Personal growth means to take full responsibility for your own emotions, behaviours, actions, thoughts and mindset. It means to step out of a place of blame (others are responsible for how I feel) and into a place of empowerment (I am in total control of how I experience life). It means to heal the aspects of ourselves that need a little bit of TLC. These might include the painful past experiences, the limiting beliefs, the critical self-talk, the judgement and criticism of others and ourselves and the emotions from the past that have been buried and not fully dealt with.
People could argue that working on ourselves during the pandemic is a selfish act taking into consideration the current climate. The suffering that people are going through, the amazing work that our frontline services are doing to help others. How can it be appropriate to work on ourselves? I would suggest here that if you are not in a situation where you are seriously worried about the health of a loved one or yourself, and if you are safe and well, then this is a perfect time for some self-reflection. Our own growth and personal responsibility not only benefits us but everyone around us.
Using a spiritual approach, as I am doing, means that our emotions lead us to where the self-reflection magnifying glass needs to be focused. Each negative emotion that simmers up inside us, leads us to an understanding about ourselves. Because each one of these emotions e.g. anger, frustration, annoyance, rejection, embarrassment, fear, hurt, guilt etc, often link to a limiting belief, or a past painful experience, or an unexpressed emotion that was long ago buried, or an unmet need from the past, or an area where you are not expressing yourself fully to speak your truth when it needs to be heard.
In the past, emotions that may have been simmering up to the surface in a subtle way, are now being amplified intensely for some people creating a pressure cooker of emotions that are now not subtle but are screaming out for our attention. The reason why they are amplified during lockdown is because there are now fewer distractions that take our self-awareness away from these emotions. Whereas before, we would have kept ourselves very busy by seeing people, going out, shopping, eating out, working long hours etc. to enable our mind to be focused outwardly, instead of inwardly. These distractions are no longer there for us in the same way as before. We are much less able to effectively distract ourselves from these emotions and this is why they are feeling more intense for some people. From a spiritual perspective also, emotions only rise to the surface and indicate some healing that needs to be done, when this healing is ready to be done. It is an opportunity for looking within.
Every action and behaviour that we present with is a result of our past programming and how we interpreted our early experiences. Every single response or reaction that we make is caused by our subconscious belief system, or our past suppressed emotions. Our ability to emotionally regulate is dependent on our ability to be secure in ourselves and with who we are without fear.
When we experience any emotions, they reflect all of these areas negatively or positively depending on the emotion. When we are able to be forgiving, non-judgmental, supportive, patient and loving towards ourselves and others, there is no self-awareness work to be done. However, when we find ourselves being critical of others or ourselves, judging others actions or our own, or not being able to accept others the way they are or the way they have done things, means some self-awareness work may be beneficial.
Something as simple as getting annoyed that you don’t have any help around the house and you feel you do a lot yourself, can lead you to an understanding about a past experience where this was also true. It is this past experience and the emotions attached to it that need releasing and expressing, once this is fully dealt with, you may no longer find that your emotions are triggered by the presenting situation. You see, you will always be presented with experiences that present to you what needs emotionally healed within you. If you are emotionally triggered by the feelings of rejection as an adult, it may be because there is a buried emotion in your subconscious that has not been dealt with that was caused by an experience of rejection earlier in life.
Personal growth is a choice. It is not an easy path. Uncovering deeply hidden pain is not something you take on lightly. However, it is the only way to move past the insecurities, the emotional trauma and to learn to live fully in the present. Once these past experiences and past hurts are given the attention they need to enable them to be released (usually by crying them out but everyone is different), the transformation on the other side of each aspect of growth, is incredible. It takes you from a place of blame, (others are the cause of the way I am or the way my life has turned out) to a place of empowerment (I am in control of my life and the way I experience the world).
I have offered you a series of steps below, that will help you to get to the real areas that need your TLC and the real reason why your emotions are being triggered. These steps below are just suggestions and if you are concerned about your mental health in any way, you must seek professional help. These tools are not a replacement for professional medical help.
