The fuel of life is feeling. If we are not filled up in childhood, we must fill ourselves as adults. Otherwise we will find ourselves running on empty.
From the book Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect
What does Empty feel like? What causes some people to feel it? In last week’s article, Not Sad Not Hurt Not Angry: Empty, we talked about how the Empty feeling is a result of having a wall inside of you which essentially blocks your emotions away.
Having a wall like this is functional in some ways. It can get you through your childhood by allowing you to cope with a family who is emotionally unavailable, ignoring, rejecting, devoid of love, or even abusive. But when you grow up and are living as an adult, you need to have access to your emotions.
When your emotions are walled off, you pay a heavy price. You pay the price of deep, meaningful, supportive relationships, a feeling of purpose and direction in your life, and a strong sense of self-worth and confidence.
Are you thinking, “Yes, I want all that!”? If so, there is a way to get it. It involves slowly, purposefully chipping away at your wall until it no longer stands between you and your emotions. It takes commitment, effort and perseverance. And if you have those, your rewards will be great.
Here are Five Steps to Breaking Down Your Wall:
- Open up: Override the unspoken childhood rule DON’T TALK. Identify the trustworthy people in your life, and talk to them about difficult things in your life and difficult things in their lives. Talk about things you never would have before. Be vulnerable. Talk, talk, and talk some more.
- Make friends with your emotions: Several times each day, close your eyes, focus inward, and ask yourself, “What am I feeling?” Pay attention to how you feel about things, and listen to those feelings. Know that your feelings matter. If the feelings that come up are difficult to handle, please find a trained therapist to support and help you learn to tolerate and manage them.
- Take your own needs seriously: Override the unspoken childhood rule DON’T ASK. Tell the people in your life when you need help or support. And then let them help you.
- Let people in: Fill your life with quality people. Meaningful relationships are a primary source of richness, connection and meaning in life.
- Get to know who you are: Pay attention to everything about yourself. What do you love, dislike, excel at, struggle with? What is important to you? What are your values? What do you care about? Once you see the full picture of who you are, you will see your value and worth, and you will feel stronger.
Do these steps sound easy? Probably not. But keep in mind that you are not looking to blast through your wall. You want to chip it down slowly, gradually, bit by bit. Since that wall stands not only between you and your emotions, but also between you and the world, your life will get better and better and better, chip by chip by chip
Each time you open your heart to a chosen person in your life; each time you notice something new about yourself; each time you listen to a feeling that you are having, you are chipping away. You are breaking the childhood bonds that have held you back all these years. You are making the decision to live life your way. You are taking a chance, counting yourself worthy, and filling yourself with the most powerful fuel there is.
Finally, you will no longer live your life running on empty.
To find out if you are living with CEN, and if so, what to do about it, Take The Emotional Neglect Questionnaire.