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As we celebrate our country’s birthday this week, we think about freedom. This year, for the first time many of us find ourselves concerned for the many freedoms we may have taken for granted. And as the controversy about freedom gets played out on the daily news cycle, it is easy to become exhausted and then, neglectful of our own emotional freedom.

Addictions, anxiety disorders, physical or emotional abuse, bullying and negative self-messages are just some of the ways we imprison ourselves and restrict our emotional freedom. When we are caught up in any of the above issues, our feelings and thoughts often diverge; that is, we feel one thing, but think another. The result can simply immobilize us.

Despite evidence that someone we love is abusive or has relapsed in their addiction, we try to ignore or minimize the signs. And the list goes on- Is he cheating? Is my child cutting? Do I have a problem with alcohol? Does my father have dementia?  The truth is never easy to face often as it frequently involves changing ourselves or a relationship.

Some of us, even though outwardly successful in our adult lives, still hear the voice of our negative/critical/abusive parent inside our head and have a difficult time separating what we know is healthy from what those old familial voices tell us. Those inner narratives, are our own “fake news” bombarding us with negativity and sometimes self destructive messages.

Some choose to stay imprisoned in their fear. It is why so many resist mammograms or colonoscopies. Obviously, avoidance of health tests is never a positive choice, but fear can be powerful and keep us from advocating for our own health. The same is true regarding our emotional health; when we let our fear rule, we make poor decisions.

These are only some of the emotional cages we live in: and while they are not easily broken out of, small steps can help.

Begin by asking yourself: What keeps me imprisoned? How do I imagine freeing myself? Can I visualize leaving this cage? What would be my first move?

Than rather than overwhelm yourself, simply listen deeply…to yourself- beyond the “shoulds” under all those old messages is your answer.  In reality, by the time you ask yourself: Should I leave my marriage? Is my child depressed? Do I really have OCD? Has he relapsed? You already know the answer.

Once you get really honest with yourself (which is no small task. It often takes the help of a Physician, support group, Therapist or Twelve Step Program), there may be a mourning period, as the dreaded reality is accepted; your parent WAS abusive, your child IS cutting, your spouse IS cheating. Denial is no longer an option.

“Thanks a lot” you may be saying, “All that hard work did was just confirm my worst fears!”

On the contrary, your hard work is just beginning to pay off. When we listen openly to our truth, we begin to trust ourselves and our conviction and self esteem grow. Yes, something is wrong, but now with acceptance, you can clearly see it is imperative to remedy the situation. This is the beginning of breaking free. Nothing can change until we admit it needs changing.  We need the truth before we can make good decisions and take action.

Now we mobilize and prepare to take steps to leave the cage. We may be surprised that with knowledge and acceptance and support, we have the keys to unlock our own heartache. Still not an easy task, but suddenly much more doable. We are ready to confidently fight for our truth, as we know what is healthy and right.

This emotional freedom fight is messy, hard, discouraging and filled with moments of self-doubt, but not impossible. Talk to anyone who has gotten sober, left an abusive relationship, conquered their anxiety, cared for a child with mental illness or worked through childhood trauma. It is a rough road, but freedom, in all its’ forms is always worth the fight.

 

 

© 2018 Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC, LLC is a psychotherapist and addictions counselor in private practice for over 30 years. She is located in Farmington, CT. Her book From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Women’s Journey through Divorce, first published in 2004 won honorable mention from the Independent Publisher Association and continues to resonate with women experiencing the loss of their marriage and rebuilding their lives.

 

 

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