“Don’t hide from your feelings. Press into them. Learn from them. Grow from them.” ~Unknown
There have been times in my life when you could look at my cell phone call log and see back-to-back conversations for hours. I am blessed to have a large support system of loving friends and family, and there have been many times when that has saved me from facing my pain.
If you know anything about attachments styles or are one of millions who suffer from anxiety, you will relate when I tell you that I spent most of my life incredibly anxious. Most of my anxiety had to do with me dealing with people: going to parties where I didn’t know people, knowing someone was unhappy with me, feeling like my needs weren’t being met in relationships, etc.
I work with many sensitive people and, in more recent years, I have come to accept that I, too, am very sensitive. We are affected by words, punctuation, tone, and demeanor. We know that words say a lot and words combined with punctuation say even more and that we communicate in more ways than is accepted as normal.
If I had to cancel on a friend and she responded, “That’s fine,” I would start to get worried that she was mad at me. The response that would have appeased my anxiety would have looked more like this: “I totally understand! Look forward to seeing you another time!”
For many years I thought I had found the perfect solution to this situation: talk to my wise friends who would make me feel better. Client who was not thrilled with me? Ex-boyfriend who posted something insensitive on social media? Friend who was giving me attitude? I picked up the phone for that.
Because my community of friends was fairly vast, I was able to avoid overusing anyone (though my mom might tell you otherwise). I’d hurriedly vent my frustrations and wait to receive the compassion and wisdom from my loved ones.
I had the process down: feel hurt, pick up the phone, vent, talk about the problem a lot, hang up, and then call someone else if the wound hadn’t been totally clogged.
Analytical processing can be useful at times, but more often than not we use it as a crutch so we don’t have to feel our pain. Talking about how I was feeling made me feel productive, but it prevented me from really feeling what was under the anxiety.
Anxiety was showing me that there were some much bigger feelings underneath the surface that needed my attention, but they would be very uncomfortable to move through.
A couple years ago I went through an incredibly devastating breakup. I lost everything that mattered: my will for life, a few pounds I didn’t have to spare, and myself. Once the natural grieving process had commenced, I realized nothing had changed. I was not getting better, so I panicked and began my calling sprees again.
One morning, with tears pouring from my eyes and a deep hole in my chest, I called my mom and asked her to please fly across the country to stay with me. She was heartbroken, but wise enough to know that what I really needed was to get to the place inside myself that wanted to live. She knew she would leave, and I would not be any better off.
I hung up the phone with her that day and realized I had been using other people to avoid feeling. These feelings were so deep and dark that they felt terrifying to face, but only I could face what was living within me.
The next time the pain surfaced, instead of picking up the phone, I turned inward. I lay down to do breathwork and faced the painful emotions and fears that were keeping me stuck. Through this long and grueling process I began to transform.
I didn’t move on from this breakup like I had other times. In fact, this wasn’t even about the breakup—it was a reckoning with my soul. I used this opportunity to really get to know myself. I learned about the human condition, and I came out a different person with more wisdom and compassion.
I realized that every time I felt a twinge of pain from someone’s words or actions, I had an opportunity to investigate what that meant to me. My habit was to talk it through with people, but the talking always kept me out of really feeling and getting to know the wound it pointed to.
Through healing, I was able to accept and love the parts of myself that were wounded when others responded to me in ways that triggered pain. I was able to feel it, see where it was coming from, and love myself through it.
When I stopped talking about my “problems” so much and started to heal the unprocessed emotions causing them, they diminished. I’m able to let things slide off me more easily. When I am triggered, I can look inward to feel where it’s coming from and honor myself through it.
Instead of running from my pain by picking up the phone, I have found the strength to face my own demons so they no longer control me. Now there is more space in my relationships for interesting and uplifting conversations.
If you’re struggling with chronic anxiety and spend a lot of time talking about your problems, you can use this breathwork meditation to learn how to heal yourself. This is a practice you can use continuously and also in the moments you feel yourself wanting to avoid your pain by talking about it.
How To Breathe
This is a specific two-part inhale that moves stuck emotion from the lower chakras into the heart. Most of our repressed emotions are stored in this energetic center in our bodies. You’re going to be breathing in and out of the mouth, which connects you more deeply to your body and your emotions.
Most of us have years, if not lifetimes, of unprocessed emotions. This breathwork technique is designed to open up the energetic channels of your body and help the emotions release.
You’ll first breathe into your low belly, then you’ll take a second inhale into your heart, and you’ll exhale. This inhale and exhale are all done through the mouth. This will connect you to your body and help the energy flow. You do not need to force your exhale. Let it naturally fall out of your body like a sigh of relief.
- Get in a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed.
- Lay somewhere comfortable on your back.
- Put on a playlist with three of your favorite songs.
- Close your eyes (you can use an eye mask if you have one) and breathe as per the instructions above to the first two songs. This might feel like work, but just stick with it and focus on the breath. Feel your belly and chest rise. Feel the breath move in and out of the body.
- Pay attention to what your body is experiencing. After a few minutes you might feel your body tingling. That’s normal.
- If you feel tightness or tension place your awareness there and breathe into it. There is probably some emotion that wants to release.
- Once the third song begins release the breath and begin to breathe in and out of the nose. Let your body vibrate here for as long as you like.
Oftentimes people feel immediate relief after a breathwork practice, but it can also stir up some uncomfortable, deep emotions. This is a meditation you can work with daily to continue the healing process.
Many of us live in cultures that promote fast payoffs. Healing is a long-term game. If you’re willing to put in the work and be patient, you will begin to notice yourself changing. Sometimes you’ll notice it after one session and sometimes after several. Pay close attention and be very gentle with yourself post session, no matter how you’re feeling.
About Michelle D’Avella
Michelle D’Avella is an author, Breathwork teacher and mentor. Her memoir, The Bright Side of a Broken Heart is available here. Download her FREE guide to heal your heart and follow her on Instagram for daily doses of inspiration.