The secret to healing? Feel your feelings, instead of burying them
There I was…my heart was beating, my thoughts were racing a million miles a minute, I am clenching my fists and my jaw. I felt awful and needed to do something quick to get rid of this TERRIBLE feeling. So, what do I do? I move into action. I go into crisis mode. I shut my emotions off and move to fix the problem. I have identified solutions, I have researched pros and cons of the solution, I have activated my networks of people who can help me fix the problem……Ok… problem solved… Wait a minute, the problem is solved, but why do I still feel so worked up? Why are my thoughts still racing? Why do I still feel keyed up and on edge?
OOOOOOOHHHHH…. What I felt was anxiety! I should know better, I can’t slap a band-aid (in my case rushing to take control and “fix”) on my anxiety and hope it will go away. I need to actually FEEL my feelings. You are probably thinking why would I want to do that? Feeling anxious is very uncomfortable! What I have learned both personally and professionally is that in order to heal… we need to feel.
Emotions are powerful, immediate forces that overtake us and make us respond in the moment. Emotions tell us what we need and at times what is good or bad for us (gut instinct). Emotions connect us to our true self as well as allow us to intimately connect with other people.
We need fear, it tells us to move and get out of danger. We need grief to express loss, we need anger to move us to a place of empowerment. We need joy and excitement to propel us to experience a sense of self and engage with others.
From the day we are born we learn about emotions. We learn what emotions are “acceptable” and “not acceptable.” We learn how to express our emotions. We learn how to relate to other people using our emotions and we learn how to engage (or avoid) conflict because of our emotions. Although we need our emotions to guide us, they often can feel dangerous or unsettling. When an emotion feels uncomfortable, we are likely to try to turn off that emotion any way possible, thinking that there will not be a negative effect. (Like when my anxiety struck and I rushed into action). Sadly, when we ignore our emotions repeatedly, the consequences of depression, anxiety and challenges in relationships are likely to arise.
No matter how scary our emotions may seem, if we allow ourselves to feel them they can lead us to a better place. We have to go through them in order to get to the other side. Here are some tips to help you on that journey:
·Next time you are hurting or feeling uneasy, check in with yourself to see what you are feeling. Is this sadness? Anger? Joy? Fear? Feelings like to be named and validated. Give yourself permission to feel as much as you can handle and reach out to people who can care for you and your emotions.
· Try to separate your thoughts and feelings. Feelings are the physical sensations you experience in your body. Your thoughts are the pictures, stories and words that you experience when you have a feeling.
· There is nothing to fear about feelings. The WORST thing that could happen is the feeling itself.
· Every feeling has a message. Remember, feelings are guiding you to do something and there is no right or wrong way to feel! Check in with yourself and be curious about what the feeling’s message may be.
So, I will openly admit, I need to take my own advice and allow myself to feel my feelings. The next time that my anxiety creeps up, as much as every instinct in my body is going to say “move into action,” I am going to allow myself to feel, be curious about what my anxiety is trying to tell me and to be gentle and kind to myself when I am having a strong emotion. Wish me luck, this whole process of feeling is tough work!