Oh, how to cover THIS in a few hundred words?! Practising emotional honesty is a real biggie, and one of the most common barriers to happiness there is. There is just too much to discuss here so I am plotting a future series for you on emotion where we can go into more depth!
For today let me touch on the covering up of emotion. This happens because, as humans, we are programmed to try to avoid pain. We will work really hard to escape experiencing any kind of pain in our lives. This makes a lot of sense. However, here's the thing with emotions: we are meant to feel them (that's why they are called "feelings", right?). It is the act of feeling them that allows us to start processing them and to come out the other side of grief, loss, anger, sadness and so on.
When we are trying to avoid feeling what we really feel because it will be painful a clever strategy many of us employ is to block feeling our true emotion with a substitute. I call it "Using An Over". We overeat and get fat, we overwork for months on end, we drink too much. We use these "overs" to block what's real for us.
When we come home from work and dive headfirst into a bottle of wine "to unwind" we can be blocking feeling angry about our job, or our fear about making a hard call that needs to be made. When we eat chip after chip and then move on to the cheese and biccies we are hardly tasting it, but the act of overeating squashes down the emotion of loneliness at being home alone, or fear at having upset a friend. When we are busy hating ourselves for overeating/drinking/working we can easily turn our mind to beating ourself up about being fat, or our dreadful lack of willpower, neatly avoiding confronting and feeling our true emotional reality (fear about making the hard call at work, or the loneliness of coming home to an empty house or poor marriage).
The chips or the wine won't actually make us feel better if the reality is we are blocking feeling lonely or angry or whatever the emotion we are trying to avoid is.
For example if we are honest we could admit we feel lonely. We could choose to allow ourselves to feel sadness and experience that emotion. Have a good cry! It's very healing. We could then start to change our reality to increase connection in our lives and deal with the loneliness. In this case what we want is not more biscuits but more connection.
Know this: there is no emotion so bad you can't bear it. You can, and you should.
Because when we are brave and feel what we feel with honesty the emotion moves through us, and we start to come out the other side. Trying to go "over" the emotion just stores it inside us and it takes increasing amounts of wine, chips and late nights working ourselves to the bone to be able to avoid it. The way forward to having more happiness in our lives is not "over", it is through.
This week short-circuit your go-to "over" activity by asking yourself "What is it I am trying to avoid feeling? What is true for me right now".
Am I sad/angry/fearful or happy? Allow yourself to feel it, whatever it is. You will come out of it stronger with an increased capacity for happiness.
Louise Thompson is a life coach, yoga teacher and corporate escapee. For more from Louise visit www.positivebalance.co.nz.