During the course of our lives, we each face many obstacles and traumas, sometimes beginning at a very young age. These events leave behind residue. The residue builds up over time, creating our own personal suit of armor. Our joints aren’t as fluid, our thoughts aren’t as pure, our reactions, our decisions, our emotions become less authentic and more jaded. In essence, we become a version of our self but not our real, authentic self.
At our core, each of us is pure love. You can see this in babies and toddlers most easily, although even some of those sweet souls have already experienced trauma and obstacles that have changed their expression of their authentic self. Many believe that this change is “just part of life.” That we are adjusting to the harshness of living. I believe what we are doing is trying to protect ourselves from pain. Avoiding pain seems like the sensible thing to do. You don’t want to make the same mistake twice, especially a mistake that leads to heartache and pain. Unfortunately, we can’t protect ourselves from only one emotion. If we are protecting ourselves from pain, we are also limiting happiness, excitement, and love.
In each life, there comes a moment (or two or three) when we are presented with an opportunity to begin to peel back the layers of residue and reveal our true nature. I wish more of us would take this opportunity and begin to unveil the powerful, loving, and joyful individuals that we really are underneath our armor. While it is true that our journey to authenticity requires courage and isn’t always an easy journey, choosing to stay the same and live a life of self-imposed limits is agreeing to be so much less than you really are.
Here are some ways to begin to challenge those automatic, conditioned reactions and limiting beliefs in order to transform and eliminate them on a journey of self-recovery.
Seek like-minded community
Begin changing your daily input. Look for people in your community of friends and acquaintances that seem to be examining their path. Reach out to these people. Think about letting go of friendships that leave you feeling drained or bad about yourself or the world.
Practice changing your mood/outlook
Make an effort to improve your mood when you notice you are feeling down, angry, lonely etc. Read books that uplift you. Find movies make you laugh and music that makes you want to dance. Explore your creativity–paint pottery, write a poem, draw a picture–you don’t have to be good just unleash your skills. Take walks in nature or start an exercise program. Nature and exercise are the cheapest ways to improve your mood.
You can't change what is not in your awareness.
Begin a mindfulness practice, start to notice your interactions of daily life, job, friendships, etc. Where do you feel yourself compromise in a way that doesn’t serve you? What does this look like, feel like? A general feeling is dis-ease, anxiety, anger, resentment? Are you comfort eating, numbing with television or alcohol? When you notice a numbing behavior ask yourself what prompted it? Record in a notebook or journal each event from the day where you were left feeling violated or unfairly compromised. At the end of the week, see if you can draw any conclusions or see any themes playing out, make a note for yourself.
Imagine how you want to show up
Play with different visualization techniques that allow you to replay the scenarios you recorded in your mindfulness practice while trying on different traits and skills. For instance, if speaking up for yourself is painfully uncomfortable for you, pretend it isn’t. This is only an exercise in your mind. Let the scenario play out in your mind with your best self taking over the conversation. In order to make changes, it is helpful to have a direction you are aiming towards. Use visualizations to try on different emotions and behaviors in order to find the ones that feel good to you.
Learn to allow your feelings to be expressed
Expressing our feelings in healthy ways takes practice and conscious effort. We have been programmed from a young age to avoid pain and hide what we are feeling, even from ourselves. Sitting with our fear and just letting it come up is difficult to do yet cathartic for the body and soul. It can be done by having a good long cry, meditation, journaling, exercise/physical exertion or even role-playing, just to name a few of the many techniques available. For most of us inexperienced at feeling our emotions, this will be scary and uncomfortable. My best advice is to trust the process. These feelings of grief and fear won’t last forever and feeling them won’t harm us. In fact, studies are now showing that learning to express our feelings is good for our health, as holding our feelings in can lead to many different ailments from cancer to heart disease.
Releasing fears, phobias, and limiting beliefs
There are many energy medicine techniques that can transform and eliminate fears, phobias, and limiting beliefs. Emotional Freedom Technique or Tapping is one very popular method. All energy medicine methods work on the premise of releasing stuck energy from our energy body. Our energy bodies are made up of meridians and chakras. Traumatic experiences can get trapped in these meridians and chakras and can create patterns of behavior. Then when we are triggered by an event, for instance, a loud noise, a criticism, a certain relationship dynamic, we play our tape (pattern of behavior) automatically without rational thought. When the tape was created it may have been quite proper and helpful but as we grow and change the behavior may no longer serve you. Changing an automatic behavior requires moving that energy out of the body. You can research tapping on YouTube, there are many instructional videos. If you would like assistance in this process I recommend working with an energy medicine practitioner like myself.
For each of us willing to do the work, releasing the energy of our emotions and taking off our armor can be life-changing. Our true nature is always love. Learning to live from the place of love instead of fear takes our courage and effort. This is emotional freedom, or as researcher and author Brené Brown calls it Whole Hearted Living, knowing that whatever we are feeling is temporary and we have the ability to transform hate and fear into love and peace. When we are able to act in integrity with our beliefs, then we are expressing our authentic self. And from our authentic self, we can know true peace in both our body and mind no matter our circumstances.