the need to feel connected; learning self love and self compassion

Written by Amie on April 19, 2013 – 1:05 am -

feeling safe to express who you really are

Underneath the feelings of depression, sadness,guilt,shame,grief, (and I believe most emotions), is the need to feel connected to ourselves and to others. When I was depressed, I was completely shut off from myself and from others. When I was depressed, I would isolate myself. What I really needed was someone to be there with me, holding me and reassuring me. Sadly, I felt I didn’t deserve to have this, and I also felt that nobody would want to be there for me anyway. So I was not able to ask for what I needed. I believe most people (people who are not in touch with their true feelings) feel too ashamed that they have the need to be connected to others. It makes them feel weak to need other people. When I say “connected”, I mean in an authentic way. I mean being able to feel and to express your deepest, most sacred feelings. I mean feeling safe to express who you really are.  What I was truly craving when I was feeling the most hopeless, was to have  someone there with me to witness the emotions I was having, and to be present with me, without trying to “fix it”. Instead, I felt guilt, shame, and self-hatred because I couldn’t “feel better” on my own. I felt as if something was wrong with me. Why couldn’t I just “snap out of it”, or “find something positive to focus on”. Well, now I know why.

our  emotions trigger a reaction inside them

Most of us were conditioned to shut off our emotions and to believe that we “shouldn’t” need anybody when we are having “strong” emotions. People may tell us to reach out, but many people are not capable of handling us if we actually do reach out. Many people try to “say the right thing” by offering to be there for us, but when it comes down to it, we learn that it isn’t safe to express our true selves. We learn that when we  reach out we hear the message, “you will be OK”, “tomorrow is another day to start over”, “can you exercise, will that help?”, “maybe you should do…xyz”. Don’t get me wrong, most people are well intentioned.  The problem is that our  emotions trigger a reaction inside them, so they want that feeling to go away quickly, as it feels very uncomfortable. They want you to be “all better” so that things can feel “normal”, and so that they can go back to feeling comfortable. What we really need is just to be heard, validated, accepted, and loved. These feelings make us feel connected to each other.  Deep inside each of us is the need to feel connected and accepted, especially when we are feeling horrible about ourselves. When we share our sacred feelings with someone and the reaction we get back is one of dismissal, or of them trying to “fix” us, this reinforces our feelings of self-hatred. Even though they are attempting to make us feel better, we feel worse because we are not being heard and our feelings are not being validated. By trying to fix us, we get the message that something really is wrong with us. So, we decide that isolating ourselves is the answer. Who would want to be around someone who is depressed and can’t “get over it”? The self-hate messages convince us that we don’t deserve to be listened to and loved. (please keep reading, as there are most definitely ways to get your needs met in this situation).

even when we feel dead inside

Many of us were conditioned to hide our feelings, to hide until we “feel better”. We have been conditioned to put on a smile even when we feel dead inside. I remember  “acting as though everything is fine”. That is, until I couldn’t do that for one more second! I thought I would go completely insane if something didn’t change. I knew I needed people in my life who could love me and support me for being exactly as I am. I didn’t “mentally” think this, if that makes sense, but I *knew* in my body that I needed to be connected to others in a healthy way. I was craving like-minded, accepting people. In general, if a person could stop and really get in touch with their true feelings, they might notice how they are craving authentic connection with others. Imagine if it became “normal”, healthy behavior to answer the question, “how are you today?” with a REAL answer instead of, “fine, thanks, how are you?”! You might say, “well, actually I am feeling sad today because my cat is sick. I am afraid she might die, and I’m really scared.” Imagine if the person responded to you with authentic heartfelt words that really connected you to them. Imagine if that person looked you in the eyes and really “saw” your pain and your fear, without trying to make you “all better”. Imagine if they just simply connected with you in a way that you truly felt heard and validated?  Your truth is being shared with another being, and you feel connected and you feel safe. Imagine what this world would feel like!! Imagine how each of us would feel if we felt connected to all of the people in our lives in an authentic way. Imagine if we didn’t feel the need to hide or pretend how we are feeling in order to protect ourselves emotionally.

