Most of us as children experienced situations where we felt overwhelmed by our emotions. Maybe a parent yelled at us or hit us, projecting their own emotional traumas onto us. Maybe we met our parents with wide open hearts and they weren't able to meet us back in that love, leaving us feeling unloveable and unworthy. Maybe it was something seemingly small like another child not wanting to play with us. And our gentle hearts were so open. We were so sensitive, innocent, pure, and oh so sweet, and our tender little nervous systems didn't know how to handle these situations.
That little one wasn't taught how to be present with emotions, how to gently feel and allow the sensations in the body with unconditional love. In fact, most of us were taught that our emotions are bad and that there was something wrong with us for feeling what we were feeling, that our sensitivity was in fact a sign of weakness and that we should hide it and 'be strong.' And so feelings were repressed and emotional traumas were born.
Different nervous systems respond to these emotional traumas in different ways. Some shut down and became numb, some put up walls of protection around the heart and most develop coping mechanisms, behaviours which allow us to keep on surviving despite the agony that we feel inside, such as numbing our pain with food or other addictive substances and functioning in the world on top of repressed, unprocessed emotions.
When we mature on a spiritual level part of the awakening process that we go through involves meeting and integrating the emotional traumas from our past. We remember how to feel again in a healthy way and we learn how to hold gentle, unconditionally loving space for ourselves and our old pain.
For many people it can be scary to open up to these feelings. "What if I open a can of worms and I can't handle it? What if it's too overwhelming? What if it's too painful? What if I open up and then lose my capacity to shut down again? I might have to live in a state of constant overwhelm! Then how will I function in my life?" These fears are a by-product of past emotional trauma. The nervous system remembers how challenging it was to feel overwhelming pain as a child and the mind produces thoughts to try to protect us from feeling that pain again.
In its own sweet way the mind simply wants to keep us safe and it believes that the most effective way to do this is to keep us in control of our experience. While this intention is benevolent, its interference (in the form of thoughts and unconscious beliefs) actually creates resistance to us feeling old energies and it sabotages our healing process by continuously pulling our attention out of our body and into the mind. However, once we understand how the mind's protection mechanism functions we are able to override it by disidentifying from our thoughts.
By simply observing our thoughts and turning our attention to the space in which the thoughts arise, our consciousness expands and we are able to see a bigger and much clearer picture. It is from this space of clarity that we can begin to approach the repressed emotions and gently open to them on a physical and energetic level. We do this by becoming fully present and gently opening deeper and deeper to feeling and allowing the sensations in the body as we dive into the infinite void of peaceful, transcendant Being.
Like with everything, as we practice being present with our feelings and opening to them with love, our capacity to do so increases. We are able to stay present with larger and more intense waves of emotion. We don't try to avoid emotions, and nor do we get taken over by them. We surrender to the emotions and become one with them, and by doing so we walk through the gateway of truth, the gateway to our True self, the gateway to the infinite oneness, our true nature, pure awareness.
So don't aim to 'half-open' to feeling in order to stay safe. Dive in head first. Let your heart be smashed into a million pieces. Let it be ripped and torn and broken and shredded. Feel the rawness and the vulnerability. Surrender fully, meet everything with presence, and what you will discover is that you cannot be broken. What you will discover is that you cannot be hurt. What you will discover is the truth of who you are. Eternity itself.
Photo credit: Caleb Woods