It’s also helpful to realize that this very body that we have, that’s sitting right here right now… with its aches and it pleasures… is exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, fully alive.”
~~ Pema Chödrön
The new year is a perfect time to renew focus on ourselves and our relationships. We want to feel satisfied and fulfilled but we don’t know how to get there. To become fully alive we must realize that our efforts at denying, avoiding, withdrawing, or reacting unconsciously to the dark side of our emotional being have failed us. We so desperately want to believe that today, in our most intimate relationships, we have forgotten about our wounds from our past. We try to minimize the attachment we had, and still have, to imperfect caregivers, who themselves have the same skills of denial, avoidance, withdrawal, or unconscious reactivity (they taught us).
Change is, without a doubt, frightening. Many of us resist counseling because we are afraid of losing who we are and how we cope. Knowing the suffering we need to enter, to heal our little child inside, we tend to normalize our anxiety, addictions, and depression, and accept our fulfilling relationships as the way life is.
There is hope – it’s called feeling. Embracing our dark emotions is a way to fully experience our time on this earth, to really feel alive. Not just the joy and happiness we so easily feel, but the fear, grief, and anguish we have been taught to view as weak, and to be ashamed of. Anger, rage, and violence breed through the suppression and avoidance of dark emotions. Are we better off for teaching our children to “get over it”? Do we limit their life experiences because we are too afraid to deal with our own?
How can we drop our protections and allow what is actually happening within us, below the surface, to be recognized and valued? We can start by realizing that we are not “over” our past: that in our relationships, our wounded child is very much alive. That little girl or boy is the reason we criticize, blame, escape, deny, withdraw, react with anger, etc.
Secondly, we can give ourselves and our partners the permission to feel fear and pain. We don’t have to dismiss our feelings, and defend against our partners. When we are hurt, it’s okay to cry, and it’s okay to talk about it. It reminds us that we are human. It’s also okay to seek joy and connection. We typically feel the same level of joy as the level we allow ourselves to suffer: it’s a package deal. By embracing our suffering, we are also embracing our desire to fully live.
Lastly, we can bring back our natural feeling state that was suppressed: our wonder and creativity, our raw emotional releases that allow us to move on, and our excitement and curiosity for the next day, for there is always a next day.