Emotional Health: A Recipe of Awareness and Courage
Many people when life hits them hard, they hardly get up again.
Others just carry heavy emotional baggage with them wherever they go.
The baggage of childhood scares, loved ones walking away, school friends’ judgments, a boss’s injustice and the list goes on.
However, few make it to the other end of development and emotional maturity.
Yet, if we all share something in common, we share our humane experience.
We are all partners of the same humane journey with its ups and downs, trials and let go.
We all laugh and cry, hope and despair, aspire and depress, get hurt and heal.
We are all warriors fighting emotional battles.
Yet, the degree with which each survives his/her battle varies from one hero to the other.
Some people make it with denial, others make it with coping, while, few make it to enlightenment.
Our reaction towards our emotional experiences is a defining factor of who we become.
The Best Worst Thing
Ever heard the expression “It was the best worst thing that ever happened to me”?
Emotional growth sometimes comes disguised in traumas or tough challenges, yet, when it unveils, it could carry with it the most precious of gifts.
Our experiences are meant to make us grow, nevertheless, our reactions to these experiences also play an important role in its manifestation.
Yes, rejections taste bitter, but emotional insecurities are even worse.
How things happen outside do not determine what happens inside us.
It is us who is accountable for that impact.
Obstacles to Emotional Health
On the other end of growth lays awareness.
Awareness is a key and the first step towards growth.
When our challenges hit our awareness they automatically uncover.
Thus, it becomes easier for our minds and souls to grasp its blessing rather than dwell on the curse.
Yet, in order for us to become aware, we need to understand a few things about ourselves.
Our brains are designed to protect us.
They always work for our best interest.
Even, when sometimes they do so in a way that hurt us, their intention is always pure.
One of our mind’s means to protect us is a defense mechanism.
Defense mechanism is simply our twisted ways to keep ourselves safe from a heavy emotional burden.
Whether it is the death of loved ones, a car accident, or a broken heart, whatever rings a bell of danger fires our defense mechanisms.
Yet, these defense mechanisms happen on the very unconscious level, so, it requires a great deal of awareness to realize them.
Sometimes, all our misery and misfortune lay in us being captive to one of these defenses.
That is why it is very important to understand how they work.
Nothing is lighter and easier than pretending that the unpleasant things never happened.
Denial is our brain’s objection to the unfolding of events.
Because it finds difficulty accepting what happened, our brain pretends it never did.
The first signs of denial start with early childhood as it’s a very primitive defense mechanism.
The downside, however, is not knowing that you are in denial and believing your false pretended reality.
For example, many of substance addicts deny their addiction, as well as many of those who are badly hurt and silently suffering deny their need for help.
It is very difficult to help someone who cannot see a need for help.
Thus, it is very important to realize whether or not you are in denial about some of your emotional baggage.
Regression by definition is the return to a less developed state.
It is our mind’s unconscious objection to challenges.
Like when a child wets his bed because he is unhappy with his parents, or an adult who stays in bed unable to face the challenging demanding world.
It is our mind’s way of burying down unwanted feelings of anxiety, fearful ideas, provoking thoughts, and unwanted memories.
It is a process through which our mind rules out undesired pain from our conscious.
Despite that, suppression is sometimes a conscious decision.
We sometimes decide to deal with what life throws at us by suppressing how it makes us feel to move on.
Unfortunately, suppression is like blowing up a bubble until it explodes, only while you were unwatchful of the blowing up.
When we consciously suppress our emotions, we move them away from our awareness without dealing with them.
So, these emotions keep building up until they explode without a prior warning.
This explosion could be a mental or physical breakdown.
In which cases, we are the losers.
Although it is a very common practice, yet, it is very hard to detect.
Projection is when someone attributes his/her undesired attributes to someone else so that the problem is someone else’s not theirs, to begin with.
Like when someone gets pissed off when another person doesn’t listen, when in fact it’s them who don’t listen.
Or when someone hates it when other people are controlling, in fact, what they actually hate is their own controlling behavior.
In short, it is getting angry with others because of the things we dislike about ourselves.
Projection declares our minds free of charge, that is why it is adopted by most of us.