Depression is your soul’s way of saying, “enough beating”

Connection is at the heart of being human. Humans need authentic connection in order to be healthy. We can only pretend for so long. Sadly though, there are some people who go through their whole lives without having real connection. We are all craving authentic connection. I believe this 100%. But we have been shamed and guilted into believing we shouldn’t show our true selves. The way our world is set up right now, it is difficult to feel connected in an authentic way with others because most people are in “pretend you are happy” mode. This does a disservice to everyone for so many reasons. It is very difficult to be vulnerable with someone who appears to “have it all together”, or with someone who appears to have  no worries.  Remember, most people may be pretending, so try not to compare yourself with others. Healthy people do exist though, lol, I promise you that!  Some people who appear to be happy, are in fact, happy and healthy! As you become more and more aware of your own emotions and truths, you will begin to have a feeling about others who might be a safe choice for you to express your true self. The path to connection begins with self-love and self-compassion, two things most of us were not taught. We must begin the practice of being easy on ourselves. We have been shut down emotionally and beat down mentally, for possibly our whole lives. Depression marks the turning point. Depression is your soul’s way of saying, “enough beating”. “Enough self-hatred”. It is time to begin the journey to loving yourself enough to fill the need for connection. You deserve connection and love.

The Good News! Your Way to feeling and being connected

Now for the good news! When we don’t feel safe enough to express our true selves, we are not connected to anyone, let alone to life itself. Cutting ourselves off from our true selves and from others, we also cut ourselves off from our life force. I don’t believe it is possible to feel connected to anyone or anything in an authentic way unless you love yourself. You can only feel love and connection to the degree in which you feel it towards yourself. (two exceptions in my opinion, are children and animals) Life doesn’t want us to feel disconnected. It is there just waiting for us to reconnect. Learning self love and self compassion is key. I went from completely hating myself to being completely in love with myself. (it has taken several years, and I continue to grow stronger and stronger in this, as the journey goes on forever) I tell you this because I want you to know that this is possible for you too to love yourself no matter how hopeless you are feeling in this moment! It is a process of unlearning the self hate messages and beliefs that have been on “automatic” in your mind for probably most of your life. So, for me, I began with nurturing myself whenever I possibly could. I picked nurturing music, I read healing books, I found a loving therapist (who focuses on self-love and body/mind/spirit), and I became part of a healing, women’s growth group, I danced more, I got healing massages and learned all kinds of body healing techniques, and very importantly, I started working with a homeopath. I bought myself small gifts when I could; pens and pads of paper being my favorites. I asked the universe to bring healthy people into my life, and then I paid attention. I began meeting people who I feel safe being vulnerable with. I also stopped opening myself to people who weren’t yet capable of receiving me and my truth. It is a process to learn to take good care of ourselves. Becoming aware of your thoughts is imperative. When you hear self-hate in your thoughts, choose self-compassion instead. Have compassion for yourself as you would have for a small child or a loving pet. Talk to yourself as you would talk to them. Listen to the pain going through your head. It is painful to tell yourself hurtful thoughts. Give yourself compassion around this. Fill your thoughts with self-loving words, even if they don’t feel true. Someday they will, and you won’t need to say them anymore, your body will *know* them to be true, your body will *feel* them.

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Stop thinking, just *feel*; using movement to release emotions

Written by Amie on November 16, 2011 – 2:13 am -

Learn to become “the observer” of the one having the negative thoughts

I want to talk more about releasing emotions through body movement. Many people e-mailed to ask what this process looks like for me, so I thought it would be helpful to write about it here in case others have the same question. When I first started using movement to release emotions, I was pretty judgmental of myself. Even though I locked myself in a room and turned the lights down, I was still self-conscious. If I could go back and give myself encouragement, I would tell myself that the mean voices in my head are not true, and more importantly, they are not who I am. They are conditioned beliefs that have nothing to do with who I am. They are the dysfunctional messages passed on by dysfunctional people and systems. So, to begin with, using movement to release emotions is also a practice in meditation. By this I mean you must learn to become “the observer” of the one having the negative thoughts. Keep moving your body while just noticing the thoughts. Don’t buy into them. Remember you are *not* your thoughts, you are the watcher of your thoughts. There is a *very* big difference. It takes diligent practice to make this become real in our bodies. The more you remember it, the easier it gets. This is about becoming aware. Awareness of what you are telling yourself.

