I was 15 the first time I consciously felt anxiety. I had just started my sophomore year at a new boarding school. The souring feeling in my stomach and the fear that blinded me was terrifying, so I bolted down the stairs of my dorm, straight to the vending machines.
I wanted to push away and bury all that discomfort and angst. By October, I’d gained twenty pounds. All because I didn’t know how to deal with dark emotions like: anxiety, pain, anguish, frustration, resentment…
It took me ten years to learn to be present and experience these uncomfortable feelings.
So now when they come up, do I like it? Not really.
Is it fun? Absolutely not.
Is it worth it? Definitely.
And here’s why – because you can’t heal something unless you allow yourself to feel it.
If you want to be able to open up and move through your own emotional pain, here’s your road map:
1. Make Space
Be okay with whatever you’re feeling. Allow it to be in the room, to be in your body.
Instead of trying to push the feelings away, avoid them or, like I used to do, stuff them under food, allow them to exist. Rum’s poem, Guest House, is the perfect reminder. In it, he describes himself as a house – opening the door and welcoming all visitors (his emotions) whatever they may be and inviting them in. Here’s a link to it.
2. Give Yourself Permission
It’s okay to have bad thoughts, cruel thoughts, unkind thoughts. We all do, we’re human!
Give yourself permission to just feel what you feel. When I was a girl, my mother used to say, “you’re not responsible for your thoughts, only your actions.” Maybe at times I did want to kill my sister but I never actually did it.
3. Release Judgment
Part of why we don’t even allow ourselves to feel dark emotions, is because we immediately judge ourselves. The inner critic starts. “Don’t think that” or “who are you to…” or “you shouldn’t feel angry about that because…”
Try allowing yourself to experience anger, hurt, jealousy without judging it – no inner critic, no running dialog. Just feel it and see where that takes you.
4. Get Dirty
Once you make space for these dark emotions without judgment, the real work begins.
What is the source of the frustration? Hurt? Anxiety? What does this trigger or link to? See if you can find the root, because that’s where the healing lies.
As a teenager, my anxiety got triggered because I felt stupid, inadequate, not enough. Sometimes these same ghosts pop up when I try new things, take risks or new chances. Today, I sit with that feeling of inadequacy to see where it takes me. Usually it goes back to childhood where I can love the little girl and cherish her.
5. Let It Go
Once you’ve processed those negative or dark feelings, you can release them.
As we free up these internal spaces, we make room for more clarity, more energy, more focus and power. It’s like internally cleaning house.
The real work of our lives is to be present with our own beings – when we feel elated and blissful as well as when we feel frightened and insecure. Allow it all to be. Experience the good and the bad, knowing that every moment offers insights and lessons.
Heal and keep opening to life, to love and to you.
Life is a process requiring us to constantly open, to our own inner beings as much as anything else. Take some time to explore your triggers, the places where judgment and anxiety lie. What lessons are waiting there for you?
The work may not be “fun” but it is powerful and transformational and SO worth it.
Shakti Sutriasa is the Founder of Decide Differently which provides tools for personal development and self transformation including: one-on-one support, workshops, meditation and more. Shakti’s unique approach combines modern psychology and spirituality to help people align to purpose, experience greater happiness, as well as release anxiety, and stress. Shakti is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and has an MA in Education. Learn More