“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” — Carl Jung
I have heard many people tell me that they don’t believe in therapy. The same people, then, tell me that they don’t have any issues that they need therapy for and that they don’t have any painful emotions that would need them to work on. Unfortunately, if they take the time to truly observe themselves, they would realize that some are either in denial of their emotions and feel numb or have constant anxiety that affects their lives. The purpose of this blog is not to promote therapy. The purpose of this blog is to highlight a potential way that can help you in your journey without denying yourself the self-love that you deserve.
M Scott Peck in his book, “The Road Less Traveled”, says, “No act is more unnatural, and hence more human than the act of entering psychotherapy. By this act, we deliberately lay open to the deepest challenge from another human being… The primary reason people do not undergo therapy is not that they lack the money but that they lack the courage“. Truer words haven’t been spoken. To work on our emotions requires courage because it requires us to dive deeper into our psychology, our learned patterns, and grieve for all those times we have been wounded. It requires us to consciously challenge our thought patterns, scrutinize our actions, recognize our triggers, accept our emotions, and fall in love with ourselves.
When I started going to therapy in 2018, I did not know what to expect. On my third session, I told my therapist, “Every time I sit in the waiting area, I want to run away and never come back.” She looked up at me and said, “But you did not. You stayed”. She had this smile on her face while uttering those words that helped me realize that despite feeling scared of going through therapy, I was choosing to have the courage to face my demons. I was stronger than I had realized. In my therapy sessions, I either learn a new tool that helps me better cope with my challenges or I meet a new part of myself that I have ignored for years. In every session, I recognize a new thought pattern, a behavior, or unfold a memory that I was not ready to remember. I learn new ways to rewire my brain and modify my habits so that I continue to grow in my life, my relationships with myself, and those around me.
There are so many reasons why people don’t take this route to self-healing yet would take any other viable path to try and run away from themselves. Some have given in to society’s stigma of getting professional help for mental health, some believe that they are completely capable of handling these emotions without requiring any support, some have partners who don’t want them to share their pains with anyone else while some have accepted that they are too broken to be “fixed”. I have had friends who would blame themselves for having “too many” emotions and friends who would claim that they don’t feel anything at all. Yet, at the onset of a small challenge or discomfort, both types would be filled with so much anxiety that it would be hard to sit still. To overcome these emotions, they would meditate, run, lie about their mental health to those who care and to themselves, start to focus on their physical health, isolate themselves from their friends, talk to their partners without reaching a conclusion, drink, party, have sex, and even listen to preachers hoping that somehow someone or something can cure their pain. The challenge, however, is that by choosing to run away from these emotions, they further increase their pain and anxiety. I would know because I have tried almost all of those options and almost nothing worked.
Let me bring science and human psychology into this discussion to help you understand how human beings work. A few years back, a study of 700 participants showed how human emotions could be mapped to different parts of the body (Study: Bodily Map of Emotions). This and similar studies since then have proved that every time we encounter a situation, good or bad, not just our brains but also our bodies feel these emotions. When we allow these emotions to sit in our bodies for longer durations without releasing them, they cause blockages in our bodies. These blockages show up as physical pain, illness, or weakness. People can have too much energy after a sudden trigger or have no energy to even get out of bed. I would like to highlight here that there is a common misconception in society around meditation and its power to heal. Meditation brings us calmness by removing the clutter in our minds and increasing our awareness of ourselves and our surroundings. But it is not a solution to the unresolved emotions. It would not free us from the emotional baggage that we are carrying in our bodies. If done sincerely, it would, instead, bring those emotions to the surface because that’s what it does. It helps you release what’s holding you back. It is, then, up to us to either run away again and stop meditation or have the courage to peel off the layers.
Let me use an analogy here. Imagine your body to be a box. Since we’re kids, we put all our emotions in this box. Some emotions are dealt with as time passes and the box gets lighter. However, some emotions are too painful to deal with at the time that they are experienced. It’s completely fine to choose and not deal with these emotions because there might be other priorities at the time that require our attention. However, if left unresolved, the contents inside the box only keep increasing. As kids, we don’t have the capacity or the knowledge to deal with these emotions constructively. Sometimes, we don’t get the emotional support that we need from our parents or our elders to help us during these stressful times. This is when our brains take the lead and protect us by hiding these painful memories so that we can continue with our lives. Our body provides the box needed to hold these painful emotions so that it does not affect our day-to-day lives. However, when we continuously choose to ignore these emotions, a time comes where this box reaches its maximum. This is when our body’s capacity to hold these emotions reaches its limit and we start to feel anxious. At this point, when we look for temporary relief, we further force our bodies to expand the size of this box without taking the responsibility to remove some of the clutter. The cycle continues until we start having anxiety or panic attacks. Anxiety is nothing but our body’s way of letting us know that its capacity has been breached and that it needs to release something. Per our society, however, anxiety is considered the biggest enemy. Instead of looking at the reasons behind our anxiety, we choose to consider it as our biggest pitfall and find ways to fix it through various unhelpful means. But anxiety is just a symptom of the underlying turmoil. If there is a problem with our kitchen’s plumbing, we will fix our pipes and not be satisfied by coming up with a way to temporarily hold the leaking water. It’s the same with anxiety. Anxiety is not the problem. It’s our body’s way of telling us that there is a problem that requires a deep dive and that something in us needs to heal.
