Afraid of the Full Moon: Confessions of a Former Emotional Avoider

I used to be one of those classic New-Agey/spiritual bypassy girls who talked a lot about staying away from negative energy and who spouted Landmark Education adages about “dropping things” to get over them. I judged others for not being “spiritual enough” and getting caught in emotions. I didn’t talk about my feelings and got uncomfortable when others did, especially in groups. I found it odd people would share the things I spent so much time hiding. I would accuse people of wallowing in their pain and consciously choosing to notice the bad stuff. (Yes, I still wonder why people stayed friends with me.)

I felt righteous about my spirituality and tried every yoga practice, meditation technique, and even lived at an ashram. I got annoyed when people to wanted to talk about “heavy” things--like their feelings. Instead of listening, I would try to fix them by offering advice to “save” them from themselves.

I thought I was being helpful, empowering others to overcome their sadness and darkness. But mostly I was just afraid of how their emotions brought up my own. I felt ill-equipped and unprepared to navigate my emotional realm and unconsciously their pain only reminded me of my own unacknowledged and buried feelings.

I recently saw a beautiful video  with more than five million views with Brene Brown discussing the difference between empathy and sympathy. In sympathy we compare or try to think on the positive, attempting to change someone’s emotional state. In empathy, we meet them where they are and offer support and comfort, thereby creating connection and intimacy.

I realize now my way of interacting with people’s soft emotional realm was violent and disconnected. Instead of allowing them to feel, I felt superior and wanted to lift them out of their emotion. I didn’t trust their process just as I didn’t trust my own. I was sympathetic, and not empathetic.

“We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.” ~Brene Brown

I thought expressing my emotions and pain would make me unlikeable, but ultimately I was avoiding intimacy by avoiding emotions. Here are some ways I noticed I disassociate and self-abandon as a short-term way to avoid my emotions:
• Staying in my head and thoughts, instead of feeling my body and my feelings
• Short-term fixes to feel better such as drinking, sex, alcohol, drugs, sugar, shopping, or eating
• Blaming someone else to create a victimhood story instead of trusting I can handle the pain
• Armoring up and closing my heart to protect myself
• Judging myself and my emotions as wrong or bad

I used to dread this time of year (and full moons), with more hours of darkness creating a more natural internal reflection time that often brought up a lot of sadness. In general, there is a depression around this time of celebration. In the past I would distract myself with busyness, movies, or alcohol. Now, I’ve learned to lean into the difficult emotions, instead of avoiding them.

Emotions don’t need to be “controlled,” only released in a healthy manner that sometimes involves expressing them to someone else and sometimes doesn’t. The willingness to feel pain and not bypass the yucky stuff is changing my life (and certainly made me more empathetic). I want the full spectrum of emotion and the vulnerability to share it. I want to be with others in their sadness and empathize without trying to fix or change them. When I feel tears welling up, I used to run somewhere private to cry and now, I allow people to see me in pain and am more able to witness it in others as well.

“The full expression of an emotion is the funeral pyre of that emotion.” ~Stan Grof

In astrology, the moon represents our internal emotion process (among many other things) as well as our unconscious. This last full moon of the year fell on Christmas (for the first time in 40 years) and was in Cancer, the sign of the moon. Here are some ways to honor your full range of emotions during this time of darkness occurring shortly after the solstice and the  emotional Cancer full moon:
• Slow down and take time to feel (I do my best to check in throughout the day and every night before bed for any unacknowledged or suppressed emotions)
• Focus on body sensations associated with emotion
• See a therapist or other healer who can help you be present to your emotion without talking or thinking your way out of them
• Keep track of moon cycles to appreciate the different phases of emotion
• Study your moon sign in astrology to better understand your emotional style (my Moon in Aries wants to stay in positivity and what gives me energy instead of slowing down and feeling)
• Find a healthy outlet such as journaling or exercise

Humans are emotional beings (says the girl who cries now at least four times a day and has a Cancer rising), so I’ve stopped pretending otherwise. I no longer avoid difficult emotions, though now I tend to avoid people who are afraid of them. I believe this is an important next chapter of healing in the evolution of consciousness--for the Western World to cultivate empathy and connection through emotional exploration. And perhaps it opens with the gift of this full moon in Cancer on Christmas.