This is how you can connect with emotional (old) pain to heal

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This is how you can connect with emotional (old) pain to heal

You’ve worked hard to question your system of beliefs and the rules that governed your daily life. As a result, you’re probably experiencing something that feels quite uncomfortable right now: vulnerability. It can be very frightening to think about how to connect with your true feelings – what lies behind your radiant smile.

At first it may feel vulnerable, but in fact this vulnerability provides security – because you are aware. You are present. Nothing from the past can surprise or hurt you anymore.

Looking like you’re in control, pleasing others, and keeping your foot on the accelerator all the time: all these choices have you protected. Making yourself vulnerable feels like dropping your shield in the middle of battle. Confronting your shame head-on, making contact with your fear, admitting that you are tired: it is too difficult. It feels too vulnerable. It’s easy to get the idea that everyone can see you. And you retreat into whatever shell you can find.

Avoidance of emotions

This is how you can connect with emotional (old) pain to heal

In many of the personal stories in Perfectly Hidden Depression, you can read that you can have an aha experience in silence. New insights can lead to a rethinking of an old pattern that you now see as self-destructive. However, that moment can be quickly forgotten as a result of a much more ingrained habit: avoidance of emotions amid the busyness and confusion of day-to-day responsibilities.

So the battle is this: do you let yourself be tormented by the question of whether you can take on one more task, or do you hold back and struggle with whether you should show your vulnerability? Do you focus on and connect with your emotions, or withdraw from them?

I hope you choose to show your vulnerability and connect with it because it has become dangerous to continue to deny and hide your feelings – all those things that kept you ‘safe’.

Connecting with feelings

How do you connect with feelings you’ve kept hidden for so long? The process consists of the following four steps:

  • Compassion: looking at yourself with a warm, tender look – the same as the one you use to look at others.
  • Recognition: Recognizing that your feelings are normal and a normal consequence of the situation.
  • Mindful contact: slowly and gently let your emotions come up and make contact with them.
  • Acceptance: Accept what you have discovered.

This process is more effective than any armor. At first, it may feel vulnerable, but in fact, this vulnerability provides security – because you are aware. You are present. Nothing from the past can surprise or hurt you anymore. However, it could feel like you are taking a huge risk. So we’re going to create a structure that will help you and show you the way. This structure is called a “timeline.” Creating a timeline of experiences can help you organize your life and memories, and it can also serve to map your emotional experiences.

Creating a Timeline for Emotional Awareness and Growth

This is how you can connect with emotional (old) pain to heal

What is a timeline? That is a chronological order of influential events and experiences in your life; important milestones for you. In making this timeline, you write about your own happy and painful experiences that were important in the process of becoming who you are. Maybe you met a mentor, a teacher who was really nice to you, or you won a competition. Did you not get to the university you wanted to go to, the dog you loved so much died, or did you have a wonderful friend but he moved? Think of these kinds of events that have a lot of impacts.

Organize your timeline as you wish. One option is to draw a horizontal line and divide it into years. Above the line, you can write down the positive events, and below the line the traumatic and/or painful ones, so that you can see as much as possible at a glance.

Creating a timeline will help you emotionally connect with your past pain, as well as see how your present might be affected by your repressing or denying these events. How do you get in the right frame of mind to start this work? By following your own four steps of the process:

  1. Compassion: looking at yourself with a warm, tender look – the same as the one you use to look at others.
  2. Recognition: Recognizing that your feelings are normal and a normal consequence of the situation.
  3. Mindful contact: slowly and gently let your emotions come up and make contact with them.
  4. Acceptance: Accept what you have discovered.

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