Since 2013, millennials have seen a 47% increase in major-depression diagnoses. In a world where distractions make it frighteningly easy to avoid our emotions are so readily at our fingertips, this is not surprising.
We often have emotions or sensations that we can’t understand or classify, so we turn to distractions in an attempt to avoid feeling them altogether.
We misdiagnose simple emotions such as sadness, anger, rage, rejection as depression or anxiety disorder, so we can neatly categorize the unfamiliarity of what we are feeling rather than to actually experience, to move through it.
We are in perpetual avoidance and prefer to bury that which is uncomfortable, inconvenient or doesn’t fit into a neat little socially-constructed box.
Feeling sad? Order some Uber-Eats and eat your feelings.
Feeling lonely? Jump on Tinder and arrange a one-night-stand.
Feeling insecure? Go on Instagram, throw some filters on your selfie and watch the comments, likes and validation roll in.
Is this truly a growing depression epidemic we face, or is it a miscategorization of a generation that is doing everything they can to avoid their feelings?
Furthermore, are emotions a necessary part of our personal development that we are ignoring?
Do they hold the key to accessing deeper parts of ourselves and reaching the highest levels of our potential?
The mental health dialogue has – in recent years – been brought into the limelight as many people begin to seek more holistic approaches and consider a real need to allow uncomfortable emotions, feelings, and thoughts to surface in order to heal. To de-stigmatise experiencing negative emotions and promote the concept that in fact it is recognizing, understanding and feeling these emotions that hold the key to our personal growth and development.
We caught up with Emile Steenveld – emotional intelligence coach and speaker, co-founder of Elevate Events – in Canggu, Bali to discuss how to move through and experience uncomfortable emotions. He discusses how our emotions are the key to unlock our unlimited potential, our personal growth, our healing, our liberation from mental health issues such as depression.
Emile believes that “if we can learn to be with these feelings and thoughts and nurture them, instead of pushing them away, then we’re going to allow them to pass through us”.
He talks about avoidance of these emotions being problematic as “the moment we try to hold it/control it, it gets bigger and bigger and bigger.”
“So many of us wear these masks and we don’t even realize we are doing it,”
Emile discusses the inability he had to accept the dark parts of himself, his deeper emotions and having to put on a ‘mask’ or a ‘front’ so that people would accept him. That at face-value he would appear to have everything together, to be confident. To wear the mask of a confident ‘model’, where for so many years he had battled with such a deep, internal insecurity and need to be accepted.
He uses the analogy of a duck to describe this phenomenon of concealing emotion – on the surface, everything looks calm and fine, but underneath the water, the duck wildly paddles just to keep afloat.
While he was aware of the falsely confident “model” persona he hid behind, it was ironically his modeling career which helped him to finally remove it. It was through facing the consistent rejections a model does that Emile learned how to move through negative, unfamiliar or uncomfortable emotions. It was where he identified the limiting ‘story’ he had of himself that he was ‘not good enough’. He recognized the belief system he’d been programmed to have at a young age that was holding him back. The belief system which would cause these negative feelings, thoughts, and emotions to surface. To perpetuate the feeling of ‘not-being-good-enough’ and keep him unable to progress or grow.
Emile also came to the realization that these thoughts, feelings and emotions would always come at a time when he was about to reach the next ‘level’ of himself or in his personal development.
It was always when faced with something that was unfamiliar, challenging or foreign, something that pushed him out of his comfort zone, that these emotions would surface. They would bring up elements of his “story” – his story that he needed approval, that he wasn’t good enough, that he needed to be validated.
In fact, many figures in the personal development world talk extensively about these phenomena of ‘uplevelling’ and the subsequent emotional and mental challenges that come with it. Chances are, if you are coming up against emotions, feelings or sensations that are unfamiliar to you and that perpetuate your ‘story’ during a period of growth or upheaval for you, you are simply experiencing the same growing pains that Emile was.
You are being forced to address your ‘story’, your belief systems and the underlying emotions that are causing it to play out continuously. You are about to call yourself out on the BS and uplevel.
So what do you do when these emotions and feelings come up? How do you move through them gracefully, remaining relatively sane and mostly unscathed? Furthermore, how do you use these emotions to actually assist in your personal growth and reach the next level?
Emile believes the first step is to reflect on what your story is. What is the story you’ve held that reveals how you perceive yourself – your identity, your emotions, your role in this life? For example, your story (like Emile and also a surprisingly large number of people in this world) might be “I am not good enough.” Your story might be “I need the approval of others because I am inadequate.” Perhaps your story is “I have to be perfect or nobody will accept me.” Figure out what your story is. Write a list of all of the emotions that someone with that story would feel. Recognize where these emotions are surfacing in your life.
Once you’ve recognized your story, the trick is to catch it playing out through your thoughts. This means listening to, distancing yourself from and observing your thoughts (hint: mindfulness meditations are a great way to master this habit). The more often you practice this, the more automatic and easier it will be for you to do. Notice any time you are thinking thoughts that equate to “I am not good enough”, “I need validation” etc. Notice how your thoughts breed emotions or feelings that equate to the thoughts. Notice how it feels to think these thoughts. Observe the emotions that are coming up when these thoughts surface. Allow them to actually surface and move through you – use them to figure out what the genesis or believe underlying these emotions is.
In order to grow and develop past your limited thoughts and beliefs, you need to choose a more empowering thought, belief or action that supersedes it. Calling yourself out and recognizing the thoughts, emotions or self-sabotaging behaviors is the first step, and reprogramming yourself through repetition is the next. Once you have recognized the thought, feeling or emotion and expressed it fully (allowed it to move through you) then it is time to choose a better thought, feeling or action. The more you consciously choose a new thought, action, emotion or idea for yourself, the more you will make it a habit. The more you will program your next-level or identity that is without the ‘story’ you started out with.
If you are looking to reconnect with yourself and reach your highest potential then Emile invites you to join the Reset Retreat in Bali for New Years 2019. This transformative experience will help you to develop an authentic expression of your emotions and to surpass the stories and beliefs that hold you back.
You can find out more about Emile, the Reset Retreat and the amazing work Elevate does here