I’m in the middle of this journey to connecting with my heart, becoming emotionally whole, and annihilating passivity and fear.
I’ve had to face my biggest and most terrifying fears head on. I’ve had to drag my shame to the backyard and bury it, even though it comes back to life at times. I’ve had to allow myself to feel emotions and pain that I hadn’t allowed myself to feel for a decade.
I’ve grown in self-awareness and in understanding the things that trigger me. I’ve sobbed on the phone talking about my emotions. I’ve confronted lies and beliefs that were dragging me towards a terrible life of shallow relationships and worthless success.
Has the pain been worth it? Hell yeah. Every single minute of it.
I’ve started to feel alive. Before this journey, I was mostly numb to emotion. I shut down the emotional part of my heart, and that resulted in not being able to feel pain or joy.
And today, I’ve allowed myself to feel again. Which means that yes, I’ve felt more pain than I have for most my life, but I’ve also felt more joyful and more alive than I ever have.
I still don’t always know what’s going on inside me, as I’ve shared before. Emotions can be confusing when you’ve shunned them out of your life for years. I still have days where I’m an emotional train wreck. I still have days where I revert to my old medication crutches and devices.
“Freedom isn’t a destination, it’s a direction that we’re always going in.”
And even though this is a journey that never ends, because freedom isn’t a destination, it’s a direction, I know that I’ve learned some valuable truths about emotional health and wholeness. And I hope that you can gain some insight from my process and what I’m learning in all this craziness.
Here is a practical, actionable plan for emotional health that's been the key to my growth.
1. Get accountability
When I isolate, life sucks. That’s it.
When I let fear tell me that I shouldn’t reach out to my community when I’m in pain or am confused about my emotions, life sucks.
Because usually what will happen when I isolate is I fall into the same old pattern of numbing the pain and distracting myself from what I need to go after. But I’ve found that when I kill isolation and reach out to people I trust about what I’m going through, shame is destroyed and healing can take place.
When I kill isolation, shame is destroyed and healing takes place.
We need to be kept accountable. We need trusted people in our lives who can help keep us accountable. And in my experience, this doesn’t need to be a large group of people.
Asking for help is scary as heck. But we’ve got what it takes to be brave. Here is an example of what you could say when reaching out to a trusted person in your life to ask them to be your accountability:
“[John], I am reaching out to you today to ask you something deeply personal and vulnerable. I am looking for people in my life that I trust to help hold me accountable, because I am on the journey of finding healing and transformation in the area of [insert what you struggle with]. I believe in you and I fully trust you because [insert why you trust him/her]. I would so appreciate it if you would be available to talk to when I am struggling with [insert what you struggle with] and help me walk through this process."
The bottom line for me that has brought so much freedom in my life is the ability to reach out to someone when I need to process emotions or pain. Get community. Build deep rooted relationships. Get vulnerable. And give back.
2. Find a vision to cling to
The vision for my life that enables me to keep pressing in for healing and personal transformation is, that I want to be fully alive in every single moment of the rest of my life. I want to be fully present and fully alive for my kids in the future. I want a life of rich, meaningful relationships that go beyond talking about the weather and sports. I want to be able to walk others through this same process
What’s your vision?
Vision gives pain a purpose.
What is your “why?” Why are you on this journey? What do you want life to be like in a year, 5 years, and 30 years?
We need that why, that vision to enable us to push through the inevitable pain and struggles that we’ll meet on this journey. That vision will give us focus and a reason to keep pressing in for healing.
Why are you willing to walk through hell to walk out this journey? It doesn’t have to be fancy, but without the vision, you’ll be tempted to stop when it gets hard.
Get a vision, write it down, and look at it often so that you don’t forget why you are doing this.
3. Be honest with yourself
I’m pretty good at lying to myself. I’m pretty good at pretending that things are better than they actually are. I’m pretty good at exaggerating or twisting situations so that they fit inside my little box of comfort and conformity.
In essence, I struggle with being honest with myself.
But if I’m not being honest with myself, how the heck can I be honest with other people?
So one way that I get really honest with myself is in my journal. No one is going to read it except me, so what do I have to hide?
But it’s surprisingly difficult, I’ve found. Getting real and raw, dropping the mask, and telling your story just like it is is hard. But being completely honest is, I think, the only way to get to the heart of the matter and create real change in our lives.
But why does honesty with myself matter? One reason is that we can’t heal what we can’t see and don’t recognize. We must bring every part of us to the light so that shame leaves and healing begins.
It’s time that we drop the mask, the false self, the pretender, and show up as we are. What have we got to lose?
4. Get vulnerable
I used to think that I could get by without being vulnerable. Ha!
The only way avoiding vulnerability becomes a possibility is if we are content to settle for a shallow life, with shallow relationships and shallow success.
Without vulnerability, it’s not possible, at least for me, to be fulfilled. We all have a fundamental need for intimacy and connection, but if we’re not fully showing up and being vulnerable and real, we put up walls that make it impossible for true intimacy to happen.
Intimacy can’t happen when we hide behind a false self. Vulnerability is essential.
So, if coming alive is our goal, vulnerability must be part of the process.
What does vulnerability look like?
I recently had it explained to me like this. There are 3 components to being real.
- Honesty: saying the truth, not lying or exaggerating.
- Transparency: being open and not hiding anything.
- Vulnerability: fully showing up, laying everything on the floor, and being painfully open. Vulnerability also means knowing the why behind what we do, knowing our triggers, and digging deeper to find the root causes of our pain.
We need all three components to enter into true vulnerability. And if vulnerability is the key to intimacy and receiving (and giving) love, let's practice it more.
All we need is one person to be vulnerable with.
5. Feel every emotion
One way I look at coming alive means fully feeling every moment, every emotion, every feeling, and every pain of life. It means feeling the good and bad, the painful and joyful.
It means getting rid of our old crutches and medication devices that distract us from the fullness that life has to offer. It means leaning into pain and discovering why we do what we do.
It means we are able to fully experience life in a way that shows other people "This is what it's all about!"
I want to be that person who is fully alive. I want to be the person who people remark about as having that spark in my eye. I want to be an example of what it looks like to love life.
Freedom isn’t about stopping behaviors, it’s about coming alive.
That requires feeling every emotion and not running from pain. It means staring fear in the eye and not backing down. It means going all in. It means showing up and not hiding anymore.
Practical Next Steps
Find someone in your life to be your accountability. You can use the example I have under point #1, or do it your way. But don't hesitate. Do you have a mentor or a best friend you can reach out to? Do it today.