I am young and single, which may make me an odd candidate to guest post on Phil and Maude’s blog, but I want to share with you how I have saved the relationship that I have with myself and found inner peace.
To summarize my journey thus far, I have found that being willing to experience the full breadth of my own pain, reconnect to my physical body and take responsibility for my emotions, has drastically improved the quality of my life and the relationships that I have. The process has not been linear, and for a long time, I thought I would never get out from under all of the sadness and fear in my heart. Although there is still some sadness, and there still is some fear, I’m glad to say that I move through the world much lighter and more available to be present with my loved ones on a daily basis. I am content.
From early adolescence through early adulthood, my heart was an oozing sore and my unhealthy emotions ran rampant. I dated boys in my high school, and it’s sad to me now to think of how I would scream at them and go into fits of jealous rage. My tactic was to manipulate them with guilt. “Please, take care of me” and “If you don’t, I’ll kill you” were the messages I was sending out all the time. This continued through college and even a few years after. The dynamics with different people shifted based on their personalities, but they were all painfully dysfunctional. Then, about a year after I graduated from college, I dated someone that triggered me so deeply that I didn’t think I would ever recover.
However, while I was dating him, I began a journey of deep inner work. I started to look into the dynamics of my childhood that I was reacting to when I thought I was responding to the present situation. With the help of a mentor, I brought each layer of my feelings to the surface. I held them in my own presence, I attended to my inner child as the best parent that I could, and I released the pain to the angels.
With every release, I felt closer to myself. Maybe it seems like a paradox to say that I had strayed far away from myself, but part of my defense had been to unground and dislodge my experience from my body. As I cleared out all the emotional junk, I found myself coming home to my body. I don’t think I can emphasize enough how strongly I believe that it is crucial to bring our physical bodies into our inner work.
Unless I am fully present in my own body, I cannot be present, fully present, with another person emotionally. When I am listening to someone speak and I realize that I am actually thinking instead of listening, I drop my awareness into the silence of my body. First, though, I had to learn to feel safe in my own skin.
That made it necessary to use physical movement in my emotional healing. This could be stomping, or hitting a pillow, or sometimes just going for a run to release the anxiety. Nowadays, to strengthen this relationship, I still dance on a regular basis. I don’t “know how” to dance, but I love to do it and it offers me a chance to fall in love with my experience of life.
It took a lot of work, but eventually, I started to notice that as I moved through the pain, my defenses were diminishing. A situation that would have ordinarily sent me into a tailspin would hardly faze me. My confidence grew. I felt able to talk about my feelings without blaming anyone for them. I learned to set boundaries fearlessly.
I learned to recognize my own part in unhealthy dynamics. Just because I recognize them doesn’t necessarily mean that I don’t fall into them, but at least I have some awareness of the part I am playing. This means that interpersonal conflict moves differently because it does not become a sparring match. I’m not out to prove that I’m right, or to “get my way.”
I wanted to share this story of triumph because I wish this kind of transformation for everyone. I believe that life can be a truly joyful experience and that one important key is to be willing to face the things we are running from.
I was in a group healing session, doing breathwork, and something unbelievably painful came through me. I was screaming and crying on the floor, with about a dozen cohorts lying on the floor with me. After we were done, one of my friends in the group approached me and said she was surprised to hear that pain come out of me, because I always seemed so happy and light.
The secret is that I couldn’t experience those highs if I weren’t willing to dig deep into the lows.
Insisting that there are always more hard emotions to feel is a trap. What you feed, grows #quote Click To TweetHowever, it feels important to share that once I had taken out a whole lot of emotional garbage, there came a time when it began to feel disempowering to go looking for it. A turning point came when the negativity that I had experienced was no longer charging through my system on a regular basis. I had arrived in a place of largely positivity and neutrality. So, although I do believe in the power of unearthing suppressed pain and treating it with loving kindness, I also believe in the power of positive focus. There’s a trap in insisting that there are always more hard emotions to feel. It is possible to overindulge the negative childish tendencies. What you feed, grows.
The result of finding a balance between the excavation of pain and the cultivation of positivity is that the simple, powerful force of Love pervades all of my relationships. When I feel triggered by the behavior of another, the first step is to hold myself, and then the second step is to hold them in Love. This has proven to be a miraculous two-step process that leaves me feeling stronger and more resilient after upset instead of broken and defeated, or callous and resentful. Again, I wish this kind of transformation to a life of wonder and joy for all. Thank you for reading.
Kate Heath is a Licensed Massage Therapist practicing in Richmond, Va and teaches aching couples to massage one another via her website www.therub.how. She is blessed to live with her best friend of ten years and two precious cats in her favorite river city.
Blog photo credit: Shawn Duex