We have all heard the adage of 'What you resist, persists', but few of us apply it to the parts of us that we want to change. Many a self help book tells us that we shouldn't be angry, or scared, or sad, and that positive thinking and repeating mantras will change how we feel. If this was true so many people would be happy by now! The truth is that the more we turn away from that which we don't like, the more it will follow and haunt us.
All of us have emotional parts of us that we perceive as ugly and unwanted. Even as little children we learned very early on that anger isn't welcome, or that tears are unwanted. We were told to go to our room, or that if you didn't stop crying you would get something to cry about. Even being scared was ridiculed, "Don't be silly, theres nothing there to be scared of". Our tender souls learned that to be accepted by our families we had to be happy, or at the very least, calm and quiet. This means that we needed to shut down and curb all our other feelings, which amounts to at least three quarters of our true self being stifled and unwanted. We get good at covering up our feelings, putting on a happy face or a poker face, just to keep other people happy and we can stay connected and accepted.
Roll on our adult lives, we still try to close off our 'ugly' parts only to find that they keep re-emerging, often times stronger than the time before. They can become uncontrolled or un-manageable. We are told that we should be happy, that our life is good, yet still we have uncontrollable urges. The man holding back his anger explodes and lashes out, the lady trying hard not to show her fears has a completely debilitating anxiety attack, the young man trying hard not show his sadness gets sucked into a bottomless pit of depression.
What would it be like for you to understand that feelings are just information, upon which action must be taken? If, as children, we learned what each of the feeling domains were trying to tell us, as well as the strategies for expressing our feelings in a healthy manner, our lives would be so much more simple. Anger is to protect us and those we love, Fear is to keep us alive and safe, Sadness is losing something we love.
Instead of turning away from the anger, turn towards it and find out what action it is requesting before you lash out? Is saying "no" difficult so that people are pushing you into things you don't really want to do?
Instead of turning away from sadness, turn towards it and examine why you feel sad and what loss you have experienced or what needs changing in your life?
Instead of pushing your fear away, ask why are you so afraid, is it a perceived or real danger, do you need to find safety?
Of course, this is just a simplified look at what the truth could be, but so many issues can be resolved by turning towards them instead of away. Often these issues are so deep-seated and ingrained you may have forgotten when they started or why you are feeling like you are. It can be very confronting to bring them to the light to examine them. The feeling may be residual from a time so long ago you have forgotten the reason, but it will still be there, trapped within you. You may require a good therapists to help support you to explore the underlying cause or roots of these feelings, as well as to devise strategies to deal with them.
Louise Atkinson is a registered counsellor who also offers equine assisted counselling sessions, where horses assist the client to become more aware of their thoughts, feelings, patterns and habits. She is located near Perth in Western Australia.
Equine Assisted Psychotherapist.