Stop thinking, and FEEL

I always know when I need to move. It is usually when I am “trying to process” some feelings that have come up. I know if I am thinking too much or trying to figure something out, it is better for me to start moving. I know the main thing to remember is to *feel*. When I stay with my thinking too much, it is usually because I don’t want to feel. This is a very common protective response. I internalized the message, “if I feel, it will hurt”. I know this is not a true statement any longer. Sure, there are painful emotions, no doubt. But, we hurt when we start telling ourselves stories *about* those feelings. Feelings and emotions are energy. If thinking didn’t exist, we would just notice sensations in our bodies when we have a reaction to something. It is the added stories we start telling ourselves that make the experience painful. We believe these stories. Again, this takes some “re-training” of the brain. Our brains are trained to react a certain way, and they will continue to do that unless we decide to change it. It takes practice.  When I start feeling restless and I am focusing too much on “why” or “how” or obsessing over a detail, I  *know*, or rather my body knows, it is time to move!

90 second rule

I want to share this from Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s book called My Stroke Of Insight (a great book, btw!). “When a person has a reaction to something in their environment, there’s a 90 second chemical process that happens in the body; after that, any remaining emotional response is just the person choosing to stay in that emotional loop. Something happens in the external world and chemicals are flushed through your body which puts it on full alert. For those chemicals to totally flush out of the body it takes less than 90 seconds.

This means that for 90 seconds you can watch the process happening, you can feel it happening, and then you can watch it go away. After that, if you continue to feel fear, anger, and so on, you need to look at the thoughts that you’re thinking that are re-stimulating the circuitry that is resulting in you having this physiological response over and over again.”

Lock the door, light some candles, dim the lights, and shake shake shake!!!

Sounds like an interesting title, don’t you think?! That is a shortened version of  my routine. I must also mention that I have a punching bag which is sometimes part of my routine. I absolutely love it! It is so helpful when I am feeling strong anger in my body. The important thing is to always stay in touch with your body and your body sensations. I hold most of my emotions in my stomach. My stomach feels tight or it feels as though someone is squeezing it when I have strong emotions. . I hold my breath as well. Another learned response. Just wanted to point that out because it is very common to hold your breath when you are trying to hold back strong emotions. So, a reminder to breathe is always very important. Hanging reminders around the house is a great idea! Seems simple, but it is incredibly helpful! I use an iPod to move to. I have a very wide range of music. I almost always start with hip hop and very upbeat fast music. This may not work for some people, but it is what works for me. It is fun to experiment with different kinds of music to see what your body loves. Listen to your body, you will *feel* a difference when you like a certain type of music and when you don’t.

Stay in your body

I have noticed there are times when I just need to shake every body part. If my body feels tense and I feel as though I may explode with emotion, I shake each limb and each body part. I continue doing that until I feel the intensity lessen. Then I move move move. I usually move fast for at least 30 minutes, but do what feels right for you. After that, I move slower, more like the video in my last post. Honestly, it really depends on my body, so it is key to pay attention to your body, and to follow what it tells you. There have been numerous times when I just have to stop moving and allow myself to sob. This is a good thing! My body is releasing unprocessed, stuck emotions. Sometimes I go back and forth between dancing/moving and punching the punching bag. It feels so good! It is all about staying with yourself; staying in your body. Just feel the sensations, and breathe. It can be helpful to journal after moving if that feels good to you. Hopefully this was helpful. Please feel free to comment, ask more questions, or tell me about your practice. It is always helpful if we share with each other. I am grateful you are here reading, and I really hope this was helpful for you. Happy dancing and moving!!!! Also, if you want a guided body movement, I strongly recommend Gabrielle Roth’s song “Body Parts” on her CD called “Endless Wave”

 

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