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Margaret Paul, PhD, is a writer and cocreator of Inner Bonding. She holds a doctorate in psychology and is a relationship expert, noted public speaker, workshop leader, educator, chaplain, consultant, and artist. Dr. Paul has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including the Oprah Winfrey Show.
1440: Can you describe the categories of feelings you divide our emotions into?
There are two kinds of pain, the feelings that come from the wounded self and the natural feelings that are a part of life.
Feelings like anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, anger, jealousy, emptiness, aloneness, neediness, and fear are caused by our self-abandonment or self-rejection—our wounded self. These feelings indicate that we're not loving ourselves, that we're leaving ourselves in some way.
Natural feelings are the existential feelings that are just a part of life, like sadness and sorrow (over people's inhumanity to each other, for example), loneliness (when you have no one with whom to share love), heartache and heartbreak (over others' mean and rejecting behavior and various kinds of loss), grief (over loss), helplessness (over others' choices), outrage (over injustice), as well as fear of real and present danger.
These feelings need to be attended to and nurtured with deep compassion.
1440: How can we distinguish between these two types of feelings?
Margaret Paul: Once you get curious and start looking, it's not that hard to learn to distinguish. With the wounded feelings, you'll discover you're not loving yourself in some way that you really want to be loved, or that you're abandoning yourself emotionally or physically. But with the natural existential feelings, you're not doing something to cause them, they're just a part of life. When someone you love dies, you're going to feel the pain of that.
To discover the difference, it's important to learn to be present.
The soul self-expresses through the body, through physical sensations that we learn to understand as emotions. These feelings have information for you.
If you notice the body is tense, you might realize you feel anxious. That anxiety is telling you that there's some way you're rejecting and abandoning yourself. It could also be telling you that you're not taking care of yourself on a physical level and there is some toxicity in your gut that is causing the anxiety. In either case, the message is you're not taking care of yourself, whether physically or emotionally, and the feeling of anxiety is the inner guidance letting you know that.
1440: What happens when we avoid our feelings?
Margaret Paul: If your intention is to protect and avoid and control, you're going to squash your natural feelings in various self-abandoning ways.
In our society, we're often told to avoid our feelings or numb them.
We do it with food, medication, and all kinds of other ways. When you do this, you're not getting any information—you're trying to live your life without any guidance. It's like driving across the country with no roadmap and no signs! When you start to want to become alive, you have to start to pay attention to your feelings. They become your roadmap.
1440: You say we're causing these wounded feelings for ourselves? Can you help us understand that?
Margaret Paul: When we don't know how to manage the natural feelings of loneliness or grief or helplessness, etc., we develop all these means of avoiding them: things like turning to addictions or self-judgment, or looking for love elsewhere. Maybe you get drunk all the time or overeat or have a lot of bad relationships.
None of these things help you digest the deeper pain. In fact, they leave your inner child alone, empty, and abandoned.
They add another layer of pain, and the original pain gets pushed even deeper down. When we learn to manage the deeper, core, existential feelings, we don't need to do these things anymore—we don't need that protective layer that's not actually protecting us.
1440: How do we learn to manage those existential feelings?
Margaret Paul: We have a 6-step process called Inner Bonding to help people do this.
Essentially you tune in to how you're feeling and what you're doing, and you listen inside to what a loving response would be. Then you act on it.
It's similar to taking care of a baby. If the baby cries, you pick it up and try to figure out what's going on. The baby can't tell you, but you can tune in and discover if the baby needs a diaper change or to be fed or cuddled. When you're open to learning, you'll eventually get an answer.
1440: Would you share the six steps?
Step 1: Get present with your feelings. If a child is upset, you don't walk away, you sit down with them and listen. We practice doing this with ourselves, moving toward our feelings with compassion, with a desire to take responsibility for what's going on inside us.
Step 2: Choose the intention to learn about loving yourself. This is where we learn to invite in the presence of spirit—of love and compassion. We practice Inner Bonding, tapping into the higher love, wisdom, and comfort of spirit, which is what creates our loving adult self.
Step 3: Have compassionate dialogue with your inner child and your wounded self. We explore the beliefs that are fueling our behaviors and look at where they came from. We also connect with our gifts and what brings joy to our inner child.
Step 4: Dialogue with your higher self. We ask for the truth about any false beliefs we've discovered, and we ask for what would be loving to us—what is our highest good.
Step 5: Take action. Whatever guidance you received, act on it. Whether it's as simple as going to bed earlier tonight or as challenging as speaking up for yourself in a relationship. Follow through.
Step 6: Evaluate the effectiveness of your action. Check in with yourself to see how you're feeling. Are you feeling some relief, less shame, less emptiness? If not, go through the process again.
1440: If we need some encouragement to try the practice, can you describe what kind of life we can have if we do this work?
Margaret Paul: When you open to learning about loving yourself, you learn how to manage life's bigger painful feelings so you no longer have to do anything to avoid them.
When you no longer abandon yourself in the ways that cause you all those wounded feelings, that's when life becomes really wonderful.
You have love to share with other people, your creativity blossoms, and you have a lot of energy. Your true gifts reveal themselves and you become more kind to yourself and others. This is also when physical healing may start to happen.
As you learn to tap into your higher self—that source of wisdom and love and energy that's always there for you—it becomes a completely different way of living life.
In fact, it has the potential to create a completely different world. Right now in the world most people are operating from their wounded selves. They're scared. They want to amass fortunes and accumulate things. They use money and greed to try and control because there's an emptiness inside. That emptiness can only be filled by loving ourselves.
Imagine a world where everybody was loving themselves and manifesting their gifts.
If everyone were taking responsibility for themselves and for discovering what brings them joy, it would be a completely different and amazing world! Loving yourself is not just life changing, it's potentially planet changing.