My anxiety and panic attacks went through the roof in 2018 when I came to a different country. The pain of separating from my loved ones, the strangeness of the new land, the pressure of learning the new ways of living, and the loneliness of not having people around whom I could trust got to me. There were times when I chose to shut down and even ran away from the crowd because it got too much for me to handle. I blamed myself and the new land for all the problems that I was facing. I was convinced that the only way for me to find solace was to go back home. It was only when I started going to therapy and slowly peeled layers after layers of the emotions that have lied dormant for years that I started to realize that the problem was not me or my environment. The problem was that my container was full.
I used to be that friend who told everyone that I don’t have any emotions. I would tell everyone and believe it myself that I didn’t feel a lot and that situations did not bother me easily. Oh, how wrong I was! The truth was, I felt everything. There were times when I felt even more than the people around me. However, since my childhood, my brain was conditioned to suppress these emotions by hiding the painful memories and my body was conditioned to go numb anytime I faced a trigger that uncovered unresolved emotions. Emotions that I did not allow myself to feel because they challenged the image that I had created for myself. My therapist did not judge my numbness. She provided me with a way to start feeling again by helping me get in touch with my body. In every session, she would ask me to focus on my body while I spoke about an uncomfortable memory. In the beginning, I felt nothing. However, soon I started to feel sensations in different parts of my body that I could link to a specific emotion. Over time, I was able to create an emotion map for myself. This map helps me recognize my emotions when my body and brain feel overwhelmed in a situation. From being a person who claimed to have little to no emotions, my years of introspection, healing, and seeking guidance brought me to a point where I can’t just recognize these emotions but can also communicate my needs and wants to those around me.
When was the last time you asked yourself why you choose to create an emotional barrier around yourself? What is it that you are unwilling to accept that makes you choose to take the easier route and avoid sitting with yourself to find yourself? Have you ever lost someone you cared about and regretted it later? We often let go of people whom we love claiming that it’s too much to handle. Do we ever sit back and try and answer what was too much? Was it too much sadness or too much love? Too much insecurity or too much trust? Too many expectations or too much guilt? Why choose to go through the suffering of separation when you can heal the connection and invite love?
Our insecurities don’t define us. They are self-doubts that have become so imbibed into our personalities that we start to identify with them. Our insecurities are not our fault. They are not anyone’s fault. It’s what we have been told through subtle and not so subtle communications, and what we have learned through our experiences. It’s what we have told ourselves and believed in for years without realizing that they do not define us anymore. Or even if they are still true, we fail to realize that they cannot hold us back from growing and changing our stories.
Most people we meet are also looking for meaningful connections. Some people vibe with us and care for our well-being. Some people vibe with us but have different priorities. We always attract what we think. If you believe that you’re not good enough, you will attract people who will say so too. If you believe that you’re broken, you will attract people who will re-emphasize your assumptions. If you believe that you don’t deserve love or happiness, you will attract those who will give you pain. If you believe that you’re a horrible human being, you will attract relationships that will constantly remind you of how terrible and unreliable you are.
Therapy helps you recognize the thought patterns in your life that dictate your decisions and your understanding of yourself. It provides you with resources that you can use to deal with your hidden feelings. Talking to someone whose guidance you can trust and talking without the fear of judgment, relieves you of the pain of going through these emotions alone.
Today, I want to ask you to give yourself a chance. Give yourself a chance to accept the love that you deserve. Permit yourself to be vulnerable and allow yourself to trust your emotions. Allow those around you who are willing to help you to provide you their love and support so that you can heal from within. They are offering you help because they love you and there is no need for you to feel guilty for accepting their support. Allow yourself to trust your instincts and, above all, allow yourself to feel. I won’t say that it’s going to be easy but I will tell you that you will embark on a beautiful journey that will make you fall in love with yourself daily.