All suffering comes from resisting our emotions. This is a common proverb in spiritual beliefs around the world. Suffering itself is that horrible, painful, feeling very feel overwhelmed and overcome by the emotion that we really do not want. There is nothing inherently wrong about not wanting to experience a difficult emotion, but when we are actively—whether that be consciously or subconsciously—fighting to not feel the emotion, that is resistance. And that is suffering.
Resistance is a trick of our ego, because feeling the actual emotion—the one we are trying to run away from—is what we must face in order to heal. Healing is what ultimately dissolves the ego, so the ego provides this resistance that we cannot access healing and cannot liberate the difficult emotions beneath the surface. Our egos tell us that it will hurt more to experience the actual emotion and subsequently tricks us into concealing it as apathy, anger, active resistance, or a whole plethora of other defense mechanisms.
Sometimes these defense mechanisms serve us, like in times of extreme distress, trauma, or otherwise overwhelming situations. The ego has always survived by twisting necessary defenses into things that no longer serve us, instead of telling us that it is okay and right to feel. In my own experience, when I was in a traumatic situation, I dissociated and disconnected from my motions in order to survive the experience. This was healthy and mindful to do at the time, because it was necessary. Yet, now, my ego will still attempt to trick me into falling back into this past pattern when a difficult emotion arises today. Instead of allowing me to truly feel, I am thrown into a pattern of resistance via emotional disconnect.
When I recognized that this disconnect no longer serves me, and was instead preventing me from the healing journey I wished to embark on, I was able to work to really examine the root of the disconnect. As I realize that it was a past pattern coming back up to the surface, even though it was not needed at the time that it arose presently, I was able to better forgive myself for experiencing something which disconnected me from the root emotions and temporarily blocked me from healing.
This forgiveness is paramount. Without the ability to be okay with how we react, because we know that it stems from past defensive patterns which have served us an have been in our best and highest interest before, we will simply fall prey to an increase of self-destructive patterns. When we instead thank ourselves for the previous defense mechanism arising, allow ourselves to let it go, and then face the difficult emotions the defense mechanism is trying to keep us from, this leads to pure and unadulterated emotional liberation.
All spiritual journeys include feeling deeper and feeling better, not in the means of feeling happiness, but instead being better able to feel. When we give ourselves the permission to experience the infinite array of emotions, and we do our best not to resist even the difficult ones, it will quickly allow us to journey into a place where we recognize that feeling as an act itself is safe and healing. We will learn how to foster greater self-love and self compassion and, as we acquaint ourselves better with our own emotions, we will deepen our empathy and unconditional love towards all others. As humans we all experience the same root emotions, although they come from different life situations and perspectives, we are all able to feel and through this we are all able to connect. Emotional liberation stands beyond a personal and internal journey and turns into transcendence that drops our barriers from connecting with anyone from any past or history. Feeling is not something that makes you lesser, but instead expands you as a person.
It may not seem easy at first to better acquaint yourself with your emotions. Collectively, our society shuns the expression of feelings and creates a systematic barrier towards liberating our emotions. Personally, we fear what is not known, so we resist the deepest emotions we have within us. We are rarely taught to feel our deepest emotions, so this type of exploration is unknown to us. Fortunately, this slow and steady journey into emotional liberation shows us just how safe and peaceful it is to actually experience through the emotions behind the pains, and anguishes, and frustrations. It is through this that we find joy, contentment, and serenity.
The first step of emotional liberation is simply to give yourself permission to try to feel more. The next time you feel resistant anger bubbling up, pause and place your hand over your heart, remembering that you are being of love and that you are capable of surviving all feelings. Remind yourself that feeling your motion will simply allowed to flow better within you and will hurt less than the suffering that resisting the feeling causes. This permission is what opens the doors toward slowly learning how to liberate each and every feeling that you have.
This liberation does not mean fully expressing your emotions to each and every person in your life. It will be important to have a support network, like it is for anyone experiencing any emotions at any point along one’s personal journey, but this emotional freedom itself is not just a outward expression. Instead, it is a journey inwards, one where you take your compassionate and loving self and slowly nurture and teach yourself until you are aware that it is healing and important to feel what is beneath the surface and to uncover the pain that you have buried and escaped before in your past.
Each of our individual journeys towards emotional liberation will differ, but the commonalities are important to recognize and to practice. The first is to approach your emotions with self-love—a practice devoid of shaming and self-criticism, which might be something that has been imposed on to you through your childhood or younger years, or even by people currently still in your life telling you that your emotions aren’t valid. Validating yourself, simply by trusting that you deserve to feel and that each and every one of your feelings is acceptable and alright to experience, is the first part to lowering this self-critical voice. There is no shame when it comes to feeling.
The second commonality is the permission you must grant yourself to feel deeper. You must recognize the resistance and face it, for giving it and letting it go, being aware that it has served you in the past, but is no longer and need a defense mechanism. From here, drift into place of stillness, as much as possible in the moment, and simply feel. Notice how the emotion lays in your body, what's thoughts arise, and simply what the experience and sensations of feeling any emotion is.
The third and final commonality is the ability to trust that this journey takes time and that it is okay to resist your emotions as you're learning. What counts is that you're continuously trying and expanding your repertoire of ways to better access what you feel, increase self-love, and deepen empathy. Working for years is common in this sort of practice, especially since there is no ultimate line to cross because the journey itself is the goal. It's not a race to run towards liberation, but a journey to walk and process every leaf that is falling in your path and the slight sound of every footstep you take forward. Liberation is a process, not an end goal. Begin to reframe your perspective of success to include or even explicitly focus on how you feel in the moment and the changes you're able to make here and now. You do not now, and never will need to be, “perfect” in order to be mindful, empathetic, and to experience this emotional liberation.