Do you ever feel like the prisoner of your own feelings, especially unpleasant feelings? No matter how hard you try, you just can’t shake the hold they have on you. You may try to escape, but they seem to follow you wherever you go.
At times, we attempt to distance ourselves from experiencing unpleasant feelings such as anger, sadness, need, or loneliness because we have no idea how to process them. When we are not able to support ourselves while experiencing difficult emotions, it can create further feelings of anxiety and vulnerability — and overwhelm us.
But what if by avoiding them, we end up living in greater disconnection from ourselves, and the people around us?
Could there be a better way? A middle ground?
Consider: What if uncomfortable feelings arise because they’re carrying a message about ourselves or something we need? What if emotions are a doorway into understanding something deeper about ourselves and our inner process? What if we could greet feelings with an invitation to be present – welcoming them, instead of judging them?
When we greet our feelings with judgment (immediately deciding whether they are good or bad, right or wrong, determining whether we should show or hide them, and even chastising ourselves with “Why am I feeling this way? What’s wrong with me for feeling this way?”), then we are containing our feelings. Their energy has nowhere to go; there is no relief.
Why You Should Welcome Unpleasant Feelings
Consequently, not only is the energy of the initial feeling being held in our bodies, the impact of our own judgment and criticism leaves us feeling guilt, shame, or embarrassment. For example, if I am feeling sad and I tell myself there is no reason to feel sad, then I may feel embarrassed if I begin to cry.
However, when we welcome our feelings – viewing them as helpful and not as a problem – we can free ourselves, and achieve relief much faster.
Ask yourself: What if my emotions are not the problem, but rather the whole conversation, or process of judgment that I have about them? What would it be like if I would welcome my feelings with curiosity and compassion, allowing them to run their course, and even identifying them by name?
It’s an interesting phenomena, but when we put a name to what we’re feeling, we actually start experiencing our emotions consciously. And when we bring consciousness to our feelings – allowing them to have presence – we can finally begin to work through them, and learn from them.
The fact is, feelings are not logical. We cannot fight our feelings with logic. Emotions are experienced in the body, not in the mind. They are energy waves moving through our body. They simply happen – and we can’t stop them. But when we blame ourselves and think the feelings are a problem, it creates the illusion that we could make them go away by thinking them away, or telling ourselves to focus on positive thoughts.
If only it were that simple! Thinking positive thoughts can be helpful as a way to cope with your uncomfortable feelings in the short run, when you need to just get through the moment. It’s similar to putting a Band-Aid over an open wound. But most often, a wound needs to be tended to more thoroughly, on a deeper level. Because ultimately it’s not the Band-Aid that heals the wound; it simply covers it and protects it.
Learning to Heal
Healing takes place on the level of the body where the wound occurred. The wound heals through self-care, through gentleness and nurturing — not through abuse and harsh treatment.
The same can be said of feelings. Their energy doesn’t just leave when we minimize them or when we cover them up. It just gets pushed down and held inside our bodies. Over time, this can affect us so profoundly that we eventually begin to feel physical symptoms – tiredness, disconnection, tightness in our muscles, tension in our body, and other signs of “dis-ease.”
For most of us, relating to the physical symptoms we experience is a much more valid and safer thing to share, than making a connection to the actual feelings themselves. It’s a lot easier to say “I’m feeling tired,” or “I have a headache,” than share that we’re feeling angry, alone, or sad.
That’s why our feelings need air; they need room. If we don’t create room for our emotions – welcoming them and letting ourselves feel angry, sad, alone, or in need, without judging our feelings or ourselves – they can leave us feeling disconnected and uncomfortable in our bodies, or emotionally stuck.
Learning ways to welcome, and move through, the energy of unpleasant emotions can lead to feeling more joy, peace, and greater well being.