STEP 1 – LABEL THE EMOTION
It is important to get this as accurately as you possibly can. For example, shame and guilt feel quite similar but they mean quite different things (Shame = I am wrong. Guilt = I did something wrong. Look up Brene Brown who talks a lot more about this) and anger and frustration can feel quite similar but mean different things (frustration can often come from things not going how we expect them to, with regards to others or ourselves, anger can come often from being treated badly by others). It is quite important to get an accurate label to the emotions because it will make the other steps easier. When you feel an emotion, recognise what it is and label it.
STEP 2 – WHAT IS THE SITUATION IN WHICH YOU ARE FEELING IT?
Now detail the exact situation that you were feeling that emotion in. Who was involved? What did they say? What happened? Are there any recurring patterns with this emotion being triggered in similar situations from the past? What are the similarities between these situations (people, situation, circumstances)? What actually happened? (E.g. did you feel you had done something wrong, did you feel there was a rejection in some way, did you feel that someone wasn’t doing what they were supposed to be doing, did you feel that you were being judged, were you afraid that you had hurt someone else’s feelings, were you being taken advantage of, were you being disrespected, were others not listening to you? …the list could go on but as much detail as possible is important here.)
STEP 3 – DELVE DEEPER INTO THE PAST FOR ANSWERS
What does the information from step 1 and 2 above tell you about yourself? What aspect of you or your past needs your TLC? E.g. feeling embarrassed for someone else because they have fluffed their lines in a presentation, may lead you to realise you are very judgemental of yourself and do not allow yourself to make mistakes without judging yourself. Are you overly critical of yourself, do you set standards that are not achievable because we are human and humans make mistakes? When you are irritated that others are not pulling their weight, where in your past have you experienced having to do it all yourself with no support? When you feel guilty about mistakes you have made as a parent, what does this tell you about your experience as a child, how does this current situation relate to the past?
STEP 4 – NOW I KNOW WHAT NEEDS MY TLC, WHAT DO I DO ABOUT IT?
There are lots of different ways of giving yourself the TLC you require to release emotions or to deal with limiting beliefs. Everyone is different and I use spiritual approaches and so I can only suggest approaches I have used myself. The important thing to remember is that you must only do what feels right for you. We are all different and what tools work for one person, may not work for another.
Emotional Freedom Technique (tapping) – This can help you to release stored emotions from the past, or help current emotions pass through fully so they don’t get stored and it can also help change limiting beliefs.
Letter writing – If some of your past hurt is related to another person, it can be helpful sometimes to write them a letter that you never send them. It is a cathartic exercise that enables you to fully express, no holds barred, how you feel about the past experience you had with them and how it affected you, but doesn’t get them involved because they will never know you wrote it. I have done this exercise a few times and then burnt the letters, but you can tear them up or bury them even if that feels right for you. The important thing is not to hold onto the letters, if you find it difficult to destroy the letter after you have written it, this may indicate a difficulty with moving on from the experience.
Journaling – writing a daily journal of your thoughts and feelings to get things off your chest can be very nurturing for some people.
Meditation – there are lots of guided meditations on Youtube that may help you with a specific area that you may have highlighted as needing some TLC e.g. rejection, guilt, inner child work and for limiting beliefs.
Forgiveness – moving to a place of forgiveness for the pain caused by others from the past is another way to free yourself from the negative associations. This can take some time, it is not easy to do for some depending on the depth of the hurt, but it does free you from the pain. The recurring pain you carry around from the way others have behaved only continues to hurt you. Carrying anger or resentment around inside of you only upsets you, not the person that caused the pain. This is why moving to a place of forgiveness is so freeing. This can be done via meditation, journaling, letter writing or EFT. Also Lousie Hay, Author of ‘You Can Heal Your Life’ gives a great exercise for forgiveness. She suggests visualising the person you are wanting to forgive up on a stage. Then visualise that person getting everything they would personally desire, happiness, wealth, health, family etc. See them really, really happy and during this say that you forgive them. I have also used this technique and it worked well for me. You can also then visualise yourself on the stage afterwards and imagining you getting all the things you desire also.
These are just some examples, and of course, all of these are done from a place of not blaming others if others are involved in causing your suppressed emotions. Blame does not serve us, it is our first point of call in the growth process, but once we understand that others only project onto people because they are dealing with suppressed emotions themselves, we can really have a deeper empathy and compassion for them. We are all doing our very best, and ‘doing our best’ looks very different for different people.