Chaplain what it was all about and receiving very confusing and mixed messages… whilst we ate (lots of) toast with jam on and drank tea.
Throughout most of my life I’ve searched for answers - especially during the times I suffered with debilitating panic attacks. I went to catholic church, church of England, Evangelical Baptist churches and it’s fair to say that whilst many of the people I came across were kind, I certainly didn’t find my answers in those places.
What I remember unconsciously feeling was a void. A disconnection from something I couldn’t put my finger on and the only way I found to temporarily scratch the itch was by filling it with substances and other people’s attention.
My desire was to understand why were are here and what it’s all about.
My desire was to find meaning in my life since most of the time it felt meaningless. I wanted more to my life.
Many of us have learned to make ourselves small. Keep our desires small and try to stay under the radar. Not having the tools to deal with living in such a traumatised, narcissistic and parasitic society that we’ve been told to put up and shut up. Our desires don’t matter, our thoughts don’t matter and yet (secretly) we want more for ourselves.
We are taught that to want more is not ok... or we’re directed to more food, more shopping, more stuff. And the moment we’ve eaten, bought, consumed we know that those things will never be enough.
Then there’s the message that who we are in the inside is secondary to who we are on the outside. That’s insane.
I speak for myself when I say that I’ve worshipped false ideals like shopping, celebrities, money and beauty when I couldn’t find another solution, and it’s not just me that this is happening to.
We numb aspects of ourselves and prevent any awareness of ourselves and that creates more emptiness and more pain. As a society there is denial about the importance of being connected to something bigger than us - a spiritual connection, a strong community and love for ourselves and others.
Many of us are obsessed about our bodies and rage a war against them not living up to the beauty virus that’s spread throughout our society. This virus encourages us to body shame, to have total imbalances with food, to self-harm, self-hate and idolise (and hate) anyone who seemingly has a ‘perfect’ body.
This void, this desperation to fill ourselves up fuels us to continue using substances / people etc to fill us - sometimes (often) to the point of total imbalance and addiction. I’ve often felt out of control around food… and society also reinforces these imbalances everywhere.
When was the last time you saw an advert for broccoli? Exactly.
Advertising, media, tv programs, magazines, books - so many things continuously bombard is with these parasitic thoughts that if we’re unaware cause us great damage.
As a society we reinforce food / alcohol as being the social part of our connection. If we meet up it’s usually to share food or drink together. We rarely meet up to simply hang out together. We also reinforce that if you’re skinny you are more successful, more beautiful, more likely to get a better husband and more likely to find joy!
What utter b*llsh*t.
At the same time, whilst all that is going on there is also the undeniable fact that most of us don’t have the emotional tools to deal with life either.
We grew up without being able to handle and nurture our emotions and so when we felt happy we’d be ‘thinner’ and when we were triggered / sad / overwhelmed etc our body chemistry would change and we’d comfort eat and gain weight.
Cue the shame cycle… and until something changed it would continue. Such a tough cycle to go through, over and over again.
>> THE SECRET SOLUTION
There are solutions and tools to these imbalances and these feelings. The solutions aren’t secret at all but when you’re not aware of them they feel like a secret club that you’re not part of.
The reality is that there are two major things that have changed my life.
1 - Finding my connection to a higher purpose and meaning.
2 - Making peace with and accepting the full range of my emotions.
My higher connection has involved filling my “emotional bucket” *every day* with positivity and joy by meditating, practicing yoga, and learning to trust my intuition again.
Also by doing things for other people, being outside, making self-loving food, using my oils, spending time with my friends and family and reading books.
Our souls need filling up with soul-satistying activities and that lift us up and break the cycles of shame. Every. Single. Day.
An empty emotional bucket means that you feel exhausted, anxious, overwhelmed, and the void feeling gets bigger and bigger.
>> Which brings me onto point 2.
For every emotion that we squash back down into the depths of our soul, the more disconnected and the more anxious / depressed we become.
The aim is to allow every feeling and emotion to come to the surface to be witnessed and loved. That’s the goal.
It takes time but with some gentle encouragement and daily, consistent action you will find that you make peace with your emotions and therefore find peace within you also. You will feel liberated and free!
By allowing my feelings to rise to the surface has meant that I’ve been able to challenge every single thought that I have that is negative and destructive.
You see, these thoughts and emotions that crucify us ultimately don’t belong to us. They are viruses that our society is infected with and the spread like the plague. We then believe that these thoughts belong to us and are true.
That’s the biggest lie of all!
I have found that journalling, meditating and becoming curious about my feelings has been a massive game changer - especially around food addiction, body acceptance and positive body image. Ultimately, loving myself just as I am.
As Brene Brown says: How to reckon with Emotion:
1 - Engage with your feelings
2 - Get curious about the story behind these feelings
3 - Write down your story
4 - Explore the ins and outs of your story
And remember it’s only a story - and you have the power to change what story you live.
It’s time to stop pretending that these coping mechanisms that we’ve developed and been using for many years are doing anything except hurting us even further. It has to stop.
These stories and mechanisms are stopping us from growing and becoming our best most authentic selves - who deserve to shine… brightly!
We clearly needed these mechanisms as we were growing up to support us during times of uncertainty, pain and trauma but it’s important that you remember that you are so much more than this.
>>Making a lasting habit - and possible pitfalls
Lastly, it's important to remember that we all get triggered sometimes, perhaps even often.
New neuro pathways that result in ingrained behaviours take about 22 days to take form.
In those 22 days it requires consistent but consciously mindful action and that can seem hard at first.
After 22 days these pathways form into the early stages of a habit and the neuro pathway grooves become deeper and sustainable. The new behaviours still need awareness but it's less all-consuming.
Also, we have to be mindful that when we are triggered we do revert back to whatever neuropathway groove is the deepest - and this normally is linked to behaviours created in childhood. So the trick is to keep coming back to the heart and sending love to yourself.
Many of us are perfectionists which also means we are super hard on ourselves. This means that when we are triggered or something not so great happens and we revert back to our automated reactions we tend to then beat ourselves up for it instead of recognising that we're coming from a place of pain and hurt and then send love to that place.
It takes time, gentleness and grace to transform and create new, positive behaviours. So whilst you're creating those new pathways please remember to be kind to yourselves and honour that this is not a linear process.
For any of you who've spent what feels like lifetimes experiencing pain, hurt, frustration, overwhelm and fear, this is your time to remember you have control over you.
It’s time to embrace who you truly are and live a life of freedom.
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