When life isn’t going so well, often our first response is to go into distraction overdrive to avoid feeling our feelings. If, like most people, you dislike the sensation of being angry, frustrated, uncertain, anxious, confused or overwhelmed, in an attempt to get rid of these feelings you might emotionally eat, have a few too many 5 pm wines, or spend all your spare time online or watching TV. Basically, any addictive behaviour that stops you from feeling your inner turmoil can be, let’s be honest, a relief. It’s an habitual way of dealing with uncomfortable emotions that may have served you well in childhood, but now just keep you stuck.
If you try to bury or avoid feeling your feelings, it’s important to know that whatever’s causing you emotional distress doesn’t actually go away. If only! The issue and the intensity of your feelings might dim for a while but rest assured at some point they come back. Always. So to avoid a bigger personal crisis down the track from years of stored emotions, what could you do now to restore some balance in your system and, more importantly, why would you bother going to the effort?
Firstly, it’s important to understand that when you’re in turmoil, and your emotions are intense and uncomfortable, there’s a reason for it. Your body’s trying to tell you something and it’s worth listening. For example, if you’re angry, perhaps you didn’t speak up for yourself with someone, or maybe you were undermined at work. Anger often represents a boundary issue. If you’re feeling sad, perhaps you’re having to let go of something that was important to you. Until you feel into that sadness, you may not even realise just how important it was to you.
Let’s imagine you’ve been in the same job for 5 years and you’ve been happy there. Then one day you wake up and feel differently about your job. You’re frustrated, bored, dissatisfied and restless. If you paid attention to these feelings, it would start to become clear that something needs to change: perhaps it’s time to move on as you’ve outgrown your job, or maybe you need to have a conversation with your boss about making the role more challenging.
If, on the other hand, you ignored these feelings, because your emotions are energy, and they haven’t been felt or expressed, they build up in your system over time and then come out in more disruptive and dysfunctional ways, often when you’re least expecting it. For example, someone says something minor and you lose your temper; or you project all your “stuff” onto someone else making them the problem in your life; or you constantly feel lethargic from all the years of ignoring your body and it’s wearing you out.
As you can see, when you feel your feelings and accept them as being a valid part of your experience, even if you don’t like how they make you feel, they will always give you information about your current reality. They can be a phenomenal source of personal guidance. Sometimes it’s hard to hear that guidance because the truth can be painful. It can take time to come to terms with what it is we need to change in our lives. However change doesn’t always mean ending something; but it does mean that you have genuine needs that deserve to be met.
When you choose to include your emotions in your life, you’ll get to know them for the remarkable guidance system that they are and you’ll start trusting yourself a whole lot more.
In Part 2 of this post, I’ll be giving you some quick tips on how to feel your emotions.