Resolving to Feel

January 10th, 2014

thinkinggirl2resized“Often we cling to our feelings as if they were signs from God- signs of either anointment or of being sent from the Garden. This superstitious relationship is the cause of many kinds of suffering.” -Gangagi

 

Many of us simply never learned the language and truth of our feeling self. We misinterpret our feelings as absolute signs of right and wrong, good and bad rather than the passing experience of discomfort or happiness they might bring. Coming into a more true relationship to our feeling self and building the confidence to embody the full range of our emotions is a resolution worth considering. Our feelings provide us the most real and grounded information about our experience we can get. Our resistance to the discomfort that feelings can and do generate creates the erroneous belief that feelings are a solid reality rather than the most ethereal aspect of what it is to be human.

This confusion about our feelings goes back a long way for most of us, who, as small children lacked the maturity and language to understand our childhood emotions. For many of us, these earliest painful memories remain intact and continue to inform our beliefs about ourselves and the nature of love as adults. Without the capacity to identify and name our emotions, it is easy to default into either being consumed by our feelings or completely blocking them out. Both choices harden our emotional life into something solid that shapes our personality and relationships in ways that we often do not witness.

Worse still, we come to believe that the powerful sensory experience of feeling is dangerous and cannot be trusted. As we close ourselves off or become trapped in a habitual emotional response our brains become wired to our preferred pattern and our life narrows to accommodate the small space we have allotted to our emotions. Tragically, what we lose when we refuse to feel the wide range of human emotions is the very essence of our life- from the intimate connections with those we love to the authentic experience of the moment. What’s more, rejecting our emotional experience or diluting it into a single manageable emotion doesn’t really work anyway because the emotions we refuse to recognize embody us. Emotions that go unfelt and unattended wait in us like a small child, fidgety and unpredictable, requiring ever-wider space. The longer they live in us neglected, the more potent the unspoken emotion becomes. This is how our emotions harden into a reality we cannot escape.

One way to begin to unlock the emotional chains inside and increase your direct experience of the moment is to resolve to witness your emotions in the same way you would the weather patterns that surround us. As we begin to open to feeling our emotions as the transient reality they are, and become more courageous and skilled at holding their intensity, we are surprised and enlightened to see even the most fearful, anxious and grief-filled of them dissipate. All it takes is our earnest attention and willingness to feel which has the magical capacity to shrink even the most alarming emotional storm into a passing thundercloud. There is an immense freedom that comes from this courage to feel and give up the superstitious belief that our feelings are some larger permanent sign of our worthiness.

I have vivid memories from adolescence while learning this process of feeling, and was fortunate enough to have a therapist teach me the language of feelings and encourage me to experience them. I was terrified to let myself feel when I was alone, that the feelings would swallow me whole, that I wouldn’t be able to survive them. The opposite was always true, the more profoundly I felt the storm of sadness or fear that I held at arm’s length, the more it lifted and the truth of my life revealed itself. But this is a shallow promise until you risk trying it yourself.   Still, I stake my reputation as a loveologist on this proposed resolution: there is nothing that will change your life faster than increasing your willingness and courage to feel.

 

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