Healing Emotional Survival Patterns (PART 1)Oct 11, 2022
Anger, terror, rage, anxiety, helplessness, grief, sadness, joy, happiness, excitement… All of these are human emotions and give life to the landscape of our inner world.
Emotions are what colour the experience of being human, and if our relationship to them is healthy then we can embrace and experience them fully.
On the contrary, if we never experienced a safe space to feel, and our relationship to them is one of resistance, reactivity and rejection, then rather than experiencing emotions which are relevant to the present moment we are often just re-experiencing reactive responses and emotional echoes from our past, in this state life can become repetitive, contracted and filled with suffering.
How we relate to our emotions is actually how the adults around us related to our emotions when we were children.
Our reaction to our inner experience is based on the outer reaction from our caregivers and adults, essentially we are conditioned to respond to ourselves in the same way our parents responded to us.
Example, if I am angry and my response is to shut down, move to helplessness or another parasympathetic state then it was likely as a child I was made to feel helpless when I expressed anger, rather than acknowledged.
Due to this I disconnect, resist and reject my anger and move to a shutdown. I then learn to please people, to fawn, to allow my boundaries to be crossed and I can lose the ability to say NO. I learn to give up my own needs in order to keep others happy and I become the nice guy/girl and avoid conflict.
This behaviour pattern becomes my emotional survival response, an internal patterning which is designed to keep us safe.
Or on the opposite end of the spectrum our reflex may be to move into anger in order to avoid a deeper sense of sadness and helplessness. This also happens due to how our parents related to our emotions as children. We may also have been shut down, victimised or neglected when we experienced anger and in order to compensate for the feeling of victimhood we move into a fight response.
Anger becomes the dominating reflex when relating to others, because we learned that anger is what keeps us safe from helplessness.
Often anger is spoken about as a secondary emotion. This is true, and underneath is usually a sense of sadness or helplessness and the anger is coming up as a reaction to this, as a protective mechanism.
Though, for many people moving too quickly to the emotion underneath can be counterproductive. If we are conditioned to move into helplessness then dropping below the anger without first integrating and experiencing it may continue to perpetuate our victimhood.
If our relationship to anger is one of resistance, rejection or reactivity then first we must mend that disconnection, anger will not be embodied and will not integrate so long as we are rejecting it. By learning to experience anger consciously without falling into reactivity, then anger becomes contained and held.
With this practice we learn mastery over the emotion.
To heal our emotional landscape we must first begin to make conscious all the ways I relate to them in an unhealthy way. This happens firstly by exploring it..
- What are its qualities?
- How does it feel in the body?
- Noticing what happens in my physicality when anger comes up, are there any tensions, resistances or areas where my system clamps down?
- Am I able to fully let the energy of anger move through me without any resistance?
- What happens inside of me when I feel angry?
- Are there any beliefs, spiritual or otherwise that shun anger, or believe it is “negative”?
- What about anger am I most afraid of?
- Is there any fear coupled into the anger?
- What would happen if I fully let my anger up?
Essentially all these kinds of meanings we give to anger are just subtle ways we objectify it and disconnect from it.
Peace & Blessing,
Matt Kay (Co-Creator of Embodied Processing)