Lessons of Integration

Dec 20, 2019

We’ve spent the year writing to uncomfortable emotions. We know that unchecked, emotions can lead to resistance and wreak havoc. The point of our Love Letters Campaign has been to develop a dialog with them so that we detach our identity from them. We are not our anxiety, regret, shame, etc… Our feelings are byproducts of our thinking that orbit around our Higher Self.

As we wrap up the year, we’re leaning on integration. What we mean is that these emotions all make up part of you but they are not you. We’re simply getting you together as a whole complete Self. You are all of those emotions yet none of them at same time. This defines integration of feelings.

The Persian poet, Jalaluddin Rumi, caught the sentiment of integration in his poem The Guest House, “The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in.” Integration gives us permission to feel these feelings in our bodies. We can meet them in their as-is ness. This awareness automatically detaches us from being overwhelmed with them.

It’s paradoxical that as we detach from our feelings we also integrate them into our Higher Self. They bring lessons such as fear of losing control, or fear of being alone, or needing to be alone. We are meant to be with all our feelings—to fellowship with them in our homes and host them in conversations. They are meant to heal us.

The point of integration is not to identify with your feelings as part of your reactive personality but to identify with hosting them as passing entities that drift in and out of your mind. They can stay as long as they want because they’re only guests. When we resist them—when we avoid feeling them to avoid pain—they persist. They nag, they get loud and they grow in power but when we serve them and listen to them they empower us.

Dr. Dan Siegel has pioneered much of this practice of integration. Integration involves seeing what feelings do in our inner system of thought and how they are connected to each other. This creates a sense of flow in us that leads toward emotional vitality.

Without integration we don’t realize we’re using weak, disempowering stories to separate from ourselves. We can validate our stories with experiences and examples that reinforce separatism inside of ourselves. For example, if you’re telling yourself a story that you’re incapable of being loved you will find reasons that validate the illusion that you’re not good enough. Without a sense of integration, we can lose ourselves to false narratives that keep us stuck.

So what does integration look like as a daily practice?

First, we allow ourselves to feel where emotions settle in the body. Validate that pang of anxiety in our chest or that rush of heat to the head. Then, take a deep breath and welcome all the sensations. Breath ignites the physicality of the experience and links it to the mental-emotional acceptance of what’s happening. It’s accepting the present as is.

Just by taking these steps we begin to investigate the story we’re telling ourselves reactively and develop the knowledge we’re not our feelings. These moments are teachers that explain you to yourself. In other words, we begin integrating.

Clients of Productive Learning know what it feels like the moment they raise a hand in a workshop to share a breakthrough. We see how perceptions can change in milliseconds just by detaching from our emotions and stepping into a realm of integration. Participants’ stories change—even the body posture changes! —when we are willing to free ourselves from our emotions.

Separating yourself from your old story, allowing yourself to detach from your feelings and integrating into a new story that is radically honest and authentic is the foundational work of integration. Instead of believing the world is out to get you, you can see how your reactions to the external world can change.

We invite you to host a swath of feelings and welcome them in. In this last installment of our Love Letters Campaign, we write to integration: 

Dear Integration,

My mind needs a relationship with my feelings, with others—heck, even with inanimate objects in order to understand itself. In the way I treat my stuff, my rituals and routines is how I reflect me back to me. But, I’ve spent my life reactively responding from emotion to life’s chaos.

The problem is I haven’t been aware of this. I haven’t detached myself from my feelings…until now.

My traumas left me with a fractured self, so much so that I lost the integration of my feelings. But now I see that to bring a healthy and empowering relationship to the external world I must bring relationship to my internal world. I must integrate a loving relationship with all my feelings.

I need to understand and allow myself to experience all emotions. Not one of them is bad. (Heaven knows, I’ve got plenty of familiar, disempowering narratives and predetermined reactions.) But now I’m willing to interrupt the stories and discover something new. I’m willing to ask those trigger questions that help anger, anxiety, frustration, grief and so many emotions gift me lessons.

I end the year with a moment of acceptance that in the act of integration, I separate myself from old dysfunctional stories. By doing so I rewrite a story that carries more emotional vitality to the inner and external world.

Thank you for leading me to this breakthrough.