I spent this past weekend in Ojai, California — a peaceful town north of Los Angeles — celebrating an old friend’s wedding.
On the drive up to Ojai, we wandered into a restaurant and found ourselves standing underneath an immense mural that read:
"You can close your eyes to the things you don’t want to see, but you cannot close your heart to the things you do not want to feel."
These words struck a chord with me.
They spoke to something that I have learned after years of self-reflection and supporting the personal growth of my coaching clients:
In order to grow as humans we need to transform the way we relate to our own emotions.
Most people I meet spend a tremendous amount of their time and energy trying to get rid of “negative” emotions. Any emotion that they wouldn’t classify as “positive” is ignored, suppressed or obsessed over, and therefore keeps returning to interfere with their life.
This pattern of avoidance is not surprising.
Some of us are afraid that if we pay attention to difficult feelings, we will only create more negativity in our life. Others worry about what might happen if they truly let themselves feel the full energy of what is behind these negative emotions.
But my research, training and experience as both a coach and client has shown me time and time again these most difficult emotions are GOLD.
When we allow ourselves to experience them more fully, we open ourselves up to profound personal growth. Through understanding and integrating difficult emotional patterns, we can finally let them go and move forward with the insight and awareness we need most at this moment.
The first step in this transformation is to consciously let go of labelling these emotions as “negative”. Emotions like guilt, shame, fear, anxiety, embarrassment, loneliness, anger, uncertainty, ambivalence, etc. may be “challenging”, but they’re not “negative”.
Then, start to explore the emotions that you normally would avoid with as much curiosity as you can generate. I’ve built this free guided reflection that will lead you through this process (which I know is not always easy).
Keep practicing, and you’ll realize that these challenging emotions are actually messengers, guiding you on your path towards growth.