Opportunities to Love and Nurture Our Neglected Self
Be kinder to yourself. And then let your kindness flood the world.―Pema Chodron
What is the relationship you have with yourself? Are you aware of your inner dialogue related to your self-worth? How do you treat yourself when you’re angry, fearful, or sad? How we relate to ourselves during our darkest moments shows what type of relationship we have with ourselves. Everyone experiences positive emotions when things are going right, but what about when life isn’t going according to plan? These are opportunities to love and nurture our neglected self because the disowned self is the one we must come home to. What do I mean by coming home to ourselves? It means creating a place to honour our emotions, especially the difficult ones which call for our attention.
Many people run away from their negative emotions, and I used to be one of them. Besides, who wants to experience negative states regularly? We want to feel alive and happy and negative emotions don’t fit into that plan. Or do they? Negative emotions serve a purpose and we mustn’t run away from them but rather deal with them with openness and compassion. Because they are important messengers, running away delays our emotional well-being. Think about the negative emotions you experience from time to time. How do you process them? Do you journal your feelings while paying attention to what they’re trying to tell you?
Consider the following scenario as an example of why we must love and nurture our neglected self. Your boss constantly criticises you on your work performance, and you feel a sense of sadness, frustration, and anger. Over time, you bottle these emotions because they remind you of the disparaging comments from your boss. But what if there’s an underlying message contained within these emotions? Perhaps by connecting with them on a deeper level, you learn not to take the criticism personally but improve respective areas of your work, thus leading to a promotion.
Make Room for Negative Emotions
When we give ourselves compassion, we are opening our hearts in a way that can transform our lives.—Kristin Neff
Emotions are transitory events that come and go from our nervous system, hundreds of times a day. Most people are not mindful of them because there’s so much going on inside their heads. That is why we should listen to what is taking place beneath the surface of our lives, otherwise, we will succumb to the negative emotions. Connecting with our emotional life means checking in with ourselves to see how we’re doing. It means stopping, feeling, and listening to what the emotions are trying to convey. A practice I undertake when anger, frustration, or fear emerges is to stop what I’m doing and place my hands on my heart to observe my emotions. I sit and feel them, no matter how difficult or uncomfortable they are. I know these emotions will pass, and my job is to connect with them through an embodied experience.
An embodied experience means to somatically perceive through our nervous system, the emotion(s) without deferring them. Many people distract themselves via drinking, drugs, food, shopping, etc. when negative emotions surface. But eventually, the emotion will seep through and grab our attention, when we least expect it. Our emotions are our soul’s calling card. They don’t have an agenda other than to communicate the essence of our true selves. They help us make sense of life, so we can live in congruency with our authentic self. For example, if you’re not receiving adequate love and affection from your partner, your emotions will tell you something isn’t right. Some people try to rationalise it by telling themselves their partner is busy at work or has a lot on their plate. But our emotions don’t lie because they are the foundation of our intuition if we care to listen. Perhaps we’re afraid to tell our partner we need more intimacy in the relationship. We might fear putting our demands on them will make them think we’re being demanding, and so we hold back.
Have you experienced something like this before? It might start out as a gut feeling that grows and turns into a confrontation because you haven’t communicated yourself properly. Therefore, we must love and nurture our neglected self because it is the part of us we need to come home to. The neglected self is the comfortable sofa we lay our weary body on after a long day at work. It is the comfy pajamas we wear on a cold winter’s day. But like all emotions, we must also make room for negative emotions and process them with openness. The key is to be with your emotions and feel them in your body. Simply stop what you’re doing, and breathe into that area until the emotion dissolves or transforms.
I did this exercise recently after experiencing anger and tension from a busy day that didn’t go as planned. I was sitting down late one evening, looking forward to reading, and was repeatedly interrupted, which led to anger and stress. I remember a thought entering my mind that said, “I don’t have time for this right now.” In the next moment, I dropped what I was doing and breathed deeply for three or four minutes, whilst moving my awareness to my chest where the anger was situated. What took place moments later was the most exquisite love I have experienced. Its presence was reassuring and comforting, and I didn’t want to return to what I was doing. I’ve since experienced many more moments like this because what I learned is that on the other side of our negative emotions is a pure and abiding love that beckons us to come home to.
It is this love we must nurture often, instead of neglecting coming home to our true self.
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