How many of you were taught how to feel? It sounds like a strange question but think back to your childhood. I’m sure many of you were told by a well meaning (or not) adult to stop crying or not to feel sad or to settle down when you were excited. Given those kind of messages again and again, it’s no wonder we don’t know how to allow ourselves to feel. You might be asking why it is we need to allow ourselves to feel. I mean isn’t it better to be “appropriate” or to not concentrate on bad feelings so they’ll go away? You might be thinking, “Why would I do that to myself if I can avoid it? I mean, who wants to feel things that make you uncomfortable or that hurt?” There’s fear again, keeping you from fully experiencing life. Some people are even afraid and overwhelmed by good emotions like love and happiness, so they avoid those as well.
So, what is so scary about feeling, anyway? Well, when we feel an emotion we’re having a mental and physical reaction to something we’re experiencing. Sometimes that reaction can be so strong that it becomes overwhelming to our nervous system. Our first instinct is to protect ourselves by figuring out a way to get rid of it so that we don’t have to go through the discomfort it brings. We want to return to equilibrium. What we don’t often understand is that we’re experiencing the effects of those emotions without knowing it, sometimes in very destructive ways. It’s really in our best interest to process emotions so that we’re not enslaved by them.
Maybe we experienced trauma as children and learned to cut ourselves off emotionally to survive. Maybe we saw others consumed by emotion behaving in ways we would never want to emulate and we committed never to go there ourselves. Growing up, I saw a lot of anger expressed in my home and experienced a lot of trauma. As a child, it was legitimately fear inducing so I learned to keep quiet about a lot. As I got older, I prided myself on not being an angry person. The truth was I was cut off from feeling in general which made me unavailable to my anger, pain, sadness, happiness, joy, etc. There was more trauma as I got older that I also never processed, pretending that I was always okay. That eventually led to many bouts of deep depression as that pain and anger turned inward. Then I tried to keep the depression at bay as best I could but the truth is a boiling pot with a lid will eventually blow its top if heated high enough. It took me over in many ways physically, emotionally and mentally. I was being called to wake up and reconnect to myself. Then, shortly after, I got the greatest gift in the form of a relationship with someone who pushed every button in a way that had never been pushed before. Unbelievable rage began to pour out of me. The door had been unlocked. Too bad I had no idea what to do with any of it being one of those kids growing up that was never allowed to feel.
I share this with you to exemplify the effects of emotional disconnection. As I said, I had no idea what to do with an emotion beyond maybe talk about it, if I could even do that. What I usually did was deny them, eat them, drink them, shop them away, etc. Feeling is scary, because as I described with my experience, it has the potential to consume you. This only happens, though, when we’ve been storing that emotional energy. The problem occurs when you believe that because you tucked it away, it actually went away. We may not even know how cluttered we are inside and how badly we are in need of an emotional house cleaning. Many of us have been doing it so long, though, that this room in the house has just become off limits. We may have locked the door and forgotten where we put the key.
I encourage you to find that key and unlock the door. Take a moment to think about where it is you’ve created a cluttered emotional space within. What might be weighing you down emotionally? Where do you need to lighten the load? Do an emotional inventory to see where you can reconnect your dismembered self on your road to wholeness. I’ll be back soon for part two of Feel It To Heal It and I’ll share the benefits of this process as well as a simple way to practice it.