How I Saved the Relationship With Myself Diving Into the Pain Saved My Heart from Drowning

Girl in midairI 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 HeathBio
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

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6 comments on “How I Saved the Relationship With Myself Diving Into the Pain Saved My Heart from Drowning
  1. Catol Barringer says:

    I commend you for doing this work. It takes deep commitment to healing to re-experience the painful experiences of childhood that drive current behavior.

    I have a couple of problems with your thoughts about it, though — one thing is, I was confused at first by your use of the word “phase” — the correct term is “faze,” as in a situation would “no longer faze me.” It means you were able to stay in the present moment instead of being triggered by a childhood trauma. Sorry for this very small criticism for a well-written piece, but it really threw me off-course as a reader.

    Second, you write that it became disempowering to “go looking for” childhood garbage to take out, and instead cultivated a “positive focus.” These are not opposites, and not incompatible with one another. You don’t have to go searching for childhood garbage: if it’s there, and it’s coming up and affecting your current life in a negative or uncomfortable way, then it needs to be addressed. Healing requires a positive, hopeful attitude throughout the process, even though that’s not what we’re feeling when “doing the work” — lying on the floor screaming and crying. Clinically, that’s called “abreaction” (from Freud, yeah) — you feel the past pain and then are able to release it, though it’s often not a one-time process. Accepting these painful events is called “integration.”

    You cannot do this work without a positive attitude (or hope) that healing is possible. And a positive attitude of any kind cannot substitute for doing the work (that’s denial). As the pain is released, there’s more room, emotionally, for positive feelings of love, gratitude, acceptance. This is the gift of healing, the result of doing the work.
    They are not opposites — you experience a shift in the balance between the two, and you feel newly empowered, more able to embrace lovingkindness toward all.

    This often does not mean the work is done. Lovingkindness toward self and others is certainly a way, a necessary way, to achieve inner peace — but there is no “trap” in the need to process painful emotions as they come up, and there’s no need to “search” for them. They simply come up less and less frequently. You have reached a different phase (note the correct usage of the term) of your healing. I congratulate you on your healing work and arrival at this new ability to live life with more awareness and more choices. Thank you for sharing.

    • Kate Heath says:

      Hey there Carol, This is Kate.

      I couldn’t agree more! I don’t think that these two things contradict. Thank you for sharing.

      Also, thank you for teaching me the different between ‘phase’ and ‘faze.’ I’ve let Phil know about it, so they may edit the post.

      Best,
      Kate

  2. Iris Cutler says:

    Hi, I want to thank Kate Heath for sharing her journey and willingness for all of us to share. I find all that she said to be totally true and the key to freedom. I want to thank Maude and Phil for being the vehicle for so much healing. We as a species seem to look at the other person and forget they too are vehicles of our self-expression. If we allow ourselves to look inside and find our own triggers we can create amazing bridges across our pain and begin the journey of being together. WOW! What amazing opportunities we can find if we nurture the path that frees what is locked up inside us!

    • Kate Heath says:

      Hey there Iris, this is Kate.
      I’m happy that you resonated with this post, and I agree that Maude and Phil have a great thing going here that offers a lot of hope and insight to the world. Blessings on your journey.

  3. Phil says:

    Kate, I loved this post, and one of the reasons is that I’ve done my share of encounter groups and therapy in my earlier years and also concluded that, though they were very powerful and important in helping me explore and open up to my feelings, it was necessary at some point to change focus and pay attention to the present, to what is actually happening, to the only way in which I can actually affect my life.

    • Kate Heath says:

      Phil,
      I’m happy to hear that you’ve had a similar experience in your life. The magic really does happen in the present moment, every time, whether it is the deep healing work or the simplicity of a joyful experience. Here’s to more inner peace for all. 🙂

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