Emotional Atrophy.....How Love and Forgiveness Work Together To Free Us

Just the other day I was talking to a close friend about my workouts and how I decided to take a week off from the gym about two weeks prior.

Taking the two weeks of actually happened inadvertently because I had a few late nights with work and visiting family, that I was tired in the mornings to get my workout in. I didn’t want to push myself too hard so after missing two days, I decided to turn it into a week off and fully rest.

As we were talking I mentioned how needy and reliant the body was on continuous progress and growth. As he looked over at me to specify, I mentioned that in one week, I noticed I had lost the pump and “swell” that comes from consistent blood to the muscles.

It was as if an entire months work had been washed away in one week…..so I thought.

The following week, back on my daily routine, and I began to warm up and stretch. I felt slightly different than I normally feel and excited to get back in.

I continued warming up on the flat bench press and began to notice that I had increased energy and somehow, I was lifting heavier weight and more reps than I normally do.

These simple reminder are so powerful because it immediately made me think — I was upset because I didn’t look as big as I usually do however, I was stronger than I had been with some needed time off.

How often do we push and push, thinking that more is better? How often do we fail to see and remember that the body and mind actually grow with much needed space and active/dynamic rest and recovery.

I could here them now, “no pain, no gain,” “fight until the end,” “give it all you got,” “leave nothing on the table,” “beast mode is always on.”

We hear these words so much that they have become ingrained into our minds and hearts. If we aren’t pushing harder or pulling longer hours at work, if we aren’t “busy” then we aren’t productive. If we aren’t “busy” then we don’t get the coveted badge of workaholism. If we aren’t “busy” then we just aren’t doing enough.

It seems as though what I had learned about my body and the importance of rest was also a common theme in the work environment and with many of my clients.

MORE IS NOT ALWAYS BETTER.

This experience and the ongoing conversation with my friend helped to shape my thoughts and emotions around why it is so easy for us to be swayed by what others are doing and by the illusion that nothing really happened if we cannot see it.

True growth happens from the ground up, from the inside out. It’s like building a house. The better the foundation, the stronger the house. The sad part is, once the house is built, we rarely see the foundation or even bother to come back to it — yet the entire house is resting on the it.

In the same way that if we learn to ground ourselves, even though we may not always see the tangible results of growth and progress for a while, we do feel them and they are essential to our continued and ongoing growth and evolution.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

What we can see of the iceberg is roughly 10%.  There is another 90% that is underwater and out of plain sight.  Imagine for just a moment, a massive, huge iceberg and how beautiful it looks. Then imagine how much bigger and more majestic must the other 90% be that is underwater.

We are much more than skin deep, our emotions are much more than what we initially express, and our thoughts go much deeper than what we think.

EMOTIONAL ATROPHY AND ITS EFFECT ON US…why it’s important

Emotional atrophy works a lot like like muscular atrophy. The more you work a muscle, the bigger it gets. The less you work a muscle, the smaller it gets. If you work one side more than another, you grow asymmetrically or lop-sided.

Our emotions function in the same way. The more we use certain emotions, the stronger they grow. The less we express emotions, the weaker they grow. However, think of your emotions as the roots of a tree. The deeper the roots, the stronger and more resilient the tree. The taller it can grow and the wider it can spread its branches.

Some emotions we want to express and others we need to understand more than we express them. Knowing and experiencing the difference is key to balancing our emotional strength.

If we are shallow in the connection to our emotions, then we will not be able to stand strong against any wind or gust that comes our way. Our emotions are the foundation which create the space for us to think clearly, act freely and connect with our deepest desires. Lack of clarity usually comes from a lack of emotional connection in the same way that lack of motivation can come from a distancing of emotions that have the ability to drive and propel us towards our goals.

TWO OF THE MOST POWERFUL EMOTIONS:

FORGIVENESS AND LOVE

The more we express love, the stronger our capacity and ability to love grows. The more we forgive, the stronger our ability and capacity to heal and be at peace grows.

Love is the answer….and so is forgiveness . JC

When we do not forgive, we hold onto emotional weight and carry it with us, leaving us drained and less able to fully express love.

What good is love if it isn’t accompanied by forgiveness. To love and not forgive is the same as not fully knowing love. If we truly want to know love, then we must forgive.

If we love and do not forgive, then we are like that person in the gym who only does one-sided bicep curls (only with the left bicep) or only does one-sided tricep extensions (left arm) — their left arm will be much bigger and stronger than their right.

I once saw someone in a cast because they broke their arm, they couldn’t exercise with that hand. I asked if they were still working out and they had decided not to based on doctor’s orders.

4 weeks later and I ran into them again. They had just had their cast removed and were talking to me about how extremely surprised they were by the size of their arm and its apparent muscular atrophy — it was much much smaller than the arm that was not in the cast.

If this is what can happen to our body, then it can also happen to our emotional balance and strength.

I mean, can you imagine what someone would look like after years of only lifting with one arm (silently laughing at the sight of it) and what someone would BE like after years of not fully expressing their emotions, or only expressing one?

LOVE sets us free and FORGIVENESS allows us to maintain the energy to love more powerfully.

The same way that we must express daily love, we must also express daily forgiveness.

To ourselves.

To those who have hurt us.

To those who have caused us pain.

To those who ask for it.

And especially to those who wish to know love.

Forgiveness is the foundation on which love is built. When we forgive, love is what remains.

When we forgive, love has infinite room to grow.

When we forgive, we free ourselves of the emotional weight that keeps us stuck.

When we forgive, we create space to love more fully and enthusiastically.

This is why it is extremely important to demonstrate forgiveness each and every day.

To express GRATITUDE on a daily basis.

Empathy.

Compassion.

Understanding.

Joy.

Laughter.

It is also important to express the other side of the emotional spectrum — pain, hurt, frustration, grief, loss, anger, envy, anxiety. To know these and to be able to recognize them is to be human.

Learning to release our emotions is important for our continued growth, to become more resilient and keep ourselves in optimal zones of being.

LOVE and FORGIVENESS are important emotions to express daily — to ourselves and to others. Forgiveness isn’t only expressed in “I’m sorry’s or forgive me’s,” just like love is not only expressed in “I love you’s” and “You mean so much to me’s.”

Love and forgiveness can be expressed by listening and being fully present.

Love and forgiveness do not always require words and often, just require you to be fully there, fully aware, fully present and in total understanding.

We regain so much lost power when we forgive. Power that was lost to self sabotage or power that was lost to learning new ways to cope that are not serving us or those around us. Rather, let us rechannel that power that we have lost so that we can redirect that energy to love.

Love and forgiveness can be expressed by understanding others and through gratitude and appreciation. Love and forgiveness can be expressed simply by creating the space to non-judgmentally accept someone, just as they are.

Don’t be like that person in the cast, in your emotional cast, that only expresses one emotion and doesn’t recognize how they are keeping themselves weak and distanced from their fullest expression through their emotional atrophy.  This lack of energy or imbalanced core is what is keeping most people from true connection and emotional intimacy.  

To love is to forgive, to forgive is to love. Express them and experience them both fully to know true freedom.