It could take years, however, to discover your projection pattern and which attributes do we project, so keep a watchful eye.
When we suffer badly, our minds tend to dissociate us from this pain.
It could hide the memory, or develop a disconnected view of oneself in respect to the world and life events.
In its extreme forms, people could develop multiple selves.
Dissociation takes us away from the dangerous world that hurt us and makes us live in our own bubble.
6- Acting Out
When a child throws a tantrum, he is acting out.
Because instead of clearly expressing their feelings, they revert to extreme behavior to express how they feel.
Shouting, and anger is forms of acting out.
Because instead of sorting out the issue we revert to extreme behavior.
Acting out is our brain’s reaction to strong emotions through extreme behavior.
7- Reaction Formation
It is when someone does the opposite reaction to how they feel.
Crazy, but we do it all the time.
Like when a woman is abused by her partner, yet treats him well.
Like when someone hurt us and instead of expressing our pain, we act kindly with them.
The examples are in every corner.
Our minds tend to invert how we feel to sort out the problem so that we feel that it is ok.
Only this ok is a false so not ok.
When we start understanding where our behavior comes from, we would be more aware of how to deal with the underlying cause.
The Path to Emotional Health
Most of us invest in physical well-being because its consequences are easily spotted and its means are known to everyone.
However, when it comes to emotional well-being, we are hardly as good.
The reason for this goes back to our childhood and the way we were raised.
Most of us did not learn how to give and receive love properly.
For many of us, this is one of the most inconvenient spaces.
Yet, in order to emotionally heal, we need to emotionally deal.
To be able to work on our emotional health, we need to learn to open up and feel comfortable around our emotions.
Nevertheless, in opening up lays our greatest fears, biggest rejections, and a temptation to give up.
Yet, the only way out is through.
It is through our pain that we can grow the most, only if we learn how.
Here are some tips on how to.
1- Embrace Your Vulnerability
Known by many, but practiced by few, embracing vulnerability is as liberating as the effort you put in it.
Chasing after perfection is chasing after a mirage, and you are the only one who believes in it.
As everyone else can see your vulnerabilities, only you need to look.
When we stop feeling bad about the fact that we are incomplete and open up to our insecurities and shortcoming, they no longer hurt us as before.
Acknowledging your weakness takes courage.
Don’t waste a lot of your emotional health on covering who you are or pretending to be invincible when everyone else knows you are not!
2- Accept it, Don’t Reject it
In every emotional trauma lays wisdom.
However, it only shows to those who have the courage to get out of their victim mentality and change perspectives.
Life does not enjoy throwing rocks at people, still, when it does its life’s way of helping you to grow taller.
Don’t whine that rocks are thrown at you, just try and figure out why and what should you do instead.
3- Know Your Self-Worth
Your self-worth is not subject to how others value or devalue you.
It is only a subject of your being.
You are who you are and no one should make you feel bad about it.
Everyone has his gems, he just needs to stop asking people to validate them.
Your self-worth comes from your ability to stand up again after being knocked down, from having the perspective to see the good in every challenge, from your little fighter soul, or from your caring nature.
It should never come from how others see your pursuit.
If they have your shoes, then they can judge your journey.
4- Empower Yourself
Improvement is a lifelong process.
As long as we are breathing we could be a better version of ourselves.
Don’t ever think that you are done and you can’t go any further.
It is not true, because you can, you did it before and you can always do it now.
Remember that this challenge brought more awareness in your life and hence gave you a new opportunity to develop.
5- The Only Way Out is Through
Take that as a slogan for life.
Whatever challenges you have in your way, think of it as an ocean wave.
If you try to resist it, it would probably knock you down and drown you.
However, if you learn to ride it, it will easily take you to the other end.
The other end of development, awareness, strength, and maturity.
So, instead of cursing your trauma, ride it to the other end.
Our emotional health is our own responsibility.
We should not stay reactive and wait for things to change, we need to take a leap forward.
Yet, first, we need to be aware of what is happening inside it, understand it, embrace it and feel ok about it so that we can change it.
It is not the storm that hurts, it is resisting it that does.