The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught. It does [aim], however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love's presence, which is your natural inheritance.
-Introduction, A Course in Miracles
When Alison was nine years old, she came home from school one afternoon to find that her father had left, taking most of the family's belongings with him. Alison's mother, completely distraught, remained in her room crying for the next two months. Overwhelmed by what was going on, Alison internalized her feelings, and in that way she was able to avoid the reality of what was happening. Despite her efforts to block out the trauma of her parents' divorce, however, the event did have an immediate impact on her: though she had always been superconfident and outgoing, Alison became more reserved and less sure of herself.
Fast-forward fifteen years. When Alison came to me for coaching, she gave me the lowdown about her parents' divorce. I was surprised at how nonchalantly she talked about it. Despite the traumatic details she was sharing with me, she seemed virtually unmoved. It was as if she was telling me about a movie she had seen the day before. She then told me what life was currently like for her. She had trouble believing that she was good enough in all areas of her life, particularly in relationships. "Men suck and nothing ever works out," she complained. And she rarely trusted anyone and never allowed people to get close to her. Despite her tough talk, all I could see was an innocent nine-year-old girl begging for relief from a pain buried deep within. I asked her if she had ever dealt with her feelings about her parents' divorce, and she replied, "Oh, yeah, I've been getting over that for years." ("Over it" being the operative words.) From what I deduced from our time together, she had been eating over it, thinking over it and shopping over it for years. Sadly, by burying her feelings about her parents' divorce, Alison had never given herself the opportunity to heal from it.
Like Alison, we have all experienced instances where we have buried feelings of hurt and pain instead of dealing with them head-on. The source of your pain may not be as obvious as Alison's. You may not even realize it exists. But I promise you, it's there-_although not for long! The purpose of this chapter is to help you uncover your unhealed wounds so that you can face any negative feelings that you have repressed over the years. I understand that this might be new to you. Unfortunately, our culture has not trained us to be comfortable addressing our feelings. We've been trained to think with our left brain's logic and practicality, and ignore our right brain's capacity for delving into our emotions. Therefore, many people go through their lives denying or ignoring their unhealed pain, rather than facing it head-on and thus allowing ourselves to heal.
But first, what's so wrong with burying bad feelings instead of dealing with them head-on? I mean, if those troublesome feelings are locked away somewhere, why's that such a bad thing? Isn't it better than having them racing around in your brain wreaking havoc? The problem with this logic is that repressing feelings is the very thing that causes them to wreak havoc! That's because if you don't face your negative or painful feelings, you will remain stuck in the ego's getting over it stage, and continue to evade your true healing. Remember the ego? It's that sneaky little bugger that dwells in the pain of the past, re-creates it in the present and projects it onto
the future. And the worst part is, you aren't even consciously aware that this is going on! For all you know, the painful feelings are well out of your way, buried down deep where they can't cause you any harm. But all the while, your ego-without your permission or knowledge-has discovered those hidden feelings and collected all of the negative energy from them to use as ammo to make mischief. Most likely, your ego has stirred up a big ole pot of "limiting beliefs" and fed them to you: "I'm unattractive and unlovable." "I'm just not smart enough for that job." "I'm terrible with money and will never get ahead." "I'm just not a person people warm to." "I have issues with food." "I'm lazy." In my profession, I've witnessed many denied feelings turn into limiting beliefs that completely paralyze people from making necessary changes in their lives, or worse, cause them to adopt self-destructive behaviors. But ego is not always that obvious; sometimes it's virtually impossible to know that repressed painful feelings are what's behind a certain negative issue in your life. Oftentimes, the only way to figure this out is to overcome your limiting beliefs, and from there wait to see what the positive results will be.
But how can you excavate long-buried bad feelings, especially if you don't even know you have them? The answer: ~ing! ~ing! ~ing! It's time to crank up the ~ing Equation, or in the case of this chapter, the Feeling Equation. Here's how it's going to go down: The Feeling Equation is unique in that it has an extra step: feeling. The feeling step will help you identify any old wounds you may be avoiding. Then you will be led to feel. Once you allow yourself to feel, you can then surrender to the healing process. The Feeling Equation will guide you to fearlessly pour some peroxide onto past wounds. The good news is peroxide only stings for a minute, then it makes the wounds start healing! Just think of the quick sting as the crucial step of feeling. Properly cleaning the wound is the hardest. Once you set the healing process in motion, the gaping wound soon becomes a scab, and within weeks it's pink new skin. Within a month, all you have left is a beautiful scar, a gentle reminder of an old lesson.
But before you get started on the Feeling Equation, you'd probably like to know exactly what you can look forward to "changing." And what, if any, inspiration can you expect? Unhealed feelings from the past block you from authentic happiness. On top of that, as new painful feelings crop up, your brain continues its old habit of repressing them. It becomes a vicious cycle: since you've never allowed yourself to actually deal with painful feelings, you haven't developed the skills to do so. You're living your life always burying your negative feelings. As a result, you go through your life talking, thinking and doing over the pain. Meanwhile, swelling deep underneath is a negative voice in your head taunting you with the words "I'm not good enough." Before long, the nagging voice manages to plant this thought, and it takes root as an actual belief that you are not good enough.
But there's good news. Applying the Feeling Equation to this area of your life will result in complete thought-changing patterns that will undo any and all of these negative feelings. At the end of the process, in their place will grow feelings of self-love and peace. And the coolest changes might be the ones you never expected. Remember, you're not only ridding yourself of negative feelings-you're also getting rid of the limiting beliefs that were manufactured from the negative energy the bad feelings harbored.
