"Be positive!"... "Just let go!"... "Laugh it off!"... We so often hear this advice.
But what if we try – and we end up feeling worse?
Have you ever noticed that advice about 'getting rid' of difficult feelings is essentially undoable? If we had an off-switch, we could press it, and - Hey Presto! - we would feel 'whatever-we-want-to-feel-just-now' (happy, patient, positive, calm, courageous - you can fill in the gap).
But as we don't have an obvious off-switch, what next? How do we change what we don't like? Relying on will power to shake off a bad feeling is unpredictable, and even counter-productive. This is why....
Suppose you want to feel a certain way. "I WILL be calm!" you say. Or, "I WILL be positive!" Well, there's no doubt that something inside you wants to feel that way - and no wonder.
But what about the parts that don't feel calm or positive? That are feeling stressed or sad? They are there for good reasons too. They carry messages about what we need - different things in different situations. (If we're stressed, we might need security or calm; if we're sad, we might want kindness, empathy or companionship....) Giving our feelings attention, we discover the treasures they hold. The further away we push them, the harder it is to hear what they need. We may lose track of them altogether. That's how we create 'lost parts'.
The same happens if we insist on a course of action - "I WILL be nice to Uncle Fred!" or "I WILL get up early!" Our good intentions are precious, and have a valuable life of their own. Yet what about the sides of us that don't like Uncle Fred? Or which want to stay in bed? They have a life of their own too. They may not consent to being overruled.
By creating lost parts, we create inner conflict. Like any minority voice, they cause trouble when they are pushed aside.
Of course, we may succeed through determination - and if we do, it's because we're able to take account of ourselves as a whole, without losing anything.
"I'd rather be grumpy!"
When we leave out parts of ourselves, we feel worse. This is when we suffer emotional backlashes. It's why fake friendliness can leave us tired and dispirited, jarred and divided. Being 'real' usually feels better (even it it still feels bad).
Lost parts call for our attention by making their presence felt. We feel them as tension, aches and pains in our body, stress or emotional upheaval; and we hear them in our words which pop out of our mouths unexpectedly. To reclaim a lost part, the first step is to notice it.
How to find a lost part
A sure sign of a lost part is a feeling that 'won't let go'. Viewed from without, we see it as a 'stuck', 'blocked', 'obstinate' or 'sabotaging' streak. We think it shouldn't be there. In fact, feelings are always there for good reasons. When we stop taking sides against them, we reclaim them. They hold gold.
- If you can't let go of 'stubborn' or 'sticky' feelings, give themmore space inside; see if you can welcome them gently. (And if you 'feel bad about feeling bad', try welcoming that too...!)
- You have more influence in your own emotional world when you interact kindly with your feelings - just as you have most influence with another person when you take them into account.
- When we greet our feelings this way, we're less likely to inflict our difficult emotions on others in unhelpful ways
Become an inner peace negotiator
When we welcome our lost parts, we become an inner peace negotiator. Our job is to hold equally our 'good sides' AND our 'annoying bits'. We are like a room full of people, some of them speaking more loudly than others. The moment we remember this, we find that even our 'awkward' voices have something important to say. And when we turn towards what feels bad, we usually find there's more space inside us for what feels good. We are no longer in conflict with how things are.
- Faced with a conflict or difficulty, allow yourself to hold many responses
- Allow space for every 'voice in the room' (you don't need to understand them to acknowledge them)
- Welcome every feeling and need - those you want or likeand those you don't
- We rarely feel just good or just bad: we usually hold both
- When we welcome all aspects of ourselves, we calm and settle naturally
- When everything in us feels 'heard' - it works with us, not against us
- We act and speak, feeling whole and complete
By Elizabeth English
with Peter Kuklis