Stats don’t lie. Consider this:
- One in two marriages end in divorce¹
- One third of adults are obese²
- One in five adults smoke³
- Nearly half the US Population has a chronic disease†
- Over fifty percent of adults report that they are unhappy with their lives‡
Many of us can rattle these statistics off the top of our head, but few stop to consider the underlying culprit. I’ll give you a little hint . . . neither Wall Street nor Washington are to blame here. Quite simply, our emotions are. Or more accurately, our inability to access and be with our emotions.
My Reality Check
My emotional wake-up call came on July 9th 2005, the day of my 25th birthday. I arose that morning and did a quarter-life progress check. It went something like this:
- Interesting job that my friends think is cool? ✔
- MBA in progress? ✔
- Design and build a house? ✔
- Make the most money of my peer group? ✔
- Find fulfillment and happiness? Nope.
I know it sounds simplistic, but that exercise provided powerful insights for me. How was it possible that I’d achieved everything I dreamed of and the end result was emptiness?? It was time to face the facts: I didn’t like the life I had created, nor did I have any idea how to get out of it.
What followed was two long years of depression, complete with full-on panic attacks and debilitating anxiety. It was only then that I realized how small my emotional range had become; how the “Minnesota Nice” part of me had suppressed any emotion that society deemed unpleasant.
The depression forced me to become intimately familiar with my darker emotions – bringing me face to face with fear, anger, loneliness, pity and despair. As I fought for my life, I learned something truly valuable – that I had the capacity to be with any emotional situation life handed me.
Nothing could have prepared me for the glorious reward that was waiting for me on the other side of the depression. It was complete and unadulterated ALIVENESS, like nothing I’d ever experienced before, made possible ONLY because I had expanded my lower range which in turn opened me up to access high-frequency, expansive emotions like love, hope, passion and genuine happiness. Don’t get me wrong, depression is hell, but I’d do it all over again knowing where I ended up.
I was fortunate that the depression brought me head to head with my emotions. If only we all had a built-in emotional collision at age 25 that required us to explore the full range of our emotions! Unfortunately that’s not the case for most of us and left to our own devices, many can make it through a lifetime without ever TRULY knowing their emotional capacity.
I am going to be blunt. We have reached a critical juncture in time. If we do not alter the course of our lives and reverse these trends then for the first time our children will be less well-off than we were. I know that’s not the legacy I want to leave for my daughter.
So What Can We Do About It?
The answer is simple. We need to begin FEELING our emotions. Not just some but ALL.
- Stop bottling up and suppressing emotions that are hard to be with;
- Stop numbing out and masking our pain with alcohol, cigarettes, drugs and food;
- Stop substituting false emotions for the genuine one that needs to be released (ie: Choosing to feel self-pity instead of loneliness or despair, Choosing to Blame, Shame or Guilt instead of feeling anger or sadness);
- Stop sacrificing our aliveness for emotional comfort;
- Stop judging our emotions as good/bad, right/wrong. Every emotion is a beautiful, healthy part of us and must be expressed.
By doing this we invite in a whole range of possible benefits including:
- The chance to use darker emotions as catalysts for transformation;
- The ability to direct our emotional energy toward our higher purpose instead of using it to suppress certain emotions;
- The chance to experience the true aliveness that comes with full-range emotional living;
- The freedom of knowing that our emotions don’t run our lives, that we can’t choose our circumstances but always control how we’re going to be with them;
- Deeper relationships that come as a result of becoming more real and accessible.
In support of my fierce commitment to the importance of emotions in our lives, I do hereby declare that over the course of my lifetime I will empower thousands of people to access and embrace the full range of their emotions. For it is only in knowing ALL our glorious emotions that we can experience genuine aliveness.
———————————————————————————————–Sources: 1 Rate for 2011 for first marriages in the US, www.divorcerate2011.com 2 2010 stats for US only, www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/trends.html 3 http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/overview/index.htm#ref11 † http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/overview/index.htm#ref11 ‡ 2011, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24376037/ns/health-mental_health/t/half-americans-struggle-stay-happy/#.T0Gd77H2Zx0