How Emotional Habits Sicken Us & How Emotional Skills Heal Us
At one point our unhealed anxiety, our unfulfilled dreams, and our stress – that we hide from the world – slowly but surely start rotting inside of us. The denied and hidden emotions we keep bottled inside gradually turn into poison that only free self-expression can cure. The problem is that we are too accustomed to play our acceptable roles and we wouldn’t risk to lose face and endanger our relationships through being uncensored and real for once.
Fake cordiality and shallowness suppress our ability to communicate and bond emotionally until we forget how to do it.
The result of that suppression is not only tension. It’s lack of energy, weakened immune system, depression, allergies, pulmonary diseases, sick stomach and whole lot more body disturbances.
When we suppress our genuine emotions and authentic self-expression, we are weakening our bodies’ resistance to illnesses. Very often that suppression is marked by an inability to participate into conflicts, to disagree, to defend our own opinions, and to say No. Probably most detrimental to our health is the inability to refuse because it makes us chronically disregard our own needs to satisfy the needs of someone else.
When we hide and belittle our emotions in order to be acceptable, we invite others to take advantage of us, to disrespect us – just the way we alone disrespect ourselves by choosing to be fake in order to create and sustain artificial harmony in our relationships.
The very need for harmony at any cost is actually one of the reasons why people walk all over us – because we will do anything in our power to avoid constructive friction and even healthy conflict.
Our chronic practice of self-monitoring, self-restraint, friendliness and agreeability slowly creates a volcano of inner tension which is often unconscious. Unexpressed anger turns into fatigue. Hurt pride turns into overweight. Self-hate turns into tooth decay. Unexpressed disagreement turns into chronic coughing, sore throat and pulmonary problems. Envy and jealousy poison the blood. The longer we turn our emotions inwards and leave them without expression, the graver the consequences for our health become.
That is why we need to start practicing self-awareness instead of self-control, and emotional intelligence instead of shallow niceness.
Emotional intelligence will help us learn how to express our feelings and perceive the feelings of others, as we don’t lose boundaries or trespass the boundaries of those we communicate with.
Emotional intelligence requires courage and years of practice. It means that we are able to respectfully express our feelings and defend our rights while at the same time we demonstrate respect for others and have the capacity to listen to them and understand them – without having to agree with them, encourage them, or rescue them. We are just there – being fully present, open and unpretentious. We allow ourselves the freedom to be, as we gently navigate through the moment, by accepting it, by not fighting our feelings, by vocalizing our needs – not as demands, but as statements and questions. We focus on what we feel and try to express it without fear, without ridicule, belittling, or arrogance. And we try to listen without judging and giving advice. We just listen. And then we listen some more.
Emotional intelligence requires autonomy.
Autonomy means that you are convinced of your own worthiness, you know and use your resources, you take care of yourself, and you have clear boundaries in communication. Sounds stern and lonely, but actually lack of autonomy is one of the reasons why we hide our uncomfortable emotions and let others boss us around by swallowing down every hard No we yearn to pronounce.
To be autonomous doesn’t mean to be detached from people. Just the opposite, it means to connect authentically. But not because you are afraid of rejection or loneliness, but because you benefit from the contact, you choose to participate as you know that you can stop participating or express disagreement at any time. Autonomy means that you connect from a place of certainty and stability inside you. Chances are you are going to defend your interests and speak your heart out.
The lack of autonomy means that you connect from a place of inner deficiency and shakiness. Chances are you are going to screen the environment for hints and signs, you are going to hide uncomfortable feelings and you are going to say Yes when you mean No – because you are afraid of rejection, disapproval, conflict or exclusion.
We must remember, though, that autonomy shouldn’t impair our meaningful relationships with others. The remedy to being dependent is not becoming rude, righteous, and heartless. Balance and moderation are key to practicing autonomy. The middle way. That comes to say that in our quest for autonomy, we focus on being real (not fakely nice) and on being empathetic (not fakely sympathetic). The emphasis is on quality, not on quantity. We are self-caring without being self-centered. And we are open without being wide open. Expression doesn’t mean overexpression. And confidence certainly doesn’t equal arrogance.
Another skill that can helps us relieve our inner tension and overcome the fear of reality, is flexibility. It is an indispensable quality for those willing to enjoy life and learn from it regardless of. Flexibility has a lot to do with acceptance and nothing to do with judging, fearing, and rejecting. It means that we do not impulsively react to outer stimuli. We respond – by choosing our reaction. Flexibility is the skill to adjust to stressful situations with creativity.
In flexibility we are not slaves of panic, jealousy and rage. We are not blindedly positive, telling ourselves that everything would be okay anyway. We are objective. And in that objectivity we leave aside the need to know what is next, the need to control and change every discomfort into comfort. We accept not out of courage to fight back but out of wisdom to know how to spend as little energy as possible on useless fights. We expand our tolerance for discomfort and uncertainty. And that is exactly what, in time, allows us to meet life with the surefootedness that we can not simply tackle it.
We can enjoy it.