And there I was, in the middle of the forest.

I’d taken myself there to be alone, away from other people, away from pavement and houses. To be with myself for a few moments.

I laid down on the ground and looked up at the blue summer sky through the pirouetting alder leaves above me and knew that something was not right inside. I turned onto my side and felt the wave of numbness come over me, closing me down in such a familiar way. Something was not right.

And for a few moments I didn’t know what to do, or feel, or cry about.

And then I remembered a moment from a conversation I’d had with my sister just a few months back. It had completely slipped my mind even though at the time I thought it profound and well worth remembering. I recalled the moment in my mind and then I faced back up toward the sky. I began to let myself feel something that I’d been trying so hard for an entire lifetime to not feel.

I couldn’t recall the exact words my sister had said so I gathered the feeling of them up inside of me and let the words come out how they would…

“Anger, I welcome you into my body.”

I scanned through my body and paid attention to all the different places and how they felt… A tightness in my stomach, that unremitting knot in my throat. I noticed the thoughts still running in circles around and around my head, the same tired daydreams where I’d scream out my rage at a loved one or an authority figure or whomever happened to be nearby. And swirling all inside, underneath and throughout, such an intense anger like I’d never dared to let myself even acknowledge, let alone feel.

I welcomed it into my body tentatively, like an old friend come back years later to make peace of an unresolved conflict. Beneath the pained, hardened look on his face I thought I glimpsed a softness. I looked into the penetrating eyes and swore that within them I saw a sadness. And held at bay by the arms crossed firmly over his chest, an intense longing for connection. One that had gone unrequited for years and years.

“I honor you and I respect you.”

And though every sense screamed for me to turn away I did not. I stood fast and after a moment I approached him and held my hand out to him.

“I listen for what you’ve got to tell me.”

And he spoke. Haltingly at first, but soon the words were rushing out from him like a torrent dammed up and with one jubilant CRACK! of a timber released and permitted to flow freely once more. He cried and if I’d have looked down I’d have seen the tears streaking the shoulders of my shirt. He swore and shouted out his agony until his throat cracked and he was hoarse and then he shouted some more.

He raged and he fought like he was going to die and he screamed at me all the times I’d done him wrong. For every time that I didn’t stand up for myself and instead let myself be bullied he swore at me. For the pain he felt each time I was expected to know the answer and lied because I didn’t truly know what to say. For being strong and sucking it up all those time I felt hurt. And for the loneliness he endured every time I felt weak and chose not to ask for help… For each of these time he clawed at me. He raged and pounded his fists against my chest.

And after a good long while the panicked look began to leave his face. Through the break in the dam rushing currents began to subside and flow more evenly, seemingly in rhythm with the steady rise and fall of his chest.

When he was ready he turned his face toward me. For the first time his eyes met mine and he didn’t look away.

Through it all I held him close, so glad to know him, truly, for the first time.

And up above me the blue summer sky, blue and untouched. The breeze still softly swishing through the dancing leaves, leaping and twirling as if they had not noticed a thing.

This is self love.

Are you open to trying it right now?

You get to choose the emotion, it doesn’t have to be anger. Say it out loud if you’re alone and quietly or inside your head if you’re not. Search for that feeling you desperately wish not to feel and if you can’t find it make one up, using the first emotion that comes to mind. Pay attention to your thoughts, the way you’re holding your body, the way the different parts of your body feel, your breath…

“_______, I welcome you into my body. I honor you and I respect you, and I listen for what you’ve got to tell me.”

Then say it again, and again. Say it every morning as you’re brushing your teeth, taking a walk, or lying on your bed. Try it with different feelings and emotions until you hit a sensitive spot. Stick there until you’ve become familiar with it and feel it’s time to move on. Continue doing so until you’ve dared to acknowledge every single part in yourself that has been, for so long, yearning for acknowledgement.