photo by Capture Queen
I loved a comment on my previous post from Maya over at Completely Coastal. She said, in part, “I think that positive thinking alone doesn’t create the desired outcome/reality if the negative energy (feeling) is not felt and released, “Feeling is Healing” comes to mind.”
I think she’s quite right!
After my little Iceberg Series (which may yet have another installment), I wanted to write a post about how feelings work together with thoughts—working with thoughts alone can be, so, icy. But I was feeling a tad underqualified… I’m far from having sorted my own feelings. Then I thought… well, no-one else really has either, so I’ll give it a go.
Feelings are a gift
I do think we need to feel all our feelings if we want to expand and grow. One sure way to stunt our growth is to stop ourselves from feeling certain feelings, yet this is something most of us do.
Mostly it’s just because we are scared to feel them. For some of us, getting angry or being a shivering wreck may be counter to the nice pictures we have of ourselves (this may be especially so for people who see themselves as being on a spiritual path, if they feel it is important to be peaceful, calm and loving all the time).
Many people even have trouble identifying their feelings. If you ask them how they are feeling, they will reply with a thought. For example:
Q. How do you feel about the ghastly noise the neighbours are making?
A. They should not be so selfish
Q. But how do you feel about it?
A. The authorities should do something.
Q. But how do you feel?
A. I suppose I’ll have to put up with it.
Q. Do you have any feelings at all?
A. I don’t understand the question.
Unfortunately, in a case like this, the person is probably incapable of saying, or even knowing, that they are ANGRY! If they do admit to it, it would probably be in a sort of intellectual way, and only after some prompting.
Let’s say someone who is more in touch with their feelings IS able to say they are angry, in response to the above questions. They feel angry and they know it. Hopefully they handle the situation intuitively and their anger gets resolved… in this case, I’d suggest it was the anger (or frustration or annoyance) the person allowed themselves to feel that lead to some movement that needed to happen.
If the anger goes on and on and on, it might be because…
1. they feel hurt that the neighbours are not being considerate of them
2. they like wallowing in their feelings because they get a sense of self-nurturing from it
3. they are angry at themselves… because they think they caused the problem, or they are not bothering to do something about the problem, or they feel powerless to do anything about it.
These could be dealt with by…
Issue 1. acknowledging the feelings of hurt that are behind the anger, and allowing themselves to feel them. Many people have a sense of distaste around deliberately feeling feelings, because they think that it might go on forever or be really tacky or something. If the feeling concerned is what is causing the problem deep down (in this case, hurt rather then anger), I think it works out just fine.
The hurt probably comes from childhood, and a therapy that helps the person get in touch with where the feelings came from can help—but this search can be never-ending… at some point the feelings need to be released (and some therapies help do that, too).
Issue 2. noticing that they kind of enjoy feeling upset. It gives them a feeling that they are nurturing themselves. If this is one of the few ways they can nurture themselves, they may even put off doing something to resolve the situaton so they can go on feeling it (which leads to also being angry at themselves for not doing anything about the problem).
Simply noticing they are doing this really helps, combined with finding more sustaining ways of nuturing themselves (e.g. doing things they love, having supportive relationships, looking after themselves).
Issue 3. noticing they are actually angry at themselves. Then find a course that is guided by what their intuition is telling them. Along the way they might need to learn about intuition, personal power and how to stop blaming themselves.
I’d suggest that these metaphorical noisy neighbours, and the anger they have inspired, are a gift to this person. All this can’t happen unless there is some healing to be had… an emotion that needs to be released, or a change that needs to