As a psychotherapist, I get happy when my clients come see me in the midst of emotional discomfort. Now, I know what you must be thinking, so please let me explain. No, I’m not a sadist; I don’t take pleasure in other people’s pain. But I do know an opportunity for healing when I see one.
You see, when it comes to emotional pain, most of the efforts we make to stop feeling it end up having the opposite affect. The more we try to numb or escape our emotions, the more we end up struggling. Some of us numb with drugs and alcohol, others with work. Some of us dive into relationships to escape unpleasant feelings, others dive into chocolate cake and ice cream.
While some of these approaches are more dangerous than others, they all have the same underlying motivation: to avoid, suppress, distort, or deny whatever’s going on inside. And even if these things seem to work a little at first, the relief doesn’t last. It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a deep wound—some of the surface gets covered, but the real affliction remains untreated.
Here’s the truth we can’t escape: When it comes to the emotional stuff, we’ve got to feel it to heal it. This might seem like bad news—after all, who wants to make direct contact with something that feels so awful? But you need to know that it isn’t bad at all.
Ever heard the expression “what you resist persists”? Well, it applies perfectly here. Whenever we try not to feel what we’re feeling, we end up getting even more tangled up in it. We add an extra layer of suffering to something that’s already agonizing. So, when we allow ourselves to go toward the emotions and let ourselves feel, we enter the space of real healing.
Here’s a bit of great news for you: meditation is one of the best practices for getting in touch with our emotions and setting the healing process in motion. Trust me, when my clients use meditation to support their work in therapy, they get some remarkable results.
When we sit still in meditation, we get a chance to connect with what we’re feeling. And if we let ourselves stay with the feeling, we open a doorway that leads straight to true healing. With each breath, we move closer to the emotions we work so hard to move away from; with each moment of centered silence, we get stronger.
If we want to experience true healing, we have to go straight to the source. We have to be willing to go inward and visit the places we don’t want to go. We have to learn how to keep company with all of our emotions—not just the ones we like to feel. We have to make a practice of tuning into our internal experience and asking ourselves the difficult question: What am I trying to keep myself from feeling?
When you feel bad, it’s natural to want to feel better; but once you start practicing meditation and truly connecting inward, you won’t want to settle for surface solutions. You’ll know that relief lives in the space between each breath, and you’ll know that you’re capable of going there. Meditation is that powerful—and so are you!
Author: Dr. Denise Fournier, LMHC is a mindfulness-based psychotherapist whose private practice, Evergreen Therapy, is located just outside the Miami Design District. Visit Dr. Denise at www.evergreen-therapy.com to learn more about her work.
Photo Credits: Simon Rae – Unsplash.com/@simonrae