What’s the worst version of yourself? The moments you’re not proud of, the ones not shared on social media. Is it when you’re bitter, angry, sad, lonely or maybe like me, butthurt?
We tend to have a version of ourselves that we present to others. And then we have the other side. The parts of ourselves that we have shame or embarrassment around, because they are not as attractive for others, based on our conclusions from life so far.
The trick to emotional intimacy is, like for all other things, practice.
Why would we want to practice it? To accept that all emotions are good signals for us – they don’t need to be sorted into a list of good and bad emotions. And they don’t need to be shared with others as we practice. Learning the piano, we do have a go ourselves and the piano for a bit, before we take it to the concert hall, right?
As we get more aware of all of our emotions and allow them to show, they don’t scare us anymore – whether coming from ourselves or others.
Let’s get clear: getting intimate with our emotions is not about wallowing in them, creating dramas around them or suddenly bucketing them over others. It’s about putting on our explorer’s hat and with deep, innate curiosity, having a look at them, feeling them, getting to know them. As if you were practising scales on the piano.
That’s the way forward. Instead of our usual way (all of us!) of hiding the emotions, pushing them away, pretending they’re not there, or being so afraid of them that we have stopped having them all together. Imagine learning to play the piano, but only allowing yourself to use three of the white keys? We would miss out on a lot.
Back to me. So, I noticed how the family mentioned me getting butthurt. The definition of butthurt is “overly or unjustifiably offended or resentful”. But more than expanding our emotional vocabulary by looking it up, it’s about exploring inwards with curiosity.
This is the exercise for you to do – with your “go-to-reactions” that are not serving you.
The 4 steps are:
- Name it (in this case: I feel butthurt!)
- Own it (ooops…. It’s not what they said or did. It’s MY feeling, my stuff coming up)
- FEEL it (give it some curious explorer’s hat time. What’s that really about, when I’m butthurt? How is my inner critic adding to the party? What is it I didn’t get in that moment that I would have liked to get? Where in the body can I feel it – how does it feel?)
- Let it be (NOT hide it or push it away – accept it)
This can be a 1-minute exploration in your mind. Or a 20-minute curious discovery. The key is, that YOU decide when and where to explore it – and you decide when to pause the exploration for now.
If you’re blank on which emotion to start looking for first, be aware over the next week of when you start defending yourself – or maybe you are more the one for an advanced counter-attack tactic? What was the emotion you felt there, right before latching out (or pulling away)? That’s the one to explore.
My keys on the piano are expanding. With my explorer’s hat on, I’ve now become familiar with butthurt (oh, hello… is it you again? Welcome!). Sadness has been allowed in, too. And the emotion I have most avoided – anger – has been really fun to practice with myself.
And this is, of course, the key: whatever emotions we don’t like or accept in others, are the emotions we don’t like or accept in ourselves. Own it.
Which led me to profoundly apologise to my husband for trying to stop and block his healthy versions of anger, which I’ve resented for the last 20 years. I now know when the time is right for feeling angry about something – and no-one else may ever know, because it’s not about that outward reaction, it’s about owning it and listening to the signal it’s sending me. Allowing ourselves to have a go using all the keys of the piano.
All emotions are OK. They make our life richer, deeper, more expressed. Truer. Ours.
So, who’s your new emotional friend going to be? Name it and start the exploration. Enjoy!!