My approach to the healing journey begins with perhaps the single most important part of being a well-actualized individual, because it is the root of all of our personal power: our emotional voice, and the choice to use it.
The first thing to understand is that choosing to use your emotional voice means that you are choosing to tell the truth. As you learn to identify, own and then speak the truth about the many aspects of your emotional experiences in your life, your emotional voice forms, awakens and comes to life.
Learning to master using our emotional voice is really a heart path: as we learn to see and tell the truth about all the times in our life when love didn’t work well, and we do our emotional healing work and learn the skills to regrow solid love for ourselves and each other, we are really learning to see, think and speak with our hearts. That is, to me, the very best foundation for deep self-actualization.
Starting at the beginning, we lose our emotional voices in our families. Some of us try to find our voices and are shut down, while others never find their voices at all. Whatever your experience, the healing path begins with discovering where we lost our voices in our families. Often you don’t have to look very far – we unconsciously seek out the same dynamics in the relationships we choose as adults as those that shut down our emotional voices in our families.
Not everything that shuts down our voices happens in our families. Many things can happen to us outside our families that have a profound impact on our lives, and in our healing journey we need to identify those as well. For the sake of simplicity however, I am going to keep my references mostly to the family because this is where the vast majority of us lose our voices.
Another definition of emotional and cognitive dysfunction is that in families where the parents are wounded children and teenagers in adult bodies who never had their own emotional voices growing up, everyone in the family will try to find their voices through triggered emotions and acting out behaviors, and typically fail to do so. As a result nobody ever really becomes fully conscious of the dynamics they are stuck in, and another generation inherits dysfunction that doesn’t allow love to grow well.
Triggered emotions – explosive ones like anger and aggression, implosive ones like depression and withholding – and the acting out behaviors they use to communicate, are the opposite of having an emotional voice. And deep within us, when we can’t find our emotional voices, a kind of grief forms that we need to take very seriously. It is a developmental grief, very different from the grief we normally think of in the 3D’s – death, divorce and disaster – and it is by far the more common form of grief that lies at the heart of all dysfunctional patterns.
The great challenge in healing dysfunctional patterns lies in being able to choose to bring conscious love and acceptance to the triggered emotions, because every dysfunctional pattern starts with a triggered emotion, be it explosive or implosive. And every triggered emotion is trying to tell the truth about a painful emotional event that has taken place.
If we go back out to The Promise of Love for a moment, one of the most powerful healing commitments we ever make is to listen to triggered emotions, accept them and help them evolve into an emotional voice that no longer has to rely on triggering and acting as a kind of sign language to tell the truth.
The hardest thing about listening to the voice of triggered emotions (and the grief that lies underneath them) is their intensity. There is a rule of thumb here that can help you greatly to stay open in the presence of your own or another’s triggered emotions: the intensity of a triggered emotion = the depth of emotional intelligence and capacity for love that needs to speak but has no voice.
Every time I work with a triggered client, without exception, I listen to their intensity with this as my focus: as this person begins to find their emotional voice through the tools and techniques I will give them, what emotional intelligence and greater capacity for love is going to emerge?
It takes being able to stay grounded and track through the grief story that lives inside the triggered emotions – grief over the lost emotional voice as well as stages of self-actualization that the family blocked – to fulfill The Promise of Love to Listen, and that is one of the emotional skills you will be learning. Whether just for yourself or in a relationship, keeping The Promise of Love to Listen is a very, very powerful skill that brings love back very well.