Emotions are crucial sign posts in the self-reflection, transformation process. They are a spot light on your soul and reveal the lies that you are battling or the areas that you need to let go of or heal from. When we feel our emotions and work through them they are priceless gifts that help us find the change that we are seeking. Unfortunately, they usually get a pretty bad rap and are avoided for their scariness or overemphasized in a way that scews reality and truth.
In my life, I wanted to avoid them at all costs. They made me feel weak, imperfect, and not good enough. I thought that they would be used against me or if I let them out that they would overtake me and make me look like I didn’t have it all together. I saw them as destructive, dangerous even.
In The Mindfulness Workbook for Addiction, the author used an analogy that brought me a lot of clarity and helped me find a much healthier perspective on how to view emotions in our lives. Picture your emotions as a stray dog that adopts you. This dog isn’t going anywhere. He is now your life long companion and spends his time nipping at your heels, demanding attention, and has needs that must be met or the more obnoxious his presence becomes. You can try to lock him in the garage, put him on a chain in the backyard or drop him off across town and hope that he won’t come back. However, every time you turn around he is back at your heels making his demands.
You have to make a choice, keep avoiding the dog or embrace him. He is your companion for the rest of your life regardless of what you decide. If you embrace him, give him a bit of attention and a bowl of food, it turns out that he is a pretty good dog. If you avoid him, the barking, destruction, and havoc that he wreaks drives you crazy.
If this metaphor makes sense to you, how would you view your dog? What does he do to get your attention? When you ignore him, when does he most likely show up?
My dog is a mangy, mutt that is covered in sores and I do not want to pet. He stinks, is dirty and usually shows up when I’m around other people and makes me feel overwhelmed. Sometimes he shows up when I am trying to sleep at night. All I need to do is take him to the vet, get him a good grooming and pat him on the head a couple times a day and he is perfectly content. When I avoid him, I spend my time getting frustrated with other people, I start to try to control things around me, and I lay in bed at night obsessing about things that are not worth worrying about.
In this journey of becoming aware of my emotions, I’ve realized that they make me human. I have begun the process of identifying them when they arise, and taking a few moments to be aware of them and allowing them to be. I am working on not judging myself for them or stuffing them as if they don’t matter. When I acknowledge them, I have found that they pass much sooner than when I avoid them and they aren’t permanent. More than anything, I give myself grace. And when I give myself grace, I usually have a lot more to give others.
Brene Brown says it beautifully, “Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will be discover the infinite power of our light.” It is only when we find the courage to explore these “scary” places within ourselves that we can embrace and discover the beautiful parts too.
I will never forget the first time I went to the Lord and gave Him some of the “dark” parts of myself. I had just returned to Him after a season of living away from Him and I was so incredibly grateful that He had rescued me. I was in my early 20’s and while I had given my heart to the Lord in middle school, I had lived through several seasons of my journey by that time. Up until this point when I would pray or talk to God I always presented the most perfect version of myself as possible. I had a good attitude, prayed for others more than myself, and made sure that I had it all together and a well thought out conversation planned before talking to HIm. I was out walking in my neighborhood one evening, talking to Jesus, watching the sunset, super grateful and perfectly positive amidst a very broken reality when a whisper in my heart said, “You know, you can trust me with the broken parts too.”
In struck me in that moment for the first time ever, that I had only given Him a very small piece of my heart but definitely not the whole thing. I had given Him the pretty parts that were all shiny and put together but I had not trusted Him with all of myself. I literally ran home, got down on my knees in the middle of my living room and wept as I handed over fear, anxiety, depression, trauma, struggle, and heartache. I poured out buckets of loss and pain. I was honest with myself and with Him about my real feelings for the first time ever and it was amazing. A journey of healing began that day and in that moment and I am still taking steps on that path towards trusting Him with all of me and allowing Him to make me whole. He hasn’t stopped faithfully peeling back my layers since then and while I still sometimes struggle to surrender and be real, He always reminds me that He can handle it. So I slowly lay each piece at His feet and He gradually reveals the infinite power of His light within me.