Have you ever had your heart broken?

I didn’t think I had, and would not have described a series of events that happened when I was five in that way, until I talked to one of my coaches recently.

For some years I have been aware of not being comfortable with feelings of sadness and disappointment. In fact, they have been two emotions I have avoided automatically, as if I was hard wired not to be able to feel them. By automatically, I mean that if I ever got close to being disappointed or sad, I would often shut down emotionally and either become numb (feel nothing) or feel very restless and quick to be angry.

It has puzzled me why I have apparently been unable to feel two perfectly normal emotions, and I have been looking for the cause of this. One episode in my life that seemed to come up repeatedly as a possible source happened when I was five years old. At that time, my family lived in Vancouver, Canada, as my father was a visiting professor at the university there. It was the most exhilarating time in my life – lots of time as a family connected with some of the most beautiful wilderness and nature in the world, and not being at school, I had no other distractions to living a life I loved. For me it was a blissful time and I felt fully alive, and great chunks of it are etched in my memory still.

At the end of the year’s tenure, we had to leave Canada to return to the UK. I did not want to go – at all! After doing my best not to go, we returned to the UK. During that time I felt enormous pain – disappointment and great sadness. And to protect myself from experiencing that ever again, I unconsciously decided to adopt habits to keep me away from ever getting close to feeling sad or disappointment. These habits included going numb (feeling nothing), getting angry, never wanting anything too much (because it would get taken away by someone ‘bigger’ than me) and never allowing myself to get too excited or passionate about things, because it would  be sure to result in sadness and disappointment – the two emotions I never wanted to feel again.

Those automatic reactions probably helped me to deal with circumstances I found very difficult at the time. The problem is, they became so automatic, that as I have got older they have limited me and had reached a point where they got in the way of my growth and development.

That is until a week ago, when I visited my coach, Sarah, who said that ‘leaving Canada had broken my heart’. In that moment it felt as if a bubble inside me had popped. There was a little five year old saying ‘ at last! Someone has acknowledged how I felt. Now that I have been heard, I don’t have to be here to protect you from feeling sadness and disappointment’.

Since then I feel very peaceful. I am no longer unconsciously alert to the threat of feeling those emotions, because I know that I can, it’s OK and that like any emotion, they will pass. I have been stuck for a long time with the impact of what for me was a trauma, and it has now passed through.

We’ll see what happens over time – I can’t wait! What I know currently is that feeling peaceful is great, and a very powerful place to be.

If this resonates with you, would you like some help getting unstuck yourself? Do contact me – I am delighted to assist you if I can.

About theclaritycoach

Paul Stonehouse is an experienced coach, educator and speaker, and is completely committed to helping people perform at their best. His particular passion is helping people move forward when they are stuck, enabling them to live and work a in a way which is a confident expression of their true selves.
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