Walking through the wilderness of healing emotions can feel uncertain. The dearth of sign posts — exit sadness, here — make it confusing. Then, there are the social messages that tell us, "It could be worse," or, "Look at the bright side," or even more problematic, "Just get over it!"
Move too fast, and emotions lay hidden and unresolved. Move too slow and feel stuck.
How do you know if you're healing or wallowing?
What is your current state of self-love?
Self-love can easily co-exist with uncomfortable emotions like anger and sadness. In fact, feeling all of our feelings is an important piece of self-love.
However, if we slip into victim mode or begin to talk harshly to ourselves, it's a sure sign that resistance to feelings has taken over. If you feel disconnected from yourself, like you're living in a strange person's body, it's a sure sign you need to touch your own skin, reconnect with your body, heart, and soul.
Tip: Nurture yourself. Try abhyanga, an Ayurvedic technique involving self-massage with oils, take a bath, or gaze in your eyes for three minutes while repeating, "I love you."
What does your self-talk sound like?
Wallowing and its friend pity go hand-in-hand. If thoughts like, "nobody understands," or "bad things always happen to me," are playing on repeat, it's time to check yo' self.
I know how difficult it is to struggle and feel like nobody understands what you're going through, but the truth is that nobody will ever truly understand, not the way you want them to. Nobody will ever walk in your shoes, just as you will never walk in someone else's. Even though we are all one, we each must learn to make peace with our own hearts, to find the wholeness we're looking for within ourselves.
The desire to be understood is a natural one, but it must be fulfilled by your inner self.
Tip: If you seek empathy, give yourself empathy as you would a child. Change your thoughts from "nobody understands," to "I understand you're having a hard time. It's okay; this too shall pass." Learn how to nurture yourself at the deepest level.
How to avoid wallowing
It's all too easy to transition from feeling feelings to wallowing and self-pity. Keep in mind that we're all different and we all need different amounts of time to process events and emotions. It's not the timeline that's important, but the quality of the feeling.
Stay aware of what the process itself feels like. Does it feel stuck? Do you feel like you're healing? Are you releasing by crying, journaling or meditating?
Or are you just carrying sludge around in your heart while feeling apathetic and kind of sorry for yourself? Those are signs that that you've slipped into wallowing. But no problem, it's simple to get back on track to feeling and releasing. Always forgive yourself for being human. It's not even a mis-step, just a process of learning and being alive.
Healing comes in waves
Emotions come in waves and so does healing. You might feel great one day and then not so great the next. Going backwards doesn't necessarily mean you're wallowing, although it can lead to wallowing. Release expectation from the process, allowing yourself the freedom to move backwards without falling into pity.
If you stop and feel the feeling when the wave of emotion comes, this will help you heal. Otherwise, we start to numb ourselves and with numbness, wallowing becomes more likely.
Of course we can't spend the entire day meditating or journaling; it's just not practical. But when healing, take extra time to sit and feel. No phone, television or other distractions, just you and your inner self. Download a free meditation below.
It's natural to resist meditating when we're feeling things we don't want to feel. But this very resistance signals the need to meditate. In awareness, we begin to feel the pain underneath even numbness, helping us release, heal and grow from life challenges.
Signs of a shift
You'll know you're back on the healing path when you start to see solutions instead of just problems. When you begin to see lessons and experience the first glimpses of gratitude for the experience as a teacher. If you're resisting, looking for reasons to continue feeling sad or sorry for yourself, this is a sure sign you're wallowing.
You may veer back and forth into wallowing and feeling along the journey to healing, and this is okay. Just do your best, every day. Treat yourself with compassion, but not kid gloves. Sometimes love is tough love and other times it's soft. Try to learn which type you need at any given moment.
What is your experience with the healing process? How do you avoid wallowing? Share your story in the comments below.