Emotional discomfort is normal. However, it is often seen as a problem rather than a healthy part of human life. The pathologizing of emotional discomfort means people often think there is something wrong with them when they have strong emotions, and as a result, they consciously, or unconsciously, look to see how they can change their experience.
This might be done in ways that are perceived as unhealthy or ways people feel are healthy, but ultimately whether a coping mechanism is perceived as good or not it is still a coping mechanism.
Just being with feelings and letting them pass can feel scary. There is often fear that we are going to disappear down a black hole and not resurface. People who struggle with very intense emotional discomfort may even feel they have already been swallowed by the black hole, but what isn’t recognized is the role resistance plays in these experiences, that it increases suffering.
The Journey to Freeing Yourself
Relaxing around our feelings and breathing into our experience allows the energy to move through us and we get to learn from it.
This is so important for relationships because relationships are most enjoyable when the people in the relationship are emotionally resilient. This does not mean that they are always emotionally regulated. Emotional resilience is the ability to bounce back from emotional disturbance and return to equilibrium. What supports emotional resilience is a flexible nervous system that responds appropriately to environmental and internal feedback, but that also settles down after the feedback so it does not experience chronic levels of activation.
What supports a flexible nervous system is not self-help and working on ourselves. That puts more pressure on our nervous system, not less. The pressure of constantly trying to improve ourselves creates low-grade stress on the nervous system, and if it becomes obsessive it creates a high level of stress on the nervous system.
What is most helpful to remember is that there is an intelligence within us that is directional and moves toward balance and harmony. This intelligence drives our physical health so that we experience the best physical health available to us, and this intelligence is also there for our mental and emotional health too.
The Impact of Society
Western society has become less trusting of this innate intelligence within us. It focuses on behavioral doing to try and manage our mental and emotional experience. Unfortunately, this puts more pressure on our nervous system not less, and creates more suffering.
I have this conversation with clients frequently and they express concern that somehow they can’t trust that innate intelligence to regulate them. They worry that if they do they will spin out of control or lapse into apathy.
It is true that sometimes when we let go of our self-management a rebalancing might need to happen. We may all of a sudden realize how exhausted we are when we are no longer running on adrenaline, but that is good to know, and slowing down is needed for healing. If we have been avoiding certain feeling states we might find ourselves feeling them and that might feel uncomfortable because it is out of our comfort zone, but it is healthy nonetherless.
One of my favorite Sydney Banks quotes is: “If the only thing that people learned was not to be afraid of their experience, that alone would change the world.”
I believe this to be true. If we could all get better at simply being with our experience and not trying to manage or control it, we would suffer less. Those around us would suffer less, and society as a whole would suffer less because we wouldn’t be on the constant hunt to try and fill ourselves up from the outside in ways that never work.
When we can be with our experience, no matter how uncomfortable it is, we open ourselves to experiencing who we are. In staying open, we have access to that innate intelligence within us. Instead of running to our intellect and our conditioning to guide us and try and take care of us based on past experiences, we open to the state of love, peace, and wisdom that is within us so it can resource us and guide us. But it requires a surrendering of our mental control and rigidity.
Surrendering to Ourselves
I’m not saying I have this all figured out or that I don’t get caught up in my conditioning. I do. More than I would like, and I find myself resisting anxiety, anger, or other feelings. I am in this with you, but I know firsthand how much better it feels when I let go and surrender to that deeper intelligence within me. This is good for everyone and everything.
I know if everyone did this I would be out of my current job. I’m okay with that. I feel the calling to explore writing novels. So bring it on! Let’s all get comfortable being human and accepting our experience knowing that it is for us. The innate intelligence within us guides our physiology and our mental and emotional experiences.
I am doing my best to stop arguing with it and let it have its way with me. If I can do that anyone can. I definitely lean on the side of someone who likes to buy into the illusion of control. I definitely have a strong intellect that thinks it knows best. I definitely have been resistant to feelings of vulnerability and loss of control. But the aliveness I feel when all of that falls away lets me know there is something much bigger unfolding within me than anything my intellect can figure out.
That intelligence does not need to be understood by me to be surrendered to. I can feel the power of it. I can feel the good of it. I can feel the aliveness in it even if it is a mystery.
Do you want to join me? Are you willing to run the experiment of stopping all attempts to manage your experience and see what happens, see how you feel, see what vitality emerges within you as you give yourself the freedom to be yourself? Are You Ready to Stop Managing Your Experience?
Rohini Ross is co-founder of “The Rewilders.” Listen to her podcast, with her partner Angus Ross, Rewilding Love. They believe too many good relationships fall apart because couples give up thinking their relationship problems can’t be solved. In this season of the Rewilding Love Podcast, Rohini and Angus help a couple on the brink of divorce due to conflict. Angus and Rohini also co-facilitate a private couples’ intensives retreat program that rewilds relationships back to their natural state of love. Rohini is also the author of the ebook Marriage, and she and Angus are co-founders of The 29-Day Rewilding Experience and The Rewilding Community. You can follow Rohini on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To learn more about her work and subscribe to her blog visit: TheRewilders.org.