Regardless of whether or not we have a difficult childhood or challenging life circumstances to heal, there is an emotional pain that we all experience when we come as souls into human bodies.
We arrive as unconditionally loving beings into a conditional world. As children we become conditioned into the emotional patterns within our family of origin. And, no matter how emotionally whole our parents were, we will feel unloved in some aspects of ourselves.
As unbounded babies and open-hearted children we absorb the unspoken emotional energies of those that we live with. We learn quickly, what we are allowed to feel and who we are allowed to be, and not to be.
We conform to our surroundings so we can feel like we belong, yet there is an inherent quotient of emotional pain that we all need to bear for being human in a world that cannot unconditionally love us.
An Emotional Birth
Giving birth to my daughter 21 years ago was the first time I was willing to feel the intensity of pain with full attentive awareness. Prior to that I was living my "conditioned life," being the person I was raised to be. I was dependent on the opinions of others, true to my family patterns, and unknown to myself. I did not anticipate that my choice to have a natural birth would begin an emotional transformation.
It is helpful to understand healing our emotional pain through the metaphor of childbirth. Most of us would not imagine that feeling our emotional pain could lead to the deep joy of self-compassion. Labouring through our most difficult feelings with the same level of attention needed to give birth to a human baby, can invite a new emotional birth.
It is possible to breathe through the labour of our emotional pain as it contracts, intensifies, peaks and releases. To deeply attend to emotional pain until the joy of "baby is born" births us into unconditional love. Natural joy, self-confidence and personal competence arrives on the other side of feeling a suppressed emotion in the body without trying to change it in any way.
The poet Rumi writes:
Every midwife knows
that not until a mother's womb
softens from the pain of labour
will a way unfold
and the infant find that opening to be born.
There is treasure in your heart,
it is heavy with child.
All the awakened ones,
like trusted midwives are saying,
'welcome this pain.'
It opens the dark passage of Grace.
"The art of life is to stay wide open and be vulnerable, yet at the same time to sit with the mystery and the awe and with the unbearable pain — to just be with it all." - Ram Dass
21 years ago, I wanted a conscious, natural birth. Determined to feel every part of the process, twelve hours later, my baby girl was born without drugs or medical intervention. Ironically, right after her birth, I had to be sedated to have emergency surgery to remove the placenta, yet when I awoke from surgery, I knew I had gone through an initiation.
After giving birth without drugs, I felt distinctly stronger and more confident than I ever had been in my life. Electric with energy, I stayed up all night staring at my newborn, in awe of my own power. After twelve hours of sustained presence to intense pain, I was more confident than I was before.
The more I stayed present to my pain as it intensified during labour, the more I was able to tap into the truth that there is a larger benevolent force supporting me in my pain. During labour, I glimpsed that my strength could be unending if I could remain in contact with this benevolence.
The gift of my birthing experience as a turning point in my life. Labouring through intensely jagged pain for 12 hours to give birth my daughter, crossed me over a threshold into understanding my spiritual strength for the first time and my authentic self expression began to birth itself into my life.
After my daughter was born, I found my courage. I stood up and spoke out about my unhealthy relationships, and I changed my life to better reflect my newfound inner power. After tasting my own willingness to feel the physical pain of giving birth, I knew I was strong enough to live my life in alignment with who I really was.
Leaving Old Conditioning Behind
We can trust that the larger forces of life are collaborating with our emotional healing. Life is divinely designed to trigger our emotional pain. As we labor to birth our authentic truth into each moment, our loving presence becomes stronger than our limited conditioning. The feelings that used to debilitate us are within our power to embrace.
When emotional pain is active, we can focus our energy, attention, prayers and questions on healing it. We can ask the Larger Life to give us clues, guidance and support about how to heal and release our discomfort. When we do, a healing mudra, mantra or blessing might spontaneously come into our mind. Sometimes we may need to walk off our uncomfortable emotions. Other times we may need to sit with discomfort for a time, inviting our pain to release into a larger field of love and forgiveness.
Our emotional body is formed from birth to age seven. As children we unquestionably soak up the emotional imbalances of the people in our midst, and left unexamined, we can take on another's unhealed emotional pain as if it were our own.
Painful emotions in our current life offer up the opportunity to clear out energy blockages from the past. As spiritual teacher Michael Brown explains, "All our fear, anger and grief of today are the masked experiences of our own frightened child self calling us for help."
Whatever was not accepted in the past needs loving attention to begin to express spontaneously again. If we do not take the time to clear old energies, we accumulate unprocessed emotional debris. As we mature, we can forget that we are unconditionally loveable as the life that we attract reinforces and reminds us of our original wounds.
Laden with accumulations, we can forget that we are bright with potential. Most of of us are unwilling to admit how much we emotionally struggle. We are afraid to share with others that we feel emotionally overwhelmed. Most of us continue to react to difficult feelings through the eyes of a child, and continue to re-bury our emotions in fear of rejection and judgment.
Facing Pain vs. Avoiding Pain
In our emotionally repressed society we habitually stuff down uncomfortable emotions down whenever they rise up to moved through, and in this way, we stay emotionally young, lacking in self-confidence and unsure if we can meet the challenges of life. We force what feels unacceptable into deep storage until life feels flat, predictable and unloving.
At key points in our life, we will feel called to revisit and integrate everything we could not emotionally handle from our past, and the choice is ours. If we refuse to address the non-integrated energies from the past when they arise, we will continue to dissociate away from loving ourselves.
The Willingness to Feel Everything
"Mastering the ability of lavishing ourselves with unconditional love is one of the greatest accomplishments we can achieve in this life."
At a certain point in our maturity, the story of what has happened in our past can be let go of, and the emotional cleansing work can begin in earnest. The opening of the heart to self-compassion and the re-parenting through compassionate presence can begin.
As everything rejected within arises for love, the question always arises, "Why would I want to feel all of these terrible feelings?" The answer is: when we allow ourselves to accept every part of ourselves, we discover a new poise hidden below our fear.
When we do not blame the story of our life for triggering our emotional discomfort, we simply allow ourselves to witness the unexplainable aching neediness, the wrenching grief, the annihilating fear, the mortifying shame, and the intense anger.
We labour through our most difficult emotions without sedation - bare and vulnerable, open and emotionally naked as in natural childbirth, we arrive transformed - glowing and triumphant on the other side.
Once each layer of suppressed pain is unraveled, accepted and integrated, it is gone forever as long as we do not reenergize it with negative stories.
Spiritual teacher Chuck Spezzano writes:
"If we witness our suffering, at some point, it begins to unfold, sensation by sensation, and untangle itself. With emotional pain, if we freely give ourselves to pay attention to it, it begins to show us the issue surrounding and driving it."
"The root of the emotional charge is from the past. When we witness our suffering and don't turn away from it, it eventually takes us back to the roots where it began, and if we choose to watch it closely, even the roots will untangle."
When we tend to our negative feelings and lavish them with love, we can evolve into a vibrancy that feels sensual and open at any age. With openness to all of our feelings, we become less afraid of expressing our truth.
With such self-honouring, it no longer matters what people think of us or how much they love us. We feel radiant on the inside. When we love ourselves unconditionally, we have earned our own joy. We feel self-compassion. We make ourselves whole.
This article is dedicated to my beautiful, funny and wise daughter Hadley Sage. xo