Can we talk about the F word? No, not that one! The other one… the one not everyone is comfortable talking about. You know: F-E-E-L-I-N-G-S. For some, they don’t even want to say it out loud! I’ve encountered several people lately who are really uncomfortable just talking about their emotions, never mind feeling them. So I’ve been asking myself, how did something so useful get such a bad rap?
I think I can understand why emotions have a bad reputation. After all, feelings can be painful, and we often only become aware of them when they are uncomfortable rather than comfortable. Have you ever noticed that the English language has about 50% more words describing ‘negative’ emotions than ‘positive’ ones? The problem is this: We hold the misconception that our ‘negative’ feelings are the source of our pain. In actuality, it’s not the sadness, anger, fear, disconnection, hurt or any other emotion that is the source of our pain. Those feelings are simply indicators that point to an unmet need or a value not being honored. Every action we take is based on an attempt to meet a need, fulfill a desire, or honor something we value. (e.g. freedom, connection, honesty, harmony, connection, expression, etc.) The source of our discomfort is simply the fact that our need is not being met. Feelings, therefore, give us information about how things are going based on what is important to us, and allow us to act on that information. And that’s a good thing! For example, anger tells us that a boundary has been crossed or an agreement broken, and energizes us to protect what’s important to us. Similarly, sadness indicates a loss, and allows us to rejuvenate by slowing down in order to mourn what’s missing. Fear alerts us to change, allows us to focus, and prepares us to act. All of these ‘negative’ emotions are incredibly useful for us to move forward in creating our lives the way we’d like.
So it’s not the emotions themselves that are good or bad – they’re simply providing information. What can be negative or positive is what we do with them; i.e. how we respond to our feelings. If we don’t know they are providing us useful information, and we mistakenly think they are the source of pain, we will probably either stuff them down internally (repress them) or act them out externally (express them) rather than embrace them and use the information they carry for our benefit. When we repress our emotions, we attempt to control or dominate our feelings by pushing them inside, into the unconscious where they gather power. If we act them out, we express them in ways that can have negative consequences for us and the people around us. We will try to control others in an attempt to get them to meet our needs. But if we can embrace our emotions, we can retrieve the useful message they carry and then simply release them. By identifying and accepting our emotions – allowing ourselves to feel our feelings - we can determine what information they have for us, and then act accordingly. In this way we can channel them in a way that serves both ourselves and others.
So don’t be afraid of your feelings – celebrate them! Our emotions are our body’s guidance system. They fuel our actions and allow us to fulfill our needs and desires. (Literally energy in motion!) If we resist, judge, ignore, bury, or are afraid of our feelings we cannot benefit from them. By not processing our feelings we prolong the pain, because we don’t get the message of what action we need to take. By simply accepting our feelings, embracing their message, and then releasing them, we use our body’s wisdom to help ourselves and those around us. How do you work with emotions in your life? I’d love to hear your ideas and thoughts about how your feelings support you.