What to do when you hit an emotional wall
You may have seen it in others or perhaps experienced it yourself. Someone starts off with great intentions towards change and self improvement only to become discouraged and give up. This article explains why that might happen and how to work through emotional walls when they arise. Being properly informed empowers us to keep going and experience healing, peace, and growth.
Why we hit emotional walls
To understand why we hit emotional walls, it’s helpful to understand a little about the normal function of the brain. There is a network of neurons located in the brain stem called the Reticular Activating System (or RAS) which is the gateway into the brain. All of the sensory information that we encounter first enters through the RAS which determines where to send it. The Reticular Activating System acts as a filter so we don’t become overwhelmed by an overload of information.
The job of the RAS is very important because it is estimated that the human brain takes in 11 million bits of information every second, but on average we’re only consciously aware of 40 bits of information. So when I say that the RAS filters information, I’m not talking about filtering out a little bit of information, I’m talking about a major filtering process. It is the job of the RAS to decide what is important and what can be safely ignored. When the RAS is deficient, such as in cases of autism, ADD, and ADHD, too much information is allowed into the conscious mind and it causes a sensory overload and a difficulty in concentration and ability to focus. So the job of the RAS is very important to our safety, comfort, and functionality.
What is considered “important”?
However, the next question is, or should be, how does the RAS decide which information is important? It makes those decisions based on automatic programming that you and I created without even being aware of it. It is done on a subconscious level and is largely determined by what we focus on. If we spend a lot of time focusing on a particular thing, then the automatic subconscious programming of the RAS assumes that information must be important.
That’s why when you’re trying to buy a new car and have been researching a particular make and model, all of the sudden you start to notice that car everywhere. The truth is that the cars were there all along, but the RAS considered that information to be something that was safe to ignore. However, now that you’re focusing on it, the RAS figures that it must be important so it points them out for you.
Why this can be a problem when dealing with mental and emotional issues
The automatic subconscious programming of the RAS causes some problems when we’re dealing with mental and emotional issues such as depression, anxiety, and low self esteem. A person who is struggling with depression is often focused on thoughts like: my life is miserable, people would be better off without me, there is no hope, etc. A person who is struggling with feelings of low self esteem often has circulating thoughts like: I’m not good enough, nobody likes me, I’m a failure, etc. Because these are the predominant thought patterns, the RAS uses this as the basis for determining what is important.
This means that anything that doesn’t support those negative feelings are filtered out and the only information that enters the conscious are those things that support the depression, anxiety, low self esteem, failure mentality, etc. This strengthens and builds on the problem by continually adding “evidence” that the feelings of depression or low self esteem are valid, and the situation becomes progressively worse.
Furthermore, if we make a conscious effort to say or do something that is contrary to the current subconscious programming, the brain considers this a dangerous threat and sends out a warning that in order to be safe, you need to go back.
What it feels like to hit an emotional wall
When that warning hits, it feels like running into an impenetrable wall, and people naturally give up. When I was going through this process, I hit that wall immediately and I wanted to give up on day one. It’s difficult to adequately describe, but it literally felt like I was going to die. I felt all the emotional and physiological symptoms as if my life was being threatened, and my subconscious warned me that the only safe option was to go back. It was awful. Indescribably awful.
Emotional first aid
Fortunately, I had been warned that this would happen so I knew what to do. To get through that wall I used one of the tools in the emotional first aid kit available through the Hope for Healing program. An emotional first aid kit is a list of simple tools or actions that cause an immediate, although temporary, positive effect, like singing for example, and that’s what I did. I cranked up one of Shakira’s songs, called Try Anything from the movie Zootopia and sang along.
Singing it through once wasn’t enough, I had to repeat it three times before the feelings of panic that my life was in mortal danger subsided, and I knew I would survive.
The remedy is surprisingly simple, but it takes some courage to follow through. Keep a list of emotional tools handy that work best for you to use as an emotional first aid kit to work through those walls that try to obstruct progress.
If we can push through these walls and keep going, then our thoughts and feelings slowly change and the RAS naturally adjusts its programming to allow positive input without fighting or outright rejecting it.
This fight with our subconscious is temporary during a transition period, but it’s also inevitable, and this causes many people to give up because they don’t understand what’s happening. All they know is that there is a warning voice in their head that they’re not safe and so they quit and retreat.
Knowledge is power
Now you know:
- What is happening
- Why it’s happening
- What to do about it
This knowledge empowers us to be able to get past roadblocks that might impede our growth, progress and healing. You can do this! And I promise that it’s worth it!
Hope for Healing Program
We empower people to upgrade the way that they think and feel.
The Hope for Healing Program is a simple, easy-to-follow system that can alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety; build confidence and self-esteem; and heal relationships.
Emotional First Aid Kit
An emotional first aid kit can provide an immediate, although temporary, positive effect on the way we think and feel. Having an emotional first aid kit readily available can help people who are struggling with symptoms of depression, anxiety, low self esteem, or other mental and emotional issues.