Breaking the tyranny of emotions: A gift of kintsugi gold

Kintsugi (kintsukuroi) red creek jasper stone heart pendant with gold repair on black cotton cord

This post of part of a series on the subtle gifts of kintsugi gold. In this series, I am sharing some of the gifts I have discovered in the gold of my own healing in the hopes that it will help others identify the quiet gifts available to them. All people are different, however, and all forms of brokenness and healing are likewise unique, so my experience may or may not resemble yours. I hope it can still be a starting point for searching for and discovering your own gifts hidden in your healed scars.

Our emotions are meant to be our servants, providing information about how the events of the world around us impacts us.

But they appear with such strength and physicality that it is easy for them to become the tyrants of our lives instead with each message they send controlling our reactions without our conscious control.

For many years, this was my relationship with my emotions. I either attempted to deny and run from them (thereby storing them up for a later explosion) or they dictated my reactions to situations and people in my life in ways that were not always when I would have consciously chosen.

Whether in the suppression and hiding or in the indiscriminate catering to their whim, I was allowing them to control when I did or did not do instead of using them as the servants they were meant to be.

This began to shift during the worst of my brokenness a few years ago with a very interesting observation.

The view from the center of the flames

In the most intense period of my brokenness as my world completely fell apart on so many levels a few years ago, my emotions often felt like a raging fire that was burning me alive.

The grief and anger and anguish and fear all combined into an inferno that could not be ignored. There was no suppressing these flames, nowhere to run and hide, no escape from the tongues of fire that licked at my heart and my body.

I found myself stuck standing at the center of this inferno with no way out, and from the center I noticed that even as I felt every lick of the emotional flames in both my body and my soul, there was a part of me that remained untouched by destruction.

This part of me was able to observe myself and the fiery flames of my emotions from a place of detachment that was nevertheless filled with compassion and curiosity.

I was both in the center of the inferno being burned alive by the intensity of these challenging emotions and also somehow outside of it all witnessing it.

As I stood in this overlap between the two realities, I began to learn from the curiosity of the witness part of me.

She noticed which areas in the fuel feeding the flames came from old history, which were from unhelpful stories and beliefs, and which were natural reactions to the losses I was facing.

Seeing these differences, allowed me to start addressing these fuel sources—dealing with old wounds that had been suppressed and ignored, identifying patterns that led to my repeated injury, shifting stories and beliefs that weren’t helping me, making long overdue changes to reduce future wounding.

And as I dealt with these respective fuel sources—changing what I could, healing where I needed to, accepting with patience what needed more time—the flames began to lessen and cool.

I was finally learning from these servants instead of being controlled by them. And that meant that I was finding healing and growth coming more readily than I was participating in creating more destruction.

Learning from my servants

The key, I found, to learning most effectively to these servants of mine called emotions was in the ability to stand in the center of the flames when they appeared and simultaneously staying connected to this deeper part of myself that is able to observe from a detached place.

Wallowing only the emotions only led to greater suffering with no learning. Staying only detached without entering into the flames did not get me close enough to the messages and insights the flames had to offer.

The only way through the inferno was to hold both of those within me at the same time—to fully feel and experience each lick of the flames against my heart and to keep that detached inner eye watching the flames and my reaction to them.

Only from that position in the very center of the inferno was growth and healing available. Only there did my emotions lose control over me as tyrants and become my servants instead, guiding me and teaching me even when their lessons were often unpleasant to endure.

The gift, however, of having learned to move them into their proper place has not only been a significant amount of personal growth, it’s also cleared away so much of the old fuel that had been long lying around so that future flames are less intense with less to feed them.

Even knowing the benefits of this gift, it’s still not easy to walk back into the center of the inferno each time it arises, but it gets easier each time I do it because each pass through the flames deepens my conviction that it is worth it. Every single time.

For reflection

How do you generally respond to intensely unpleasant emotions (fear, anger, pain, grief)? Do you tend more toward running from them or wallowing in them?

To what extent are these emotions tyrants in your life, controlling your reactions? To what extent are they your servants that give you useful information without controlling you?

Have you ever experienced the presence of this detached observer within you that can help you learn from your emotions? What helps you connect with this inner witness?

Can you imagine being able to stand in the center of the inferno of your emotions and simultaneously stay connected with this inner observer? What might this look like for you?

How might you strengthen your ability to do this?


Other posts in this series

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