Digging Deep

Emotion modification without a deep digging of what’s underneath is only a mask. If we just work on changing outward emotions, we’ll usually skim over the deeper beliefs that lead us to those feelings. Every emotion reveals a belief about who we are and what we want. Every emotion shows us where we have placed our identity and our value. Every emotion reveals how we see God. If we want to reshape our emotions, we need to address the underlying beliefs. -Nancy Ma, Relevant Magazine

Shoving our unpleasant feelings into a closet or brushing them under the rug in a pathetic attempt to hide them from others (and ourselves) will only result in a bigger blowup when the final straw is added to the camel's back. We are emotional by nature; we cannot ignore what our emotions are trying to reveal to us.

Like when I wrote about the value of fear in our lives, other unpleasant emotions like sadness and anger have something to show us. If we let them, they can point to deeper issues and areas in our lives that need attention.

We continue to feel pinpricks of unpleasant emotions when we brush them aside and try to ignore their presence. Letting ourselves really experience unpleasant emotions opens the door to greater introspection and growth. It allows us to examine the reasons behind our emotions, and that is the only way to truly process them, challenge our faulty perceptions and assumptions, and change the underlying beliefs causing us to feel what we do. We get the privilege of comparing what we're believing in the moment with what we know to be true, and then we get the opportunity to change the messages we're believing to better align with things we know to be true but sometimes have a hard time embracing. And only when we resolve the underlying issues, exposing and addressing the cognitive dissonance we're experiencing, can we truly find peace.

Discomfort is a precursor to change. If we ignore unpleasant, uncomfortable feelings, we are more likely to stay complacent. If, instead, we acknowledge the presence of fear, anger, worry, anxiety, or sadness, we may find in ourselves an unmet need that requires changes to be made. To continue to grow, we need to be challenged. We need to feel discomfort if we want to keep moving forward, pushing the boundaries of what is known, safe, and comfortable. If we feel opposition or discomfort, it's likely a sign that we're outgrowing our old patterns and in need of new ones, or that we've subconsciously adopted incorrect beliefs that are chafing against our core values. Only when we take a closer look can we see the problem for what it is and take steps to rectify it.

When we try to modify our emotions or behaviors without exposing the beliefs behind them, we aren't able to sustain the change. Much like a child told to do something just because their parent said so, we aren't motivated by enough to truly change when the desire is only for an outside result without any inner transformation. But when we lean into the discomfort, we can resolve the underlying issues and pursue the outward transformation that we aspire to with greater chances of success because we have already eliminated the biggest obstacles lurking under the surface.

So instead of bottling up our emotions, labeling them as "bad," and avoiding talking about them, let's embrace them and learn from them. I know I'm going to make a serious effort to continually acknowledge how I feel, and then take it a step further to ask myself why I'm feeling that way, in hopes that I might iron out anything that is lurking like a skeleton in my closet. Will you join me?