BY NATALIA BORECKA
We’ve all experienced that creeping feeling in the pit of your stomach that told you something wasn’t right. Maybe you were in a long-term relationship with the wrong guy, or you just signed a contract with a company you weren’t really sure about, or maybe it was that quiet whisper that told you he was cheating on you all along.
In most of these cases, we do the sensible thing, and proceed to ignore our feelings completely. After all, we’re taught that emotions are irrational, they can be easily manipulated, and that they have no real meaning anyway. It’s better to trust old logic, and logic dictates that you don’t have any real evidence to support any of your gut feelings. But then when the truth eventually bubbles to the surface, as truth tends to do, we berate ourselves for having ignored what we deep-down knew all along. Ignoring your emotions is a dangerous game. Do it enough time over the span of your life and you will soon find yourself losing touch with your own inner voice, you know, the one that tells you what you really want and need in order to be happy. It’s a sure-fire recipe for inauthenticity. Without it you’re walking through life covered in a thick fog of uncertainty. What am I doing? What do I really want? Is this the right relationship? Is this the right job? Who the hell am I becoming?
To help us dig through the fog, we sat down with authenticity expert Dr. Helene Brenner, a renowned transformational psychologist, speaker and author of I Know I’m In There Somewhere, a truly superb guide to rediscovering yourself, finding your authentic voice, lasting self-acceptance and happiness. It is literally the single most important book you will ever read, and should be required reading. We couldn’t recommend it more.
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LW. Hi Dr. Brenner! Thank you for speaking with us! You’re one of the first author’s I’ve come across who talks about the power of negative thinking. For years now people have subscribed to this idea that positive thinking is the end-all solution to all our problems – and if there happens to be anything wrong with your life, it means you’re not being positive enough. I love the way you talk about accepting negative feelings and almost using them as tools to finding a way to the life you really want.
HB: Yes, absolutely. I always tell people that emotion has the word “motion” in it for a reason – we move through emotion the same way we move through the weather. Just like I can’t say that because it’s sunny now it’ll always be sunny, it’s wrong to say that because I feel sad now I will always be sad. There’s no sense in putting a label on it, emotions are neither good nor bad, they’re simply a state of being. If we look at ourselves and say, I am sad right now, and we fail to see that sadness as a transient emotion, we end up identifying with it and getting stuck in those feelings instead of just letting them go. Just think of the way children experience emotion before they’re taught to repress them. Their feelings change from moment to moment – one second they’re crying, then they’re laughing, then crying again.
You can try to force yourself to think positively all you want, but those so called negative emotions are only going to get louder if you ignore them. The interesting thing is that they go away only when you turn towards them, hear them out, and listen to what they’re trying to tell you.
“Mental health is about allowing yourself to have the full range of your feelings, without labeling them as either good or bad.”
Let yourself be the way your body wants you to be in that moment. Don’t fight or label your emotions. Those emotions have an intelligence that they want to share with us, and listening to them can be a powerful experience. The problem is judgment, criticism, and all those outside voices that make you feel ashamed about your feelings.
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