The intelligence of life has been playing a wonderful game with me around these newsletters lately. Sometimes I will describe a process here, only to have the same experience descend on me with full force a month or two later. It makes me laugh to reflect on it, and since life seems to want me to get personal, this month I’m going to talk to you about something that’s been happening in my life very recently, and all that it’s teaching me. I’ve called it “on connection,” even though of course connection is what everything’s about at its heart.
In nature, all beings have an innate connection to their own emotional state. There’s no fragmentation or disassociation. For humans though, at least in our culture, we foster a lot of judgement and fear around emotions. We label them good or acceptable; bad or unacceptable. We generate a lot of anxiety around how we’re supposed to present ourselves based on cultural frameworks or our assumptions about others’ potential responses to us.
As a result, most adults walk through life with the sense that it’s not actually okay to feel whatever we’re feeling. For most of us, “negative” emotion is so deeply suppressed that we are disconnected from even the awareness of the emotions present in us. In a sense, our journey towards wholeness is one of learning to reconnect with the presence of our own subjectivity, our own true experience in a given moment. It’s a place that can feel so hard to reach; it’s a place that animals never left.
The truth of this came into my own experience in the most direct way recently. Something happened between a close friend of mine and myself which was hurtful and upsetting to me. Yet I wasn’t able to connect with or register any awareness of my own anger. Instead, I unconsciously began using logic and empathy to rationalize my friend’s situation, to try and see it entirely from her perspective. I didn’t allow myself to feel my own feelings about what was going on, because they were emotions that our culture calls negative.
Not surprisingly, the result was further disconnection between us. My friend couldn’t work out how I really felt about the situation, and because I wasn’t bringing my whole self to the conversation, she didn’t trust what I was saying. For my part, I felt I understood logically what she was asking of me, but my unconscious, unexpressed hurt kept us in a place of emotional disconnection. We had reached a stalemate, and it was time to ask for help.
I sought support from a fellow coach to help me find my way through the confusing, stuck position my friend and I were in. Having someone’s outside perspective helped me realize that while I was doing a fantastic job of trying to empathize with my friend’s position, I wasn’t taking into consideration the fact that I didn’t feel seen or understood, and so there was a part of me that felt hurt.
My coach friend showed me that within my logical mindset I was acknowledging all sides of the situation – except my own. To help me get there, she asked me to bring my awareness into my chest and invite the awareness of my genuine emotional state.
As I settled into the animal of my body, I was able to see it for the first time: Oh. I feel hurt. I don’t feel seen and acknowledged equally in this situation.
That awareness was really all it took to break the stalemate with my friend. Once I was able to bring my feelings to the discussion, my friend could in turn bear witness to that and to see and feel me in a way that she couldn’t before. For her, I was present in the friendship in a whole new way, and the process forged a new connection between us where we could both allow our genuine emotions to be explored and witnessed.
Since that moment, authentic connection has become the foundation of our friendship, not just the exchange and collision of viewpoints.
This experience has taught me a lot. I can see that true connection with others is only accessible via a true connection to the self. Horses have always modeled this for me, and I’m finally learning. Once I can allow a true connection to my own emotions, I become willing to place connection as my primary objective in interactions with others. And for me, when I discover I’ve become disconnected from myself, the answer is to be found in love and in nature. The value in reaching out to a trusted and wise friend is enormous… and sometimes for me those friends are animals. There is magic in the discovery of how effortlessly and completely they know what we can spend a lifetime trying to discover.