What happens with unacknowledged hurt, anger, and sadness? It comes out sideways. It comes out when we're tired, or overwhelmed, or caught off guard.
Have you ever done or said something and then instantly regretted it? Sure. We all have.
Unacknowledged and unprocessed emotional energy doesn't go away, and it doesn't dissipate. It gets buried, driven deeper into the nervous system, and like a virus on a computer, it makes us do unexpected things.
It affects our relationships. It affects our self-esteem. It affects our choices. It affects the very trajectory of our lives.
Because our lives are the sum total of our choices.
So how, then, do we choose and live consciously, rather than reactively?
There are two critical steps involved:
1. EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
We have to proactively educate ourselves on something we were never taught; our emotions.
Most of us learned about our emotions by what was NOT discussed. And because they were not addressed (and we may even have been punished for having them), we deduced early on that there must be something wrong with them. So we learned to deny them, suppress them, and wrap a lot of guilt around them.
Our emotions have become this mysterious energy that is inconvenient, unattractive, and must be suppressed.
All of a sudden, we have an explanation for the staggering numbers of depression and anxiety. Think of these two conditions as manifestations of an emotional virus that has not yet been identified, ultimately leading us to one of three potential outcomes:
A. IT OVERWHELMS US.
That energy continues to grow and build until it overwhelms and incapacitates us, either by manifesting itself as illness (like cancer or auto-immune disease) or eventually becomes so unbearable we can no longer see our way around it. And, suddenly, the staggering numbers of suicide make sense.
B. WE GO NUMB.
That energy becomes distracting enough, disruptive enough, enough of a pebble in our shoe that we succumb to medication—anything to stoop the internal emotional bleeding so we can continue to function and live our lives. The problem with this approach is that we can't numb the sadness, anger, and guilt…and still expect to feel joy, peace, and freedom.
Sure, we no longer feel sadness, anger, and guilt to the same debilitating degree, but we also don't feel the joy, freedom, or enthusiasm for living. Life is less colorful. Food is less flavorful. And the future feels less bright. Because when we numb one emotion, we numb all of them. Numb is numb.
Thankfully, there is a third option.
C. OR WE CHOOSE TO LEARN FROM IT.
We can choose to stop, turn around, and confront the emotional energy that stalks us.
How do you gain power over something? You demystify it. You study it. You learn to understand it.
The man behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz was just, well…a man. And the emotions behind our bad habits and dysfunctional relationships are just, well…emotions.
And our emotions always have a message for us.
Our emotions are trying to communicate something to us. But we were never taught the language of our emotions.
It's like someone trying really hard to tell you something vital, but they're speaking to you in a foreign language you don't understand, and because this message is so essential, this messenger tries harder, becomes more persistent, and gets louder.
Our emotions are here to inform and empower us. But we must learn to speak the language. This is one of the essential teachings detailed in my book, Showing Up Naked.
This is where emotional intelligence comes in. Once we choose to educate ourselves and move toward true emotional intelligence, we inevitably find ourselves knocking on a door. The doorway to forgiveness.
Forgiveness is the gateway to freedom. The beauty is that forgiveness often happens organically when we embrace and befriend our emotions, accept ourselves, and realign with the compassionate, humble part of ourselves that was buried underneath the rubble of our past.
As Gerald Jampolski so eloquently put it, "Forgiveness is letting go of all hopes for a better past."
When we forgive ourselves and others, recognizing that we are all doing the best we can with our current level of understanding, we are set free.
We see life in full color again, as if a grey film has been removed from our eyes. Our field of vision opens up, widens, and expands. And our ability to see past behavior to the sweet, innocent child within ourselves and others is restored.
Forgiveness corrects our vision and resets our hearts, returning us to the same pure essence of love we always were but simply forgot for a time.
I believe what we are witnessing and feeling in ourselves and in the collective right now is a calling back home.
We've seen the effects this emotional virus, this lack of emotional intelligence, has had on us all. It's been playing out on the world stage. And it's been playing out within each of us individually.
The macro and the micro.
The fear and pain within those in power are playing to the fear and pain in all of us.
The way out of that lockstep is a return to love.
Call me naive. Call me Pollyanna. Call me simple. But there's beauty in simplicity, and if we're not feeling joy, connection, and gratitude, it's because we've forgotten how to love.
As Mother Theresa said, "If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."
The healing of the collective begins on an individual level. We are each drops in the ocean, and we are the ocean itself.
And so we find ourselves standing at a crossroads. Will we choose more pain, suffering, guilt, and fear? Or will we choose to remember the truth of who we are?
It'll take choosing the path of emotional intelligence and forgiveness to overcome the emotional virus that plagues the planet right now. It'll take peeling away the grey film from our eyes to see the beauty of this life and recognize ourselves in each other. We'll know healing has taken place when we see everyone as a brother or a sister, and the world as our playground.
You can try to do this on your own. Or you can let me be your guide. Start with my book, Showing Up Naked, if you're ready to take a journey into emotional intelligence and forgiveness.
Life is a gift. And nothing is guaranteed.
Don't wait to live the life you could be living today.
Join us on an upcoming trip of a lifetime!