So, we can’t heal what we can’t feel. If we’re really trying to transform “depression” (not a feeling, but a diagnosis), “anxiety” (another non-feeling), grief and loss, abuse, abandonment and neglect etc- we have to “let go of some old ideas” about how we perceive and experience these circumstances, and the attendant e-motions (emotions, energy in motion).
Some of these ideas we have to let go of are:
1. That we can turn our feelings on/off.
Stimulus/response (to steal loosely from Gary Larsen and others). All we perceive has a stimulus and response attached to it. It both amazes and saddens me that despite such a fundamental law of physics we behave as if we can somehow do something (or not) that will allow us to not have a response to a stimulus about what someone says or does. Some basic “untruths”: “I need to not take _____ personally, give _____ power over me/allow them to ‘get to me’, it’s water under the bridge, it’s all in the past…” etc ad nauseum.
2. That we can decide how intense a feeling we are having/going to have.
Back to physics- we can’t decide or influence how much of a stimulus we take in. Save with the use of drugs or alcohol, even despite attention- we experience what we experience.
3. That we can decide what type of feelings we’re going to have in response to some experience.
Sometimes we feel sad about something, only to have a similar experience later and feel hurt instead. If this were true- why couldn’t we simply “decide” to feel joyful, grateful, happy, etc about a thing?
There’s more, but these are a fairly good starting list. If we’re going to transform our feelings (or help others to do so), we have to change our philosophy, our relationship to our emotional condition. Some of the most frequent problems I run into both personally and professionally around this are around the kinds of beliefs above.
Beyond this, we do things that prevent us from being fully in touch with our emotions. As Sheldon Kopp has famously (or not so famously) said, paraphrasing: “When we stop trying to overcome anxiety, avoid depression etc, we can experience how sad and scared and hurt we sometimes truly feel.” I would argue that one of our most basic problems as humans is that we do things that put distance between us and us, us and others, us and the “universe” or “God” as we MISunderstand he/she/them and/or it. The list of the things that we do that result in these effects, is the list of things we have to stop doing to have access to how we feel, and transform it.
On a professional level, I have been struggling deeply with how far away we’ve gotten from doing “depth work”, processing, “uncovering, discovering, discarding”, “naming it, claiming it, and dumping it” (or whatever euphemism one prefers) for dealing with the likes of grief, loss, addiction, depression, anxiety, relationship problems and etc. “Outcome measures”, insurance companies etc do not support this process. There are sociopolitical (or as I prefer, “sociopolytrickal” as in “many tricks”) forces that diminish both focus and support on these types of services. The hows and whys of this are beyond the scope of what I’m getting at here.
My tactic for dealing with issues are (hopefully) pretty simple and direct.
1. Take the list of things we do that put distance between us and us/others/the “universe” and/or “God” if one prefers, and stop doing those things. If it’s hard to stop doing them, try doing these things.
2. Take steps to survive not doing those things. This may take therapy, a support group, a church, support group, or whatever.
3. What will most definitely take therapy: process what comes up.
Even if one does need medical intervention with psychopharmaceuticals, has a medical condition that might prompt difficult feelings/behaviors etc, getting therapy can only support this process, and arguably in some cases, is insufficient without it. These three simple ideas above support all the ideas about “processing” (like the “uncover, discover, discard” etc above). Hopefully we will get past the era of simply thinking that we all only need to act better, or otherwise “get over it”.
Lastly, need to make mention that this is of course not this simple, and would encourage more work around these things to be “happy”, free of depression, anxiety, addiction, etc. A “resource group” of supportive people is necessary. An organized set of principles to deal with new issues is significant. Would also say that it’s important to have principles that allow us to grow as people- doing the work to transform and/or let go of these issues are the bare essentials for us to get to these things… and are totally possible.