Emotional Fitness
discovering our natural healing power
by Janice Berger

Chapter Summaries

Part II: Doors to Go Through

Too often we see our feelings as locked doors, places with no exit. But feelings are in fact doors to go through.

Honest recognition of our feelings and our defenses is the key to opening doors into ourselves.

When we no longer have to keep our feelings disconnected, we no longer have the need to act out what we cannot feel.
Chapter 6
Need: Unmet Childhood Need, Unconscious Adult Pain

Need is not a word that people use to identify what they are feeling, and yet unmet need is the driving force behind our most troublesome, disconnected behaviours. We eat, drink, work, gamble and buy to excess, for example, in order to assuage our old, unmet need.

We experience inappropriate needs as adults if our childhood needs were not met. The acting out of these unmet needs makes it difficult to know, let alone fulfill, our genuine present needs. For example, acting out our need for approval in the present keeps us asking ourselves what we should do instead of what we really need or want to do.

Subtitles in this chapter are:
• Hating and denying our need and losing ourselves
• Insatiable need
• Learning to be indirect and dishonest about our need
• Defending against our need
• Inappropriate needs as adults if childhood needs were not met
• Putting our need on our children
• Balancing our need with those of our children
• Unmet need: acting our "poor me"
• Blame as a cover for need
• Early, unmet need turned into powerful sexual need
• Feeling through need in safety
• What children need
• Unmet need leads to a sense of worthlessness

Chapter 7
Worthlessness: A Final Defense Against Unmanageable Pain

Feelings of worthlessness are often hidden from us, although they may be residing at the very core of our being. Many people are disconnected from this source of their driven behaviours and do not articulate it as the basis of their problems. Others might express worthlessness as low self-esteem or a sense of inadequacy without really feeling its depth or its ramifications.

Subtitles in this chapter are:
• When our needs are not met, we feel worthless
• Not being heard makes a child feel unworthy
• Oppressed by negative judgments
• When children are not wanted
• Threats of punishment
• When our sense of worth is undermined by parental rigidity
• Worthlessness leading to depression
• Some manifestations of feelings of worthlessness
• Self-improvement: changing the outward shape
• Self-loathing: a defense against worthlessness
• Breaking the cycle: living from a sense of worth

Chapter 8
Shame: The Silent Killer of the Human Spirit

Shame is a silent killer because it prevents us from revealing to the world who we really are. When we hold onto our shame as an adult it can be totally debilitating. Like worthlessness, shame becomes a devastating defense because it keeps us stuck.

Our feelings become shame-bound if it was unacceptable for us to express them.

Subtitles in this chapter are:
• Origins of shame
• Shaming without words
• When children have to hide their feelings
• Humiliation and ridicule
• Indifference is a killer that generates shame
• Lack of respect for a child's privacy breeds shame
• Being different, feeling different
• Picking up our parents' shame
• Becoming aware

Chapter 9
Guilt: A Straitjacket for Feeling

We all experience guilt, rational and irrational. It is irrational guilt that keeps us on an unending treadmill of self-blame.

Unresolved, irrational guilt drives unconscious and self-destructive behaviour. We can use it as an entry point to our authentic, true self.

Subtitles in this chapter are:
• Rational guilt
• Irrational guilt
• Sources of guilt in our childhood
• Guilt perpetuated in our culture
• Feeling through irrational guilt
• Stretched to the limit
• Guilt as a signal
• Guilt as a smokescreen for fear
• Guilt as a smokescreen for anger
• Guilt obscures the opportunity to live by our own values
• Irrational guilt keeps us stuck

Chapter 10
Anxiety, Fear and Panic: Dangerous if Denied

Anxious and fearful children become adults who are anxious and fearful. Anxious and fearful adults find the roots of these feeling in their childhood.

It is difficult for us to understand that panic attacks are actually our emotional system trying to correct itself by discharging pent-up, withheld, unidentified crisis feelings.

Subtitles in this chapter are:
• Fear as an appropriate signal
• Signs of anxiety
• Sources of anxiety, fear and panic in childhood
• Hyper-vigilance
• Anxiety, fear and panic locked in our bodies
• Talking ourselves out of our feelings of anxiousness
• Panic attacks: the end result of held fear
• Common fears
• Sex as a vehicle to release anxiety
• The danger of masking fear
• Fixing the behaviour
• No shortcuts to freedom: taking the time to feel and integrate fear

Chapter 11
Anger: A Release and a Prison

Anger is a problem when we do not take responsibility for it, when we do not express it and when we express it inappropriately. Children who are allowed to discharge their anger completely as it arises will automatically express their anger appropriately as adults.

If we carry unresolved anger from our past it awaits an opportunity to exit. It does so as an overreaction; it may be a little or a big BOOOM as we find the nearest place to dump it. Road rage is one modern example of this. The degree of anger is proportional to the underlying, hidden pain.

When we understand that our over and underreactions are signals from our natural emotional healing power we can use them to resolve our unfinished anger from the past. When we do this our anger in the present automatically becomes more appropriate.

Subtitles in this chapter are:
• Cultural taboos and our fear of anger and conflict
• The damage of disowned anger
• Signals of our anger
• What does owning our anger mean?
• Feeling anger to its source: taking responsibility
• The difference between venting and feeling anger
• How anger masks other emotions
• Hiding in collective anger
• Warning: protecting our children as we feel through our anger
• Tools that help us open to ourselves

Chapter 12
Powerlessness: A Trap for Victim and Abuser

The more powerless we were as children, the more likely we will be a victim or an abuser as an adult. We either set ourselves up to feel the familiar powerlessness as a victim, or we keep the feelings of powerlessness at bay by abusing through power and control. Power over others and "controlling" behaviour is not the same as having personal power and being in charge of our lives.

There are only two ways to become personally powerful as an adult: to have experienced appropriate power, control and responsibility as a child or to feel through our powerlessness to its source in order to integrate it consciously.

Subtitles in this chapter are:
• The difference between personal power and power-over
• Childhood powerlessness
• Abuse engenders powerlessness
• Abusive behaviour in adulthood keeps us powerless
• Taking responsibility for being a victim or an abuser
• Victims
• Abusers
• Allowing more and feeling more

Chapter 13
Hurt, Regret and Grief: A Key to Healing

Hurt, regret and grief are healthy and necessary responses to difficulties and pain in our lives. They are enormously undervalued, unacknowledged vehicles for moving toward emotional health. Feeling these feelings to their fullest is an example of our natural emotional healing power at work. When we do not allow ourselves to feel these feelings through, when we shove them away, they reside in us as a heaviness that can pull us down into depression.

We limit our experience of joy if we are holding hurt, regret and grief. When we are able to grieve deeply and heal our wounds from our past we reclaim our authentic, true selves.

Subtitles in this chapter are:
• Grieving heals our hurt
• Defending against hurt: feeling depressed
• Defending against depression
• Defending against hurt: overreacting and acting out
• Noticing and becoming conscious that we are hurting
• Staying stuck in regrets or moving on and grieving them
• Grieving as we go
• No place to feel
• Fear of getting stuck in grief
• Reclaiming ourselves

Chapter 14
Loneliness: A Self-fulfilling Prophecy

Many of us believe there is nothing we can do about our loneliness. In fact, we can feel our way to the past through our loneliness instead of assuming that the strength of the feeling is all in the present.

There is a danger when we do not understand that loneliness can be felt deeply and that it does have its roots in our past. The danger is that we may arrange our present to keep ourselves lonely.

Subtitles in this chapter are:
• Loneliness is culturally acceptable; being alone is not
• The nature of loneliness
• The underestimation of children's loneliness
• Setting ourselves up to reenact our childhood loneliness in the present
• Getting clear using our natural emotional healing power

Chapter 15
Numbness, Deadness and Flatness: Formidable Defenses

Numbness, deadness and flatness are enormous defenses that we wrap around ourselves in order to survive. We shut down to protect ourselves from feelings that are too overwhelming to be felt at the time.

The strength of this defense, as with any defense, is directly related to the severity of the underlying trauma. People experiencing numbness, deadness and flatness often underreact to the impact of real situations in their present life. This undermines healthy, vigorous relationships.

Subtitles in this chapter are:
• Robbed of our spirit
• Defending against assault
• Resignation: the precursor to numbness, deadness and flatness
• Noticing when we feel numb
• Underreacting followed by overreacting
• Shutting down: a devastating gender design
• Our unconscious need to break through the numbness
• Feeling through numbness, deadness and flatness

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