The walls we build around us to keep sadness out also keep out the joy. — Jim Rohn
Let’s assume that in this very moment you could choose how to feel. Would you pick loved, connected, joyful, inspired, hopeful, confident, enthusiastic? I definitely would, probably you too 😉 What about scared, ashamed, broken, anxious, angry, depressed or hurt? Would you choose any of these emotional states? Most probably not… In fact we normally refer to them as negative. These feelings are uncomfortable, so we try to avoid them as much as possible. We use everything to numb them: drugs, alcohol, work, relationships, sex, sport, internet, hobbies, food, constantly keeping busy, … these are just some examples. What do you use the most? 😉
Of course I am trying to avoid feeling hurt – you might be thinking. – Who wants to feel that way!? Right, I get it. But there is a big problem with this way of thinking. You cannot selectively numb a feeling. If you avoid your negative feelings, you also lose access to the positive ones. Have you ever thought about it?
Moreover, since your feelings are meant to guide you through life, if you consistently numb them you lose your compass and disconnect from yourself.
Emotions are your gateway to the soul. Dive into the core of any emotions, let it overwhelm you and go right into the heart of it, opening and surrendering to it. — Brandon Bays
If you want to live your life fully, you really need to feel all your feelings, also the uncomfortable ones. In other words, you need to be willing to be vulnerable.
I define vulnerability as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. With that definition in mind, let’s think about love. Waking up every day and loving someone who may or may not love us back, whose safety we can’t ensure, who may stay in our lives or may leave without a moment’s notice, who may be loyal to the day they die or betray us tomorrow- that’s vulnerability. Love is uncertain. It’s incredibly risky. And loving someone leaves us emotionally exposed. Yes, it’s scary, and yes, we’re open to being hurt, but can you imagine your life without loving or being loved? — Brené Brown
Are you willing to experience joy and love in your life? Or do you prefer to play it safe and avoid taking the risk of being seen for who you really are?
When we start losing our tolerance for vulnerability, uncertainty, for risk — we move away from the things we need and crave the most like joy and love and belonging, trust, empathy, creativity. — Brené Brown
There is an emotion in particular that we try desperately to escape from. It is so toxic and painful that we might even settle for a life without love and joy to avoid feeling it. Can you guess it? In her research, Dr. Brené Brown discovered that what we want so badly to numb is shame. As human beings we are biologically programmed to connect with other humans, because our survival depends on being part of a community. Shame says: There is something inherently wrong with you! You are not worthy of connecting with other people! You better hide who you really are!
I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection. — Brené Brown
According to Brené Brown, shame needs three things to grow exponentially in our lives: secrecy, silence, and judgment. This means that when we numb it we are only making it stronger.
Is there an antidote to this toxic feeling? Brené Brown found out that when we share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame cannot survive.
Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another. – Alfred Adler
Then, what can we do to be more willing to take the risk to be seen?
First of all, it is important to recognize and accept what we are feeling. This sounds obvious, but it is not, especially if we are used to numb our emotions. We might need a bit of training and a strategy to handle difficult feelings. I am going to talk more about this in a future post. Secondly, it is important to learn how to feel safe while sharing our emotions. In the interaction with others it is fundamental to both set boundaries and build trust. Do you want to learn more about these topics? Have a look at Say Yes to Yourself! Set Boundaries and What Is The Best Gift You Can Give Yourself? Trust!, respectively.
People start to heal the moment they feel heard. — Cheryl Richardson
If you are curious about vulnerability and want to know more about it, watch the wonderful TED talk The Power of Vulnerability given by Brené Brown.
Are you willing to take the risk to be vulnerable?
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