As for the inspiration you can expect: unresolved painful feelings take up a lot of space in your psyche, and once you've cleared out all those painful feelings, you'll have made room for tons of inspiration. My client Molly's first love broke her heart when she found out that for nearly the entire seven years they had been together, he had been unfaithful to her. After they broke up, she did the whole "self- improvement" thing. She got in great shape, got in with some cool new friends and even moved from her college town to New York City, where she got a kick-ass job. But what she hadn't done is deal with the feelings of pain and betrayal her breakup had caused. Tellingly, she had terrible luck with men in the big city.
Then one day, she started getting calls from her ex. Suddenly, all of the feelings of hurt and betrayal that she had buried years before came washing over Molly. For a few days she felt really down. But during that time, she hung out with her best friend, talked out the feelings and had some good cries. Ultimately, she told her ex she was ready to move on and that he should not call again. After this experience, she developed a renewed sense of confidence. It wasn't long after that that she met and fell madly in love with an amazing guy.
Most recently, I've transformed the wounds of my past into beautiful new ways of being. For more than a month, I hung out with the feeling of not being smart enough to write this book. I had an antiquated limiting belief that I wasn't smart, which dated back to the sixth grade when a boy I had a crush on called me stupid. From that point forward I actually believed I was stupid! I tried many tactics for getting over this limiting belief, but the feeling always managed to sneak back in. It blasted me hard when I began the process of writing this book. In order to begin the book, I had to get cozy with the feeling and then release it. Each time the feeling behind the words "I'm not smart enough to be a writer" snuck in, I would melt away the pain by simply feeling it. I'd sit in the feeling and get curious about it. I figured out where the feeling originated, and accepted the untruth behind it. My inner voice, or ~ing, told me that I was totally capable of the job ahead; I turned my inner voice up loud enough to drown out the negative limiting belief. By surrendering to the feeling, I was able to heal it.
Now, let's get started down the path of feeling. Before you begin the Feeling Equation, it's important to discover what sort of damage your ego has wrought with your buried negative feelings over the years. Here are a few questions to ask yourself that might help you uncover them: Do you feel stuck in negative patterns for fear of feeling hurt or disappointed? Do you feel that you are not good enough in some areas of your life? Do you harbor nagging voices in your head that sound like the following: "I don't do well in relationships," "I'm not good enough to succeed in life," "I have difficulty making money"?
It says in A Course in Miracles that "Being afraid seems to be involuntary; something beyond your own control." That is exactly what has happened with your limiting beliefs. These thoughts have become completely beyond your control-they're second nature by now. You identify so closely with them that they embody your perception of yourself. Once you've tapped in to these voices, I want you to accept them for what they are-recycled negative energy from repressed pain, and more importantly, accept them for what they are not: THEY ARE NOT THE TRUTH!
The Feeling Equation:
Thirty Days to Healing
Step One: Feeling
Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, states: "The foundation of all mental illness is the unwillingness to experience legitimate suffering." Therefore, in order to heal it, ya gotta feel it. When you are willing to experience your negative feelings, they release. Resisting the pain causes more of it. Don't be afraid to feel. It's the fear of the feeling that has kept you from recovering. What I'm asking you to do now is to just rip off the Band-Aid and get curious about the way you feel. Close your eyes and ask yourself the following questions: How can I describe this feeling? Am I sad, fearful or anxious? Am I all three, and more? Where do I feel this in my body? What does it feel like? Is it raw? Does it have a color? What shape is it? Is it tight? What is underneath it? Is there a word that is associated with it? A person? A time? Ask yourself anything that will help you identify the feeling underneath your thoughts. Don't push it away, don't think it away-just be with it. By getting curious about your feelings, you may be reconnected with the place in time where they began. For many people, these feelings stem from childhood.
Step Two: Rethinking
Now it's time to take those negative feelings and rethink them into positive feelings of self-love. To do this, close your eyes and breathe deeply in through your nose, and out through your mouth. Take a moment to connect to your breath. Then ask yourself: What are the beliefs I have about myself that are holding me back? Write down your answers. Cross out the limiting beliefs and write your new affirmations in their place. If your limiting belief is "I am incomplete without a man," reverse it with "I am complete as I am." If your limiting belief is "I'm not good enough," reverse it with "I am wonderful as I am today." You may want to specify something that you have been trying to release, in which case you can use the affirmation: "I release _____________ and allow my myself to feel my feelings."
For the next thirty days, hang out with your feelings. When you notice the limiting beliefs come up, just honor how they make you feel for ninety seconds and breathe. A feeling can move through you in ninety seconds. After feeling for a minimum of ninety seconds, call on your reversed affirmation. Say your positive affirmation out loud and continue on with your day. Do this as often as possible.
Step Three: Rethinking + Moving
Sometimes our feelings are so deeply buried that we have to physically move them through. Remember, we don't just carry our feelings in our minds and hearts, we lug them around in our bodies too. It's now time to stop dancing around your feelings and just dance with them. In this step I ask that you apply your new affirmation to some form of dance. You'll find that with dance the real release into clarity comes through in every beat and every rhythmic motion. You can do this dance formation in the comfort of your own home. (Dancing in front of a mirror is one of the joys of life!) You can dance to your own music. Allow your feelings to surface, and with each beat and each movement, release any negative feelings.
I've found dancing to be one of the greatest physical activities for releasing blocked feelings. For instance, I recently experienced incredible emotional release in a dance class at a dance studio called S Factor.
Excerpted from Add More Ing to Your Life by Gabrielle Bernstein. Copyright © 2011 by Gabrielle Bernstein. Excerpted by permission of Harmony, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.