I had a blog nearly completely written the other day, and my computer died before I got to finish and publish it. (It didn’t just needed to be recharged – when I turn it on the screen is black.)
So…then I wondered if I should try to rewrite the same post again or write something new. The answer came to me through a question someone asked on my Facebook page.
I had made a post on there about the link between feeling your emotions and how it physically impacts your body. I mentioned that we are meant to feel all emotions and that some are best to not hang onto for long (such as anger, grief, or fear).
I said that it’s good to feel any emotion fully, to acknowledge it, to find out what it’s trying to tell you, and then let it go. The person who commented said “I’ve read that 100 times and still say sounds good. No /$#&( * idea how to do that!” (I love honest people!)
I figured I may as well make my blog post about this subject because I’m guessing the answer could be useful for many people. I really wish this kind of stuff was taught in schools. I remember when I was a kid I used to have temper tantrums (yes, the down on the floor kicking and screaming kind). Thinking back about it now, I wonder what I was so mad about. What was my emotion trying to say? How was I not being heard?
Which leads me to one way I find it useful to fully feel an emotion. I know a lot of people want the easy fix – a pill to swallow or a magic wand, but that’s not how it works. The only way to get through it is to go through it. It’s a process, so be gentle and patient with yourself. If the emotion you’re feeling is a result of something you’ve been dealing with your whole life (a painful memory from your childhood for example), it will take time to heal. Give time time. And be brave enough to love yourself through it all (just like you would if it was actually that little child you were talking to – because really it is). If the emotion you are feeling is because someone cut you off in traffic, it’s likely not going to stay with you as long.
So, first you will recognize you are having this emotion. Maybe it feels like fear or sadness or anger. Maybe it feels like anxiety. Anxiety in itself is not an emotion but rather what you feel when you aren’t feeling an emotion that’s trying to be expressed. It’s like the cheese on your lasagna, and you need to go down a layer to get to the actual feeling. At this point, you are just noticing what you are feeling. There is no need to do anything other than notice.
Next, acknowledge this emotion. You don’t have to say it out loud – just recognize that you are feeling sad or angry or whatever emotion is present. Again, you don’t need to do anything other than acknowledge at this point. We’ve been taught that certain emotions are bad and that it’s not good to feel them, but when we don’t, they will grow. (What we resist, persists.) And you cannot block out the ‘bad’ (painful) emotions and continue to feel the ‘good’ (positive) emotions. If you try to numb out your sadness, grief, anger, etc. by pretending it doesn’t exist or stuffing it down, you will be unable to feel joy, love, excitement, etc. as well.
Now that you know what you are feeling, you can try to find out what it wants to tell you. All emotions are just messengers who really want to be heard. They want to tell us something so that we know how to react to life. Maybe you are pissed off at your boss about something he said. This might be trying to tell you that you are meant to set a boundary by saying “You cannot speak to me that way. I will not tolerate it.” A lot of us wouldn’t do that, and the anger builds. We get so resentful towards our boss that we begin to hate going to work. The anger follows us home – and begins to take over our lives. But by listening to the anger on day 1 and asking how it’s trying to help you, you could stop it from festering. (You may even find out that you want to leave your job because the boss is never going to change, and you don’t want to be in that kind of environment. But only you can decide that. You have to take charge and make your life what you want it to be rather than blaming your boss for being an asshole. He’s just your teacher. If you don’t resolve the situation with him, there will be another just like him wherever you go next.)
To get the message from your emotion may feel tricky because the mind is always actively chattering away. For this reason, you need to tune into the wisdom of your body. The body never lies! (I’m sure you’ve the expression gut reaction in relation to intuition.)
When you feel an emotion, you likely feel it somewhere in your body. Maybe you have a heavy heart or a lump in your throat or it feels like a ton of bricks is sitting on your shoulders. Focus in on what you feel in your body. Let’s just say you have those bricks on your shoulders, and you are feeling anxious but don’t know why. Describe it using adjectives. Take your time. Really marinate in what you feel (not how you feel). What do you feel? Maybe it’s heavy or like pressure. What colour is it? It might be black. What is the texture of the bricks? They are hard. Is there a smell? A taste? How big does it feel? Ask the bricks, ‘How are you here to help me? What is your message?’ (It is often useful to do this with another person – to allow them to witness your feelings and reflect back to you what they see. This could be a friend, a therapist – someone you trust to give you honest, non biased feedback. It may also be helpful to journal about it. Writing things down gets to the truth quicker than trying to process it in our heads.)
The bricks might tell you that you are doing too much. That you have too much stress. That you need to slow down. That you need to have a nap. Or go for a walk. Or take a vacation. Maybe they say you need to make a big change in your life. These responses – if they feel peaceful – are your higher self talking. (If the responses feel stressful, it could be the work of the ego. Or it could be fear coming up at the thought of change. You will need to investigate more. This is where I would suggest talking with a life coach or therapist of some kind so that they can help you process those thoughts. Often when we have one thought, it leads to many more – what one of my Master coaches told me in coach training was a thought cluster fuck. Yup. That’s what happens in the human brain. You are not alone.)
Once you get an answer about what the emotion is trying to tell you, then it’s up to you to take action or not. It may feel scary to make a change, to speak your truth, to ask for what you want, to put yourself out there, to forgive someone who really hurt you, etc., but it’s way, way worse to be stuck living a life you don’t want.
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” ~Brene Brown~
And the final piece…what everyone really wants to know…how to let go. Once you’ve completed the first four steps (notice, acknowledge, get the message, and act), the purpose of that feeling state is complete, and there’s nothing more to do. After awhile you may notice the emotion has actually let go of you.