Staying with it when feelings get difficult

by Fe Robinson

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We all prefer to feel good. To experience happiness, comfort, calmness and other pleasant emotions. It is a natural human desire to seek what feels good, and to draw away from what feels unpleasant.

In itself, this is not a problem. It does, however cause difficulty when that preference becomes an insistence, or a need.  Perhaps you have a difficult emotion that just seems too much to face, and so you avoid it.  Perhaps you have been conditioned to think there are certain emotions that are not OK, that you need to suppress at all costs.  Perhaps there are emotions that you feel you can't bear when they come up in others, and so you move away from situations that might expose you to them.

When you try to avoid feeling things - for example sadness, grief, anger, shame, fear - then you cut ourselves off from part of what it is to be human. Doing this, we deny a part of ourselves, and that means that we can not process and let go of experiences and what we feel about them. It's as if they then get stuck in our bodies and minds, and reduce our capacity to live fully in the moment we are in, because part of our attention is taken up with what has past. Our resilience is lessened because in part our energy is stuck and not flowing.

So what can be done? First of all, it's important to get a sense of why you might want to change, what is the benefit of opening up to your full experience? It can be a challenging and uncomfortable experience to deepen your emotional life, and so having a strong set of reasons for going forwards can be helpful, sustaining you through the process.

Then, find someone who can honour and enable you as you begin to explore your experience. Finding the right fit for you is important, knowing how your psychotherapist will support you in building your resourcefulness and discovering new ways to experience yourself, and how that fits with your view of the world.

Then, building a strong, trusting rapport is crucial. You need to trust that you are safe within the therapeutic relationship, that you can go into, and express, whatever you need to, and that you will be metaphorically held, and met in the pain of that experience.

Once you feel safe and ready, then you can begin to approach what it is that you currently avoid, yet sense needs loving attention. To approach it, even welcome it, and let it reveal it's gifts and lessons.  Going at your pace, supported and encouraged by the accepting attention of your psychotherapist, you can find your own insights and healing.

What might come out of this? The specifics for each of us are different, but the theme I notice is an ability to bear and to be with big, difficult feelings, without being overwhelmed. To be able to stand firm in the fire of intense experiences, and not lose your centre. To be able to turn towards not shrink away from the parts of yourself that you do not like so much. In the end, to acknowledge and accept all of your experience, and to have the freedom to choose what you do with it.

For support in finding comfort even in the darkest places, get in touch.

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