I’m wondering if inner-warmth is something you’d like to explore?
I’m also wondering how many times have you experienced a difficult or uncomfortable emotion and just pushed it aside or stuffed it down? Or even berated yourself for having the emotion in the first place?
Maybe you’ve applied the stiff upper lip rule and just carry on with your day, your hour, your moment?
My guess is that it’s quite a lot.
In fact, my guess is that you’re so used to rejecting, to pushing aside and overriding your uncomfortable emotional responses, that you may not even know that you’re doing it. That your responses to your uncomfortable emotions are so habitual that they are unconscious, on autopilot.
And the blink of an eye that flash of anger is gone because if people see that I’m angry, I’ll be judged by them or by worse, by myself.
In the tic of a tok, the hurt I’ve just experienced is replaced with a thought of, ‘I mustn’t show that those words hurt me. I have to remain in control. No one can see that I was hurt. They’ll think I’m weak, that I’m inappropriate if I show my feelings. So I’ll just pretend it didn’t happen.’
In the tip of a tap, the sadness is shoved aside and replaced by the reaching for a phone, perhaps to scroll social media, or the reaching for something to eat or drink or whatever it is that you do to avoid feeling those feels.
And we all do it.
That’s what we’ve been taught to do. Society, through explicit and unwritten rules, has created imaginary boundaries around our beings, and our emotional worlds need to operate within those boundaries in order for us to be accepted. Maybe, through experiences you’ve had, you’ve been taught that the boundaries for your emotional world are small and restricted.
And I’m guessing you’ve had very little experience of being accompanied when you were sad or angry or upset as a younger person. Perhaps in the past your emotions have been met with reassurance or advice. Words like, ‘you’ll be okay’, ‘you’ll get over it’, ‘you’ll feel better soon’.
Reassurance and advice, even when shared with sweetest of intentions, do nothing to calm our nervous systems. Reassurance may perk us up for a moment, but the underlying emotions remain unacknowledged, unprocessed. Reassurance, at its core, is about overriding our emotional responses. And unsolicited advice actually causes spikes in our cortisol levels, adding to our stress, our emotional discomfort, not reducing it.
So what happens?
Our bodies carry the unexpressed, unacknowledged sadness, the repressed anger, the unprocessed shock, the ignored hurt. And our inner worlds become stressful, angry, judgemental of self and others, critical, spiteful even.
Our inner worlds become harsh places to live. So we stay away from that harsh environment through eating, or shopping, or gaming, or scrolling, or by being endlessly busy being a super-person, doing it all, being the socially acceptable workaholic.
Or we stay away from that harsh world by yelling at others, being critical of others, slamming anyone who dares to have a different view, blaming and shaming and expressing contempt through eye rolls or sarcasm or snide little putdowns and dismissals. And so the cycle continues.
It doesn’t have to be like this. You can break the cycle. For you.
Because here’s the thing. We are exquisitely made for resonance. Nothing else works as well to calm our brains and help them make sense of the world.
Of course it can be hard to have resonance for ourselves when it hasn’t been taught to us as a child. We don’t yet have the neural pathways for resonance.
The good news is that through mindfulness and self-warmth with resonance, we can begin to create those neural pathways. When we do self-empathy with warmth and understanding our bodies relax.
We can set up a system of being in relationship with our deepest self, and understanding ourselves, and turning towards ourselves with warmth and precision. And we can use our bodies as a litmus test. The more we move into self empathy, the more we can move into self regulation, the more our bodies relax and the more we can remain internally calm.
Warm self-empathy brings us self-regulation, the ability to remain in emotional balance.
Imagine how different the world would be, if each of us made our inner worlds a little less harsh. Even just a little. Imagine the collective difference that would make.
I’m wondering if the idea of inner-warmth sounds like something that you’d like to explore? Would you like to make your inner world a more compassionate, less stressful place to live?