3 Steps to Emotional Grace

To truly meet ourselves is a beautiful thing. It’s when we can acknowledge our whole selves fully—our shadow and our light, our layers of conscious and unconscious thoughts and behavior, our compulsions, habits, traumas, crutches, needs, desires, fantasies—it’s when we have awareness of all these in ourselves and can meet (and love) our truth without running away.

Meeting ourselves is beautiful and important because it’s how we live a whole life. Knowing ourselves fully adds a depth and complexity to existence—the more I uncover about myself, the more I see in the world around me.

Life will inherently give us opportunities to meet ourselves, it’s what we do when they arise that matters. To meet ourselves fully is not an easy thing to do, in fact, many of us spend our whole lives doing everything we can to not, skirting around our shadows entirely, blaming people and situations, ignoring patterns in our lives and what they might mean, remaining unconscious because it’s easier.  

I didn’t step foot on the path of meeting myself until I got into a deep, intimate relationship. I met Jake at horse races in Lexington, Kentucky when I was traveling through America with 6 weeks left on my visa. He’s a pretty typical Mid-Westerner from Ohio and I’m Australian and it was a stretch to think we’d ever actually ‘make it’ as a couple. But we tried anyway because that’s what love does—it makes us push ourselves further than we usually would.

What Jake and I had to overcome didn’t end with the Pacific Ocean. As we tried to make our relationship work internationally, we only made things worse. There were betrayals and infidelity, dealing with immigration restrictions and all the communication issues that come with navigating a long distance relationship with two young people who barely know each other, over the phone. When he finally made it to Australia and we moved in together, our extreme cultural differences and opposing worldviews began to shine. Needless to say, the first two years of our seven-year relationship were a total (beautiful) disaster.

During the process of teasing out and working through each issue, I began to really meet myself. And do you know what happened the first time I saw parts of myself that I’d never seen before? I took one look, freaked out and made up every excuse that it wasn’t me, that it wasn’t who I was. My first inclination was to blame everyone else and run.

Luckily for me, we were guided by some very competent (and gentle—which was so important) people during this time, and the first thing they told me (and us) was to slow everything down.

So the second time I met myself, I felt the impulse to run, but instead, I took a deep breath, I let the uncomfortable feelings fill me up entirely and I tried to soften the voices in my head that either blamed Jake or told me what I piece of shit I was.

Here I stayed for months and months, breathing through my desire to blame and run every time an old or new issue came up between us.

Five years of practice and the whole thing is much easier. In the process, I strengthened both my soul and ego (ego strength is important but confusing because we’re all taught egos are bad), I’m a much greater and better person and nowadays, I’m even trying to turn it into an art form—hence this post.

What makes meeting our selves an art form is when we can do it with love, strength, and grace.

Here’s what I’m practicing:

You’re much stronger than you think.

There’s an ego response that happens when we feel attacked— we defend ourselves. It makes sense, right? But often what happens (as was the case for me) is that response becomes overactive, and suddenly it’s being elicited all over the place and you can’t actually work through problems with someone when you’re in defense mode. What I had to ask myself was, am I really that fragile, that any sort of negative feedback elicits a defense mechanism in me?  Of course not, and neither are you, we are all much stronger than we think.

Get curious.

Life gives us plenty of doorways to meet ourselves, you just have to tune into yourself and get curious. Every time you feel defensive, immediately get curious. Ask yourself, why? What’s going on? Am I meeting a part of myself I don’t like or have never met before? How is my mind interpreting the situation? Is this defensiveness the correct response? Is it going to solve the problem? The greater the curiosity you can build into both the gross and subtle parts of yourself, the better. In my short five years of personal growth work, meditation and spiritual practice, and delving into the depths of my psyche, getting curious about yourself is the thread that connects them all.

Feel resistance, do it anyway.

You will feel resistance, it’s part of the process of meeting yourself. When I feel resistance I know I’m onto something good because I know the work doesn’t even begin until then. The better you get acknowledging, accepting and breathing through the resistance, the easier the rest of the process becomes.

Believe it or not, I think you can get good at meeting yourself. It’s a practice—like literally everything in life—and sometimes you suck and sometimes you get it and that’s just the way it is, but overall, I think we can get better at it with practice and it’s worth it, for the beauty, depth and complexity it adds to life.

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