REM said it best…“Everybody Hurts”.
Like me, I’m sure you have gone through one, two or more emotional hurts. In fact, some people live for years with emotional abuse or pain before even knowing what it is. You might have read my post divorce blog, My Broken Heart a few years ago. The emotional pain from that was significant and at the time, I felt like it would last forever. Today, I can say it doesn’t.
However, it took time (and I mean years) to be with my pain. I sometimes allowed it to consume me and worked hard to make space for it as part of my life. I’m grateful the part it takes up now is my past. Since that time, I have had additional emotional pain moments in my life. I can’t say they don’t hurt any less or make me any less fearful or stressed, but I do feel that my ability to navigate them has improved (sometimes a little, sometimes a lot). I feel I am more able to allow my emotional pain to be present and to explore it.
Pain tells us that something is wrong. It helps wake us up and asks us to take notice. Physical pain is usually felt where we “hurt” ourselves. However, emotional pain often shows up in our chest or abdomen. Some scientists believe that this is due to the vagus nerve which runs through our chest and stomach.
Dr. Porges developed The Polyvagal Theory which states that part of our vagus nerve can be considered our social engagement system. This part of the system allows a connection between our body and our mind to have self-love, as well as compassion for others. It also helps determine whether we feel safe or not.
So often we allow space for our physical pain (my knee hurts, my neck hurts) etc. We even take care of it by seeing a massage therapist, yoga therapist, physical therapist etc. But emotional pain is different.
We often don’t allow space for our emotional pain and sometimes even bulldoze right through it.
Often we numb our pain (or in yoga we say, dump our prana) with food, alcohol, drugs, TV, shopping, sleeping or other forms of escape. We do everything but allow our feelings to be present.
And society doesn’t help us out. To cry in public, at work, in the knitting circle or anywhere makes everyone feel uncomfortable. We avoid sharing our emotions. We avoid telling our stories. We tell people we are “fine” or “good.”
I get that we can’t just tell everyone and anyone our stories. But, what if we were a little more truthful? Just because we say, “I’m having a hard time right now,” doesn’t mean we are looking for advice or for someone to fix it. However, our society thinks that’s what we have to do.
You can put aside or choose not to look at your emotional pain, but eventually you will need to face what is there to be more fully alive in your life. We often have to clean out, re-organize and look at what we need to let go of or deal with in order to move forward.
Crying is one way to release emotions. So is talking through it, making a plan, doing yoga, sitting in meditation and journaling, among many other things.
The next time you are experiencing strong emotions, consider being with them. Say to yourself, “This is what XYZ feels like right now.” Breathe into the feelings, allow them to be there, relax your body and see if your response or ability to let go for just a bit is different. Give yourself some space for your emotions. Maybe even have a good cry. It’s okay.