Releasing Resistance

Releasing resistance to your emotions is usually the first topic I discuss with clients, and if it’s not the first, it’s the second. It is the crucial starting point for everyone, because everyone resists their emotions. Yes, everyone. Because of the way our current socialization process occurs, we are taught (directly and indirectly) to deal with intense emotions by “getting over them”, “moving on”, “doing what you have to do anyway”, etc… We have no idea how to work with our emotions, because we are never taught. So, we are afraid of them. But being afraid of your own feelings is to be afraid of yourself, and that will simply never be conducive to a healthy, happy life. Emotions are the core of life, and emotional dysfunction is the root cause of all of our struggles. So, what does it mean to release resistance to your emotions, and what does that look like practically?
The first thing to understand is that emotions are physical sensations. Emotions are feelings in the body. For example, let’s say that you’re working out, and you decide to do some squats. After maybe your 10th squat, you start to feel a hot or burning sensation in your glutes and thighs. That burning sensation is a feeling, just like the sensation of “cold” when you touch ice is a feeling, and that is exactly what emotions are – feelings, or physical sensations. When you’re happy, how do you know that you’re happy? When you’re depressed, how do you know that you’re depressed? You know because of the way that your physical body feels. So, when I say that I want you to release resistance to your emotions, I mean quite literally that I want you to release resistance to your current physical sensations. I want you to get out of your head and into your body.

So, what does this look like practically? It’s very simple – do a basic body scan. You can even try stating out loud the emotion that you feel, and then go into the body scan. So, let’s say that you’re feeling really anxious. You would state out loud, “I feel anxious” or nervous/apprehensive/worried/concerned/fearful, whatever word you resonate with best. And then close your eyes and notice the experience of that emotion in your body. Start by bringing your attention to the top of your head and work your way slowly all the way down to your toes. Notice every sensation along the way. Is there any pressure, tingling, buzzing, or tension? What is your temperature? How is your heart rate and your breathing? Your observations may be very clear, or they may be more abstract. It doesn’t matter. The goal is only to be as present to your body’s feelings as you can possibly be. Now, at this point you may find yourself saying, “Ok, I’m angry right now, and that feels like pressure on my chest, shaking in my shoulders, and a hot rush up my back. Now what?” Now, you sit with those feelings! You literally just sit with those physical sensations. You don’t notice them for five seconds and then immediately distract yourself or go back into your thoughts and try to find a way out of this feeling. You. Just. Sit. Continue to notice. Continue to allow. In fact, ask the sensations to grow larger. Give them more room. Let them exist. You’ll notice your resistance to doing this when you actually try to do it. That’s ok. Resistance is just a feeling too. Notice it and then go into your feelings anyway. If you find that truly cannot sit with your feelings and the resistance is just too strong, ask yourself the question, what would be so bad about sitting with my feelings?

So, why is this deceptively difficult practice so important? Because emotions are more than just your guidance system; emotions literally tell you who you are! They are the language of the soul. Feelings are your boundaries, they are your preferences, they are your fears, they are your truth, they are your reality. They let you know where you end and other people start. They are your sense of self. To suppress or ignore your emotions is to abandon yourself. So, the first step in coming home to yourself is just this – release resistance to how you feel. Simpler said than done, I understand. Sometimes it can literally feel like you’re jumping off a cliff into the void when you try to sit with your feelings, especially your negative ones. But it is the very first step in healing, and the foundation from which all else falls into place.
You may conceptually understand me when I say that the resistance to your feelings is what makes them so intense, but until you experience it for yourself, you honestly won’t believe me. You must do what you have never done before and go in the direction of your pain. Sit with your pain. If you do this, you’ll find that giving yourself the gift of your own unconditional presence is often all you really need. You will find that your emotions were never against you, and not only can you trust them, you can trust yourself.

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