Holding it In
We are often taught not to feel our emotions, stuff them down, or that what we feel isn’t ok. But the side effects of not feeling our feelings are numerous. We may break down in rage, walk through life feeling numb, and avoid emotional relationships or situations. All of these things keep us from living a full and authentic life. I also believe that emotions, if not felt and processed, find a place to live in our physical bodies. This can lead to increased vulnerability to chronic illness and other physical ailments. The “issues live in our tissues” and will inevitably find a place to live in our bodies. Emotions that are not recognized can also affect how we interact with the world.
We may be extra aggressive, rude, or generally unpleasant. When my 2 yr old son cries, screams, and throws his hot wheels at the dog, I tell him: “I am sorry you feel so bad. But that does not make it ok to throw things at the dog. If you need to express your feelings, you can hit a pillow.” Adults don’t even realize it, but we often behave badly because we feel bad. And just like my 2 yr old, it’s ok to feel bad: it is not ok to act badly.
So how do we learn to feel our feelings after a lifetime of stuffing them down like a Thanksgiving turkey? Baby steps.
I used to believe wholeheartedly that if I truly felt my feelings, the pain would be so great that my heart would stop, and I would die. That is how much I hurt. But I soon learned that I wasn’t going to die; it just might feel like it! However, like an ocean wave, feelings are not permanent unless we don’t deal with them.
Once the wave has crashed and receded back into the ocean, a clean beach is revealed. I have learned just to sit and let the waves crash over me. Sometimes that isn’t enough, and I reach for a mantra to recite and focus on or follow a guided meditation. When the emotion I am dealing with and trying to process is anger or resentment, I write a mean letter, paint vehemently, or kickbox a pillow. If that doesn’t work, I go outside and scream and cry to mother nature. She can take it. I also call friends and get support from them. My best friends let me cry and snot on their shoulders. It’s amazing what that does for the soul!
Leigh Newman writes that “research has shown that when you sit with those clean, pure emotions like sadness or anger, they actually pass through you in about 90 seconds.” So if you can just be with it and say, “I can handle this feeling,” it will burn up and dissipate. This doesn’t mean you’ll be over your breakup or your dog’s death in 90 seconds. That emotion is going to come back. But the more you let yourself feel those minute-and-a-half hells, the quicker you’ll start feeling that minute-and-a-half happiness.”
Whatever it is that works for you: recognizing, feeling, and processing your feelings is a gateway to healing and a gift to yourself.
“Feelings are much like waves, we can’t stop them from coming, but we can choose which one to surf.” - Jonatan Martensson
Creation Associate, Maria’s Place