Coming from a culture and a family that prides itself of strength, stamina and independence, I grew up learning to stuff my ‘bad’ feelings inside and put on a happy face. The courage to feel my ‘negative’ feelings, was something I learned later in life… because I had to.
As a Kid…
Stoic, was something I mastered.
I was shown that emoting anger or sadness was a turn off.
I grew up practicing compliance and people pleasing as skills that would get me where I needed to go in life.
In doing so, I learned how to disconnect from my self, and my own inner truth; to instead be hyper aware of my surroundings and what others needed and wanted around me.
Controlling my outer world seemed to be the thing to do.
Disconnect from my Self
I know what it is like to not know. I have spent most of my life detached from my self, in a state of disassociation.
When I was detached, I swung between a numb state of not feeling, to an intense depression where I felt the weight of the world on my chest.
To be vulnerable also takes strength.
The Courage to Feel
Coming into feeling was an incredible feat. I approached it from many angles, in fact I spent over a decade studying and practicing. Learning to feel, for me, was an incredibly scary and overwhelming experience.
My easiest door into my own feelings was empathy. I knew how to feel other people, I was an expert in this. So I began treating my Self like I would a dear friend. I began imaginging what someone else would feel if they were in my situation. I began by imagining my feelings.
I surrounded my Self with people who knew how to feel, or at least were themself in the processs of learning. I listened to them talk about their feelings.
Slowly, slowly, I began feeling my own.
To be honest my journey into connecting with my Self and my own emotions was far from fields of flowers. I had a lot of anger and sadness that I had to feel. I had to be courageous.
The trick that I learned about feeling is that I cannot skip over any emotions.
I cannot choose to ‘just feel happy’.
Choosing to feel, means going ‘all in’ and experiencing it all.
My Big Breakthrough
After several years of practicing feeling, I went through a big break up. I was seeing a psycho therapist at the time and I was brave enough to share with him that I was depressed.
I was desperate enough to ask him what I could do to relieve my depression. Even with all of my previous practicing, I was still quite resistant to feeling.
“Feel as long and as hard as you can,” were his words of wisdom. Muster the courage to feel, is what I heard.
Later that day, I was sitting parked in my car, in a seemingly private confined space. While sitting there in my car, I felt a wave of emotion rise, and I choose to take his advice, I choose to act courageously. Instead of avoiding and resisting, which is what I was accustomed to do with my big emotions, I switched gears and turned towards my emotions. I leaned in, and went for the biggest longest cry I could muster.
I cried hard: my heart screamed, my eyes released a waterfall of tears and a hot anger rose from my chest. I felt as long and as hard as I could.
I thought it would last forever and the wave of emotion would consume me.
And then, after only a few minutes of crying while feeling my heartbreak, my anger and my sadness, I suddenly felt peace.
I literally experieinced the weight of my depression lift from my body. I felt lighter than I could remember ever feeling. I actually felt happiness. My courage to feel paid off.
This is what sealed the deal for me and my deeper relationship with my emotions. The key to feeling better is not putting on a happy face. It is to lean into feeling as long and as hard as you can. To be brave, to be courageous, to feel it all!
The resistance and avoidance of feeling costs too much.
Feelings and emotions are harmless, unless we resist and avoid them- then they become toxic. In my case, depressed.