"Can someone please get him a sucker?! This boy didn’t cry. You’re so strong, champ.”
“Attaboy" (insert a high-five and a tousling of hair), said by a proud parent as they watch their young son get his immunization shot without crying.
The messages are subtle and innocently placed but there they are.
Part of the human experience includes making meaning out of things. Our brain isn’t satisfied and won’t quiet down until a full story has been scripted. We make meaning out of others comments or reactions to us and the world around us.
From a very young age, through subtleties, we learn how to deal with our emotions. We tell ourselves that some emotions are good while others are bad. How many times have I heard a man say that expressing tender emotion like sadness or pain feels weak?
In those I talk with, extremely rare is the household where sitting with and comfortably talking about uncomfortable feels without judgment or some form of discipline was a household norm.
Most of us simply weren’t raised to sit with, talk about and be comfortable with feeling the full spectrum of our emotions. It’s a muscle we don’t even know exists, let alone know how to use.
So as little people we made mental notes about us and our feelings. And we started expressing them outwardly less and less and less.
Those mental notes over time become visceral. And they create lenses we use to go through life based on our household experiences and the stories we made up about what those experiences meant about us as a person. So as adults we look through life using these decades old lenses. And most of us never take a moment to revisit those old stories, or even be curious about whether or not these stories are actually true.
We continue going through life with these false stories, this lens created by a little person who lacked perspective, insight and life experience that comes with being grown up. So as adults it doesn’t feel like we’re going through life with a lens. It simply feels like our fate or truth.
This can create emotional pain. A lot of it.
One of the first physical symptoms of stuffed down, swept under the rug emotion is anxiety and depression.
Swept under the rug, stuffed down emotion leads to illness. It lowers our immune function which in turn increases inflammation in the body. A chronic low grade inflammatory response can manifest itself in a variety of ways (depending on our genetic makeup and environmental exposures) including our brain and nervous system. This will affect our mood and our ability to manage our emotions.
So what do we do?
We have to unlearn not feeling or stuffing down feelings so we can begin to learn how to feel. Without it being overwhelming or like we’ll never be able to come out from it if we allow ourselves to feel.
Being able to sit with any uncomfortableness of your feelings takes practice. It’s like a muscle that is super weak. We have to practice it to get comfortable with it.
What Does the Lens Look Like?
Because it’s so visceral it doesn’t feel like you're going through life with a lens, it simply feels like truth. It feels like your fate. So we often don’t even notice that it’s an old script.
In the face of disappointment your lens will often show up very obviously. It’ll be the first thing that pops into your mind. "People are always….." "I can never……” “Life is always…..” It’ll most likely sound something like that.
There’s nothing wrong with these scripts or lenses. We all have them. The beauty lies in starting to notice them, get curious about them and recognize that quite possibly they aren’t true.
You can start to put that lens down and pick up a new one. One that's more true and allows you to see yourself in a new light. There’s beauty in this new light. Of this I’m absolutely sure.
In my next blog post I’ll talk about how sitting with emotion and learning to move through it is so much healthier for you, mentally and physically, than trying to ignore it.
To getting curious about you,