Our emotions arise out of the most raw, responsive energies of the living organism. Feelings of need, anger, desire, disappointment, satisfaction and fear are with us preverbally, from the earliest moments of our conscious being. And we also begin to learn to manage them at the earliest age.
If we are emotionally mature adults we are able to feel our emotions, acknowledge them, and take responsibility for their appropriate expression in a way that still leaves us feeling whole. But as vulnerable children or newborns, with the tenderest ego boundaries, or none at all, the tide of emotions as it comes up against the world can be overwhelming or self-threatening. We learn to manage our emotions based on all the messages from our human environment about what is acceptable and non-acceptable, what will invoke the love necessary to our survival, and what will lose it. We may even frighten ourselves with the overwhelmingness of our feelings and consider them a threat to our survival. In either case, our emotional management consists only of repressing, or distancing ourselves from these feelings. In so doing, we are abandoning a part of ourselves as well. This emotional dilemma is magnified in cases of physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
Hence, as adults, we may find ourselves fragmented and in conflict, having disowned parts of ourselves and built unconscious defenses around that self-abandonment. Yet these disowned parts and unresolved feelings continue to run our lives from the unconscious level. Our instinctive self somehow wants the rest of us back, and yet fears it.
The path of healing leads through re-experiencing and re-grieving our early hurts and separations at the feeling level – but now with the help of our new adult strengths and support systems. This process can be very gentle and also very challenging. It can only happen at the right time for each person.
In the absence of this work, the drama of repression, conflict and self-rejection will not only continue to feed many of our personal dynamics, but it also will continue to be at the root of humanity’s collective social and political history of violence, oppression and self-destruction. Yet emotional healing is given minimal focus or support in today’s medical or insurance-driven models of therapy. That is why at The Whole Health Center we consider it profoundly important to provide education and specific therapeutic support for this process.