The cultural climate that we live in does not generally encourage us to express or even feel our deeper feelings. Most jobs require us to put a good face on – and smooth over – any pain, discomfort, or confusion that we may be feeling inside. But this sort of repression puts us out of touch with ourselves and also obstructs any opportunities we may have for honest communication with the people in our lives. Allowing even difficult feelings, such as pain and fear, to arise and move through us is essential for physical and mental well-being.
Until we come to terms with our emotional reality, our relationship to the outside world will always be (to some extent, at least) indirect and confused. We can't accept certain feelings whilst denying others. Numbing ourselves to any pain we may be carrying inside will also dampen our capacity to feel joy, for example. Fear is another feeling that can affect us adversely when it's not acknowledged. All too often it is covered up by a more destructive emotion such as anger. Feeling the original fear would dissolve such anger and open up the channels of communication and understanding if that fear arose in a situation involving other people.
This principle applies to our entire emotional life. Psychologists have long understood that repressed feelings don't go away. Instead, they emerge in a distorted – and usually more harmful – form. The only way out of this conundrum is for us to trust ourselves enough to let our feelings have their life and flow. We have to be willing to accept pain, grief, regret and fear as necessary parts of life. In many ways, what we so often consider to be negative emotions are only the natural byproducts of our existence as human beings. We only have so much time, and all that lives will one day die. Our very mortality implies pain and fear. But we actually suffer less when we acknowledge those difficult sensations rather than stowing them away inside where they will only accumulate and eventually threaten to overwhelm us.
It has often been said that time heals all wounds. But this is only true when we're willing to feel the pain of those wounds. Movement occurs when we acknowledge our feelings and don't deny them. Opening up to grief, loss, and disappointment also opens us to love, joy and satisfaction. We can't feel empowered if we lack the capacity to feel anything at all. Pain can also motivate us to make changes in our lives. It can show us where we have felt constricted, stifled and dissatisfied without knowing it. Owning our fear, we can take risks that expand our lives and push us beyond the boundaries that we'd once believed in.
Facing our pain and fear makes us fully human. We're open not only to the depths of our inner selves but also to compassion for others. By accepting our own feelings we become more aware of and sensitive to the feelings of those around us. We become more in touch with ourselves and more connected to the outside world. Facing into our more difficult feelings and not blocking them is really a small price to pay for the growth that we can reap as a result.
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