Given that our culture is not a culture of grieving it seems only natural that we would learn to stuff our feelings only to reach a point where our hearts shut down because of unresolved issues with our parents, others or things outside our control which lead to the amount of pain we carry inside.
Pat was the one to first introduce me to the thought that stuffing traumatic or painful events in our lives is not healthy. She helped me see that losing my Dad, my company and a youth organization that my wife and I started, deeply wounded me. Those around me had not allowed me to grieve. She believed that we must begin to grieve painful events in a healthy way within three weeks of the event. Otherwise we will stuff the pain deep within our hearts to resolve it and it will become toxic for the rest of our lives. It will seep into how we view ourselves and negatively affect us and those around us.
The Subtle Influence Others Play in the Healing Process
How did the people around me lead to me stuffing? They did not want me to be hurt, emotional, angry or depressed. They wanted me to take it in stride, forgive and forget, which are the things our society tells us. It seemed that no one truly wanted to listen to my pain, disillusionment, confusion or hurt. Perhaps this was because so many have shut-down or hardened hearts and listening to others’ pain strikes close to the pain they may be hiding inside.
The problem is that deep sadness, confusion, anger, bargaining and even mild symptoms of depression are all elements of healthy grieving. When we do not allow ourselves to grieve or do not pursue ways to let the emotions come out in constructive ways, we can get stuck in the grieving process.
Here is an Example
We move out of the hurt and sadness phase of grieving and into the anger phase, but we believe anger is wrong or those around us will not allow us to be angry in a constructive way. So we suppress the anger and do not identify it or let it out in a constructive manner. Instead we need to identify the specifics that we are angry with and find a way to release that anger in a tangible way like going to the driving range, the batting cage or a rage room.
When we suppress the pain, hurt or anger we can get stuck and remain in a state of sadness, with a heavy heart, or remain stuck in anger for years. We may just grow hard and cold inside. The only way to free ourselves is to turn and face our stuff within. For some this is easier because of their personality type or the relative amount buried within.
In our society I believe it is harder for men to express such emotions. This leads to harder, less understanding men. This contributes to other issues in our society like how men view and treat women and groups, which address these issues such as the Me Too Movement. Shut down hearts make us harder, colder and leave us unable to see or relate to others’ feelings. We cannot put ourselves in their shoes.
To free our hearts to beat again we need to pull out all the stops and do things that we are uncomfortable with like:
- Give ourselves permission to grieve and pursue the phases of healing that will help us address, surface, and resolve the stuffed issues and emotions within.
- I have found that, when possible, going back and sharing with our parents some of the scars left from messages they sent our way and the experiences that hurt us leads to understanding and the removal of relational roadblocks. Many parents carry deep regrets about their relationships with their kids but do not know how to broach the topic. Thus when we step out of our comfort zones and share from our hearts about our hurts, the responses will often be far better than we believed possible. Even if they do not respond well, sharing and the resulting hurt from their continued callousness will help us address our feelings and any thoughts we may have had about it being all our fault.
- Identify the negative conclusions this stuffing led to about ourselves and bring them into our conscious mind. Then identify the source of those beliefs, grieve the reality of those sources and how they have impacted you and your life. We can change the way we feel about ourselves from negative thoughts and self doubt to more positive, healthy and contented thoughts rather than artificially masked confidence that often presents itself like pride.
- And through all of this recognize that the devil, Satan, is called in the book of the Revelation “the accuser of the brethren”. He not only makes his accusations of us before God, he also whispers, or sometimes shouts, that we are worthless, failures, children not worthy of God into our own ears. But he is a liar from the beginning, and we need to understand how God sees us. He sees us as formed according to His purposes, loved, empowered through His Holy Spirit, equipped for good deeds.
Freeing our Heart to Rediscover Who We Really Are
In my own journey, I found that the negative conclusions I drew about myself redefined me. I believed the negative feelings within and they became true in my subconscious, which robbed me of joy and who I really was. I had to push through the pain of seeing the truth of what I felt about myself, discover its source and pursue grieving it to arrive at a place of peace within.
I talk with so many parents who, once they turn and face the past and their stuffed feelings, begin to rediscover themselves, their passions and abilities in a new positive light. Recently I was talking with a mom who had been operating on a purely intellectual level with her kids for years. Her emotional connection with them was virtually nonexistent and she inherently knew it but could not figure out why.
As we worked through the process with her family she began to turn and face the past. It became very clear that when she was young she was sensitive, emotional and caring, but her parents and especially her father saw this as weakness and as wrong. This hurt her and led to a cycle of messages from her parents that caused more hurt which she could not and did not know how to address with them. So she made a decision to stuff it all and be like her father. She idolized him, worked on their cars with him and even sought to become an engineer to earn his love. This was not at all consistent with her true self but what she had to do to resolve the hurt and get some sense of being loved and accepted as a child. This all happened unconsciously and without her realizing the profoundly negative impact it was having on her relationships as an adult and a mother.
Now as she turns and begins to see, understand and grieve these things she recognizes the profoundly negative impact not understanding all of this had on her relationships with her own family. She is beginning to heal within as well as heal her relationships with her kids and rediscover who she truly is.
Doing Parenting Differently
Unfortunately my research found that traditional parenting techniques do lead to our kids’ stuffing their frustrations and hurts as well as adopting negative views of themselves initiating this cycle in their lives. If you want to avoid this outcome with your kids please enroll and take our free online class, Influential Parenting Academy. It comes in easy to digest ten minute sessions that are insightful, practical, moving and will help you have healthy relationships that lead to positive outcomes and decisions in your kids’ lives.
Freeing our hearts is not fun or easy and it requires a strong commitment to push through the pain and healing process but it changes our lives, our families and restores oneself in powerful and amazing ways. If you would like to start the healing process please continue following our blog posts and find out how to heal your heart.