Until we allow ourselves time alone to lean into our anxiety and release our pain, we may not even realize that our bodies, especially our autonomic nervous systems, hold on to pain. For example, we may have parts of our body that are numb, shallow breathing, or a nervous system in a constant state of anxiety. Leaning in to our anxiety loosens the vice grip our brains have on our thoughts. In order to heal, we have to expose those negative thoughts, worries, and wounds to the light, and reveal all the ways we’ve been striving to protect them and keep them hidden from sight.
Our physical and emotional reactions are flags which alert us to underlying patterns and unresolved pain. This sort of information usually surfaces in situations that engage the brain in survival mode—but sometimes a simple word, a glance, or another seemingly benign interaction with another person can cause them to erupt in a defensive reaction. Such patterns need not have originated with us, but can be triggered by behavioral patterns evident in another person or situation. Nonetheless, no matter where a pattern originates, the stronger the reaction is, the more deeply seated the vulnerability which underlies it.
Consciously observing your physical and emotional reactions from an expanded spiritual perspective can help you see the origin of your emotional pain. Giving yourself permission to push the pause button and interrupt your own automatic reactions helps you compassionately detach from the person or situation, and gauge what is going on within you. You can then lean into your anxiety, notice where your body is holding tension and creating energy blocks, and ask yourself such questions as: What is this physical or emotional reaction telling me about myself? What is the origin of the anxiety being triggered? What spiritual information am I being guided to see?
Opening your heart not only calms an anxiety-ridden brain, but can also flood the body with a healing vibration that releases internal energy blocks. Like an electrical circuit breaker that has been tripped, your natural healing ability may have shut down due to stress, fatigue, challenging life circumstances, or negative emotions. This shutdown leads to discordance in the heart’s rhythms and stress in the nervous system. When you open your heart and focus on love as a healing vibration, you can alleviate many of these detrimental effects.
It’s important to remain aware of your reactions so you can immediately bring your nervous system back into balance by breathing and focusing on your heart center. Once you’ve calmed your emotional reaction, you can clear negative thoughts by substituting encouraging phrases such as: Bless and release, Open and let go, and “Let it all be—all the while engaging in supportive self-talk. Finally, pause frequently as you move through the challenging situation so that you remain aware of yourself, your environment, and any additional reactions that may arise. In this way, you can not only soothe your anxiety, but refrain from doing harm to others through your reactions. In fact, using these practices, you can leave whatever space you’re in charged with more positive energy than it contained when you arrived.
I know that this may be easier said than done. The first reaction of most people feeling anxiety is to avoid it. In fact, the brain automatically moves into self-protection mode when it senses pain, since at the heart of our reaction to pain is, ultimately, the fear of death. It takes courage to confront such anxiety with compassion, and self-discipline to hold back the self-loathing we may unleash at the slightest twinge of pain. We must come closer and lean in to what we fear and gently surrender our defenses. Then we can allow our old friend, anxiety, to surface and release.
Sometimes a crisis such as a serious illness, trauma, or loss forces us to lean into our anxieties and open to intense transformation. In some ways, change—even the hard change of healing old wounds—is easier when the alternative is unthinkable. But for many of us, daily life isn’t enough to trigger that kind of radical transformation. Instead, the pain is left to build up for years, even decades, because it’s easier to ignore it than to let go and embrace it. Without such release, however, these old wounds can create chronic distress that can manifest as depression, anxiety, or physical illness. Only when our emotional pain is released can we bring about self-healing.