Human beings seek to survive, grow and thrive. This happens physically, emotionally and intellectually.
The puzzling thing is that people do not accomplish this at the same rate. The length of time it takes a person to mature depends on several factors, including ability, parenting, resources, and motivation.
Drive to Survive
The survival instinct can get in the way of growing and thriving. The unconscious mind believes that survival is dependent upon avoiding danger and pain. All pain, whether it is emotional or physical, is considered dangerous.
This belief leads people to seek out safety in the form of control. It becomes necessary to find a way to control one’s environment and ignore painful feelings. Only then does one believe that they are safe.
In modern society, we do not have immediate predators that threaten our existence. For most of us, the main threat to survival exists on an emotional level. On both a conscious and unconscious level, we all believe that we can build lives that are safe from uncertainty and pain.
It is important to note that this type of safety cannot be accomplished because to live is to face uncertainty and pain.
Our unconscious minds create solutions to help us believe that we are accomplishing that goal of safety. These solutions come in the form of defense mechanisms. They are largely unconscious, which can be both positive and negative.
When we encounter one of the many painful experiences that we will face in our lives, these defense mechanisms become tools to manage the emotional demands of the situation. They allow us to do what is necessary and find the help that we need. The problems come when defense mechanisms are out of sorts.
Even as an adult, the main coping behaviors and beliefs that you use today started when you were young. They helped you navigate your family system. These methods of managing yourself and your environment became your normal behavior. The logic behind these methods fit at that time.
Life is not static, and therefore, moves on. Circumstances change and people change, but these “favored” coping behaviors and beliefs remain the same. They interfere in the development of your true self. Because they are largely unconscious and habitual, you will not even realize the negative effects they are having on your life. What was adaptive and helped you survive as a child becomes maladaptive and impedes your growth as an adult.
Feelings: friend or foe?
Part of the survival strategy is to identify feelings as useless, to be avoided, and “the enemy”. This does not actually create safety because emotions are the key to the ability to survive, thrive and find safety. When emotions become labeled as “bad”, the conscious mind loses one of its most important tools to determine what is happening and the impact it is having on you.
Understanding your feelings and having an accurate interpretation of them, will lead you to take the action that is needed in a situation.
I worked with a man who lived by two very important beliefs. He was taught as a child that it was a man’s job to provide financially for his family. The second belief was that if he did not have the money to buy something, he would do without it. He lived his entire life this way.
He married a woman who did not have the same values. She would overspend without discussing it with him. He was confused and conflicted. This situation caused him to feel angry, betrayed, and powerless. He could not reconcile the situation inside of himself and was in emotional pain. His unconscious mind would not let him recognize his feelings. He did not feel safe.
He lived with the situation for several years, denying his feelings about his wife’s behavior. When he began to feel the anger, he believed he was bad for being angry.
Wasn’t it his job to provide?
Finally, as he became more comfortable with his feelings, he was able to recognize the anger for what it was: a message that his boundaries were being violated. At that point, he began to effectively confront the situation. Until this happened, however, he could not know how to act because he was using old patterns of behavior that did not fit his current life.
Feelings and safety
This example illustrates how necessary feelings are in order to know how to live our lives effectively. When we use old patterns of behavior and live by outdated guidelines, we are creating a dangerous place inside of us.
Safety is created when you discover who you are in the here and now of your life. Life becomes safe when you know your true-self and recognize that you can tolerate your own feelings and handle your own life.
Are you having problems managing your feelings and your life? Call me I can help you
find your true self and safety. (919) 881-2001