Have you ever been in a situation where you feel an emotion and then beat yourself up for it?
I’ve spoken to countless clients in the past few years in my practice, and there’s a theme that keeps coming back: the lack of self-acceptance especially related to emotions and feelings.
I was talking to a client today about it as a matter of fact, and I realized that we all suffer from the same illusion: that we should actually be able to control our feelings and emotions.
Now let’s start from the beginning:
Emotions and feelings are not something you consciously choose to feel, it’s something that comes to you.
Of course in the communication model in NLP and in CBT you learn that your thoughts create your emotions, and that is totally true in some situations. And there are some emotions that are detrimental for us or that prevent us to be the best version of ourselves, like holding onto resentment, or feeling inadequate when you think you’re not good enough…those indeed need to be changed to improve our well-being and mental health.
However that’s not the bit I’m talking about here. I’m talking about genuine healthy emotions you feel as a reasonable response such as anger when someone violates your boundaries ; Or sadness when you lose a loved one ; Or pain when someone hurts you. Or even when you fall in love: do you really believe you control it? Those are the emotions I’d like to explore today.
So taking back the examples I’ve given, if someone shouts at you in the street for no reason, you would naturally feel angry. Or if someone hurts you, you are likely to naturally feel pain. Those are completely legitimate responses, even if they feel negative. Now we don’t consciously choose to feel this way, because emotions and feelings actually belong the the realm of the unconscious mind.
The nature of the unconscious mind – at least in the frame of NLP and Hypnotherapy – is benevolent. That means that your unconscious mind is somehow your little guardian angel that looks after you and assists you in being healthy and happy. What I actually love about the unconscious mind is how loyal it is. A little bit like your favourite dog. No matter how you treat it, it will always be on your side. But you know what I love about it even more? Is that its sole purpose is to look after you. The unconscious mind is the part of your mind that makes your heart beat, that controls your digestive system and your immune system among many other things.
But your unconscious mind also takes care of your mind and mental health. And everything it does, is only for your benefit: your unconscious mind doesn’t care of the rest of the world, anything it does, it does it FOR YOU.
So coming back to those emotions that feel negative, or to be more exact uncomfortable. Those emotions are a reaction from your unconscious mind who wants to help you. And if you look at it from a different perspective, it is healthy to feel angry when someone crosses your boundaries! It offers you the possibility to take care of yourself and respect yourself by implementing rules and reinforcing those same boundaries. Or it is healthy to feel sadness when someone dies, it allows you to grieve and move onto the natural circle of life. All those emotions you feel, actually have a positive purpose for you. And it simply reflects the NLP presupposition that every behavior has got a positive intention, and I would add that every emotion does as well.
Now how often have you found yourself fighting against those emotions? How often have you beaten yourself up for feeling angry, or sad, or even jealous or rejected? How many times have you told yourself “I shouldn’t feel this” or “I should be able to cope better?”
How many times have you given yourself a hard time for just being you?
It’s ok to feel what you feel, and you know why? Well, because in those situations – I insist again, I’m talking about healthy and natural emotions here – you can’t control them. You haven’t chosen to feel this way, so you’re not to blame. As simple as that. And yes, with some psychological tools you can even change your emotions, but you would miss out on the gift that those emotions bring you: putting boundaries, hearing your wounds, healing from grief and so on.
I invite my clients to always respect and unconditionally accept how they feel. And in the case of unuseful emotions, actually, before using those psychological tools to work on them, I always start by acknowledging and accepting those emotions. Because they’re part of who you are, they’re part of what makes you human. And self-acceptance has never meant only accepting the good sides of you. Self-acceptance means accepting ALL the parts of you.
So I’m asking you: Do you actually accept yourself?