Transforming Pain into Joy: The Magic of Accepting Our Emotions

emotional life genuine happiness self-compassion whole-hearted living Jul 02, 2024
woman in deep thought, introspection


Life has a way of circling back to teach us the lessons we need most. Just a few months ago, I was reminded of a really powerful nugget of truth I sometimes forget that’s all about what truly leads to a joy- and ease-full life. (Spoiler alert: it’s not the high-paying job, the house, the perfectly behaving kids, or the husband or wife; it’s not about the external stuff at all). Though not a new revelation, its impact remains as powerful as the first time I heard and experienced it.


A Moment of Renewed Clarity


It was a Spring morning. I’d just settled onto my yoga mat after a challenging morning, where I’d already felt the weight of the day and it wasn’t even 9am. As I closed my eyes, I I caught a few mindful moments, and in those few moments, my emotions surfaced without resistance. Key words: without resistance (I’ll explain more about that later).

What followed immediately was one of those “O sh!t” moments! Bells ringing and choirs singing, alerting me to something important: Sure, my mood could be better; but, it felt so much worse because a part of me was judging what I was feeling as bad! And now that I didn’t have that voice of judgment accompanying the challenging feelings I was feeling, I was all-in-all okay, maybe even on the verge of content. And with that, a familiar truth came to the surface: it's not our feelings or emotions that cause suffering, but our judgment or resistance to them.


With that, a familiar truth came to the surface: It's not our feelings or emotions that cause suffering, but our judgment or resistance to them.


Embracing All Parts of Ourselves


As a psychologist and Internal family Systems (IFS) practitioner, I’d love to say that I’ve got this down and I never forget the unshakable power of embracing all parts of myself. (By the way, in IFS, the term "parts" refers to the different aspects of our inner selves, each with its own thoughts, feelings, and motivations). The premise of IFS, after all, is to welcome and embrace all of our parts or As Dick Schwartz, the founder of IFS, says in his book, there are "No Bad Parts." Because no matter how unconstructive the thought, emotion, or part may seem, it’s actually here to help you.

Consider, for example, the part of you that gets a little insecure when a new connection, potentially romantic, is forming. This part might be protecting you from potential rejection or hurt by reminding you of past experiences where you felt vulnerable and got hurt. By welcoming and understanding this part, you can reassure it, care for it, and allow yourself to be open to new possibilities while still honoring your past experiences. Or consider the part of you that feels deep sadness when thinking about a painful memory. This sadness may be holding space for unresolved grief or loss, reminding you of the importance of what you experienced and the need to process it. Embracing this part makes way for healing and helps you integrate your past into your present!


I’ve known this intellectually for a long time. And I often feel it deeply that all parts of you and all parts of me are, in fact, things worthy of being accepted and loved. They aren’t wrong or bad in any way. And  yet, I find myself repeatedly needing these moments of renewed clarity repeatedly.... these moments that so vividly remind me that if I just stop judging or shaming my emotions, I feel MUCH better. Embracing all parts (feelings, thoughts, physical sensations in our body) of ourselves without judgment makes ALL- and I mean ALL- of the difference to how sweet our life is.


If I just stop judging or shaming my emotions, I tend to feel MUCH better!

Befriending our Inner Critic


When I think about the “how” of living a good life, it really comes down to being aware of and befriending all parts of us, especially the ones that tend to judge whatever we’re thinking, feeling, or doing as bad if they are anything but positive and perfect. That’s why I wrote an article some time ago on how to relate to your inner critic in a truly helpful way. Because it’s that well-meaning part of me (and I know you have one too) that’s quick to label certain parts of us as "bad" or "unacceptable", that perpetuates self-judgment and shame and that keeps us thinking, feeling, and acting in habitual ways. Befriending these parts unlocks a deeper sense of self-acceptance and self-compassion.


When I think about the “how” of living a good life, it really comes down to being aware of and befriending all parts of us, especially the ones that tend to judge whatever we’re thinking, feeling, or doing as bad.

The Heart of Healing and Transformation


When people ask me the one bit of wisdom and practice needed for healing and transforming into our highest potential, I say that the notion of welcoming (i.e., acknowledging, accepting) all parts of ourselves without judgment lies at the heart of it. Instead of labeling certain feelings or parts of us as negative or unworthy, or getting caught in justifying, believing, and being at the mercy of our feelings and thoughts, we simply need to accept, embrace, and approach them with curiosity and kindness.



It’s such a revolutionary shift in perspective - I mean, who of us hasn’t been taught that some emotions or qualities of ours are good and others are bad?!l That’s the old view. The new view is one of radical self-acceptance. Radical self-love. Radically embracing every part of yourself. When you do this radical thing, you’ll experience the inherent wisdom and purpose behind every emotion, no matter how uncomfortable or troublesome it may seem. And it’s this that’ll bring true freedom and joy to your life.

My Favorite Tool to Practice This


Hopefully I’ve made the case well that there’s little we can do to help ourselves feel better that’s more effective than welcoming and accepting our current thoughts, feelings, and experiences. To help you practice this, I want to invite you to try a practical tool that I personally use to invite myself into a place of acceptance when I notice challenging (i.e., uncomfortable or bothersome) thoughts and emotions. And it’s based on the premise that acceptance rests on true understanding. And to truly understand someone or something, we’ve got to get genuinely curious about it (I talk about that more here.)

When you find yourself grappling with challenging thoughts and emotions, pause and ask yourself three questions: 

  1. If these feelings, thoughts, or urges were a part of me, what part of me would this be? (e.g., “an anxious part”, “a judgmental part”, “a rebellious part”)
  2. What are this part's feelings and needs?
  3. And what can I appreciate or be compassionate towards in that?

These questions are like a gentle nudge to embrace your emotions without judgment. When you turn these questions inward, you create a space for compassion and understanding to arise.



Remember, feeling bad about feeling bad can make you feel worse. But, if you accept your emotions with compassion and understanding and recognize them as integral parts of your journey toward healing, life immediately gets easier and you become happier.


Ready for a Deep Dive?


Before I go, if you're eager to explore deeper into the realm of true inner understanding and acceptance, I invite you to join me for my free webinar, where I delve into practical strategies for embracing all parts of yourself without judgment. Click here to reserve your spot and embark on this transformative journey with me.

And if you're ready to take the next step towards your genuine healing and growth, I offer one-on-one therapeutic coaching sessions tailored to your unique needs and goals. Reach out to schedule a session and please know that I am scheduling at least two weeks out at the time of posting this article.


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