The Only Way Out Is Through: The Benefits Of Navigating Resistance.
“Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.” ~ Mark Twain
When I moved across the country to live with my partner last spring, the last thing I expected was to become so disoriented. The move affected me physically — I felt exhausted, I had sinus pressure, I developed canker sores in my mouth, and my body ached. I didn’t feel that capable or sexy.
I needed to rest a lot, and I intuitively knew that if I gave my body what she needed, it would pass, and it eventually did. I started feeling vibrant and alive again about 7-10 days in. The downtime messed with my mind a little though. I had opinions on how I thought it would be, what I wanted to do when I got there, and there were voices of “What is wrong with me?” circling through my mind.
In the past, when I’ve felt down, my first inclination has always been to feel better… quickly. Messages come in from every direction to be happy, feel good, be grateful. If we don’t, there’s often a diagnosis, medication, or judgments of laziness or apathy.
When we’re under the weather, people give us tissues, make us soup, and hope we feel better. Yes, the joy is exhilarating and a wonderful place to be, but joy isn’t the only game in town. Feeling the downs of life is a natural state, and paradoxically, it’s the pathway to sustained joy. It can also be a rich and fulfilling human experience.
I used to block myself from dropping all the way in to my emotions, and not only did I cut off the truth of who I am, I impeded access to my power, stunted my emotional growth, and hindered intimacy with others. There are rich opportunities for connection in the emotional downs of life.
For example, when I felt heartbroken a few years ago, I descended to feel the dark depths of loss — not only of a relationship ending, but it felt like the bottom had fallen out from my life. I let myself slide all the way down the pit of sadness, and I was shocked at the depth of uncharted hurt and pain there was to feel. I lay in the bath day after day and cried.
Over time, I started enjoying this sadness. It sounds crazy, but I became amused at my own human depths — I had not ever indulged in an emotion like this before. The baths became my muse — a swirling feminine mixture of water and tears. While soaking, I poured my heart out on the phone to trusted friends.
In between my teary baths, I’d do all the normal mom things — go to work, hang out with my kids, and go grocery shopping. This went on for a few weeks, and one day I just didn’t want a bath. I wanted to garden instead, and the next day I wanted to go on a walk. So I followed that by giving myself the all-out experience of sadness, I emptied all that built up heaviness from my body and I felt complete.
What followed was one of the biggest awakenings of creativity, power and aliveness that fueled me for years.
I have often avoided going deep into negative emotions because a lot of self-judgment came up. I fear I am lazy, I fear I am crazy, I fear I will get stuck there, I fear something is wrong with me, I fear I am a negative person, I fear I will cause damage to myself or others, I fear I will die. When this self-sabotaging cycle gets loud, it’s tempting to reach for happy or grateful.
If I take this spiritual bypass too soon, it restricts my growth by keeping the hurt and pain stuck inside my being.
I was born to experience all there is to feel in my body. The best stories of my life come from the times I allowed myself to go all the way into an experience and get really messy. When I think back on the countless teary baths I experienced that year, I giggle at the hyperbole of my human experience. Why would I deny myself the full depth and breadth of who I am as a human being?
We are deeply feeling creatures, and there’s a lot of pent-up feelings locked up in our bodies. Those feelings weigh us down and hinder us from having the freedom we desire. By letting our full feelings out, we are releasing lifetimes of stored-up hurt, resentment, jealousy, anger and fear. Feeling it all is like taking a giant poop — it’s lighter on the other side.
Being truly alive is to feel it all, let it all out, and when I do, my personal power is increased and I have access to deeper places of my soul. That power fuels my creativity, relationships and desires.
Coming out of it
My body knows when to move on. It’s simple, but has taken me years of practice to learn to listen to my body’s wisdom. In my teary-bath phase, I craved baths every day, until one day I didn’t. And when I tuned into my body, I followed her wisdom and gardened instead. That is my intuition speaking to me. It asks me to slow down and be conscious of what I am doing and be willing to make a shift.
When I hear the call of completion, I get up, wipe off the tears, drain the bathtub, and boom — I am a new woman. Brighter, lighter and more free.
When I am deep in an emotional state, there’s inevitably a moment when I wonder if I’ll get stuck in the depths of it. In that spot of fearful wondering, I breathe, and remind myself to trust my process. The reality is that I never get stuck there. I have let myself fall deeply into rage, sadness and exhaustion enough times that I now trust myself to get out.
When I moved across the country, it took me about a week of solid slowness to finally feel more alive. It’s a practice that takes time to learn to navigate. Don’t worry, life will throw you all kinds of situations to practice with. Here’s some basic rules to follow for feeling the fullness of your emotions.
Three Tips to Going All the Way into Your Emotions
1. Ask yourself what you need.
What emotion do you feel? What does your body want to do? Do you want to cry and moan? Do you feel like yelling, pounding pillows, or stomp-dancing? Or perhaps lie in bed without having to do anything at all? Listen to your intuition to feel what your body wants. Can you give it to yourself?
Perhaps take an hour for yourself, or clear your schedule for the day, so you can truly indulge in yourself, your needs, what your soul is asking for. This is a perfect time to ask for help. You are worth it. Remember during this time to take exquisite care of yourself. Make sure you have proper food, drink lots of water, and take salt baths to detox.
Feeling our emotions fully doesn’t equate to suffering, it is actually a time to be more loving and kind to yourself.
2. Get a spelunker.
A spelunker is a cave-explorer, and in this case, the cave is the depth of your emotions. Enlist a trusted friend, a spelunker, who can serve as your witness and guide.
Share what you’re feeling, what you are doing, and ask her to check in with you during your process. Send her selfies and share how you are feeling before, during and after your emotional experiences. Allow her to give you guidance should you need it. Remember, she is there to send you rope should you need help getting out of the cave.
3. Trust your body’s wisdom.
Let yourself feel it all. You will come out of it. Trust that. There will be moments of questioning and wondering if you will get stuck there, and I will tell you I have never gotten stuck there. I always pop out on the other side, even when it feels hopeless or I am in the thick of an intense emotional moment. Stay conscious, connect with your spelunker, and let yourself cry, stomp your feet, or sleep.
Your body is wise, and your intuition will lead you home to yourself. And you will be lighter and brighter as a result.
When I deny the downs of my emotions, I cut off access to my full raw power as a woman — it’s like there’s a dullness to my being.
Going all-in offers me the opportunity to drop off old beliefs and patterns, and then boom — I feel lighter, more joyful, and have a renewed sense of power and vitality coursing through me. My light shines bright because I feel all 88 keys of my emotional piano. This inner light fuels my desires and my relationships. It’s the source of my power and creation.
Disclaimer: If you experience sustained sadness, anger or depression, please seek the advice of a medical professional. The above suggestions are my personal experiences, and it’s important to note that there may be other medical-related causes to our emotions.
Brenda Fredericks is a teacher and Transformational Coach for moms. She guides women to live more authentically, and have better sex and more freedom. She is permission for mothers to be a fully expressed woman and know that anything is possible. She founded the Mother Daughter Closeness Project with her daughter, and works with women to heal their mother-daughter relationships. She’s a goddess, a mother of two, a former middle school teacher of 22 years, and has been on a 10-year journey of claiming her power as a woman and mother. Learn more and connect with her via her website.