In my last post I talked about why all behaviours have some purpose or logic behind them. I hopefully convinced you that there may be some reason why we behave in certain ways, even if the behaviours are not what we want. I also told you that often the seemingly irrational behaviours create a pressure valve that, temporarily at least, eases off some emotional hurt you may feel. And the quickest way to recovery is finding more constructive ways of easing off the pressure. Preferably, by changing how we feel permanently. But to do this, you may need to understand emotions a little bit more. Especially negative emotions, where they come from and how to change them.
The common understanding of negative emotions is that they are somehow ‘lodged’ in our bodies, or the subconscious. That once we experience a painful event, the emotions become a permanent part of who we are. Resentment, hurt, fear, guilt, rage, embarrassment, they are all seen as something we will carry within after the painful event happens. And those who have the capacity to let them go are somehow unusual or special, equipped with some super human ability to forgive.
We often believe that because emotions are held in the body, they can be dealt with and released during a massage or during some forms of exercise like yoga. And because it is a common experience for ‘body workers’ to witness such release, it it has been assumed that once experienced in the past – even as long as 50 years earlier – the emotions stay with us until they are somehow massaged out of the body.
And while it is certain that the emotions are experienced in the body. And it may even be possible that it takes some time for the body to release all residual emotional tension. But I do not believe that the body stores old emotions for all that long. Rather, the same emotions keeps arising in the body – over and over and over again – because we harbour the same set of convictions, thoughts, assumptions and judgements.
The emotions arise in the body (and the mind) as a direct response to what goes on in our thinking and mental processing RIGHT NOW. In other words, the resentment you feel now is not because of what happened to you in the past, but because what you think about it, the position you take on it, in this very moment.
Are you still angry at your ex-partner? It is because of the complex web of judgments, assumptions, thoughts and regrets that keep swirling in your mind. If a memory tugs on you with some negative emotions, there are always some thoughts about it that create the emotional response. It is a very direct relationship. Except, to make things harder, most thoughts are so habitual, that they become invisible. We don’t notice them and then believe that emotions just come out of nowhere.
But they don’t. Think about why you may feel resentful. Do you feel you lost something permanently, or that you will never be truly happy again? That you would never be able to do what you’ve always wanted to do, or trust another man, because of what he did? How do you think such thoughts would make you feel?
To make things worse, most of what you think feels like ‘the truth’, the only way to look at what happened. It may not feel good, but it is still his doing. And even though you want to feel free from resentment (we all know how bad it is, don’t we), it doesn’t seem to go away. You want the past to be different. It needs to be different for you to think about it differently. Doesn’t it? How do you think it makes you feel to ask for the impossible? Powerless?
The emotions arise from moment to moment. And they seem to be always the same, because your thoughts don’t change. The way you look at things creates the same response, over and over again. In endless loops. And even if a massage therapists will squeeze the tension out of your body, it always comes back.
But there is good news in this. Because even though you can’t have a different past, you can’t change what he did, you can change how you feel. Is it true that you can’t ever be happy? Is what you lost, really that important? You wanted a happy family rather than to be a divorcee? Why did you want it? Ask yourself without judgement, why did i want it? Is it because it felt happy and good and safe? Maybe it is possible for you to feel happy good and safe even now? Why now? They are just feelings after all. Can you feel happy looking at your children? Or do you fear the divorce ‘damaged’ them too? If so, the guilt will let you know that what you thinking needs some reassessment. Yet another emotions you may need to change…
The emotions are changeable, they can be released, shifted, no matter how serious the past hurt was. And the sense of power and freedom the release brings is exhilarating. But to do so, you may need to look at all the assumptions you make, every day, especially those that feel most obvious and most ‘true’. And yes, you may need someone else to help you, because no matter how reflective and smart you are, what needs to be shifted often hides behind the ‘obvious truth’ banner.
But once you find a way to challenge the thoughts, or you find someone who help you with it, and the emotions shifts, then you can have a massage for a sheer pleasure of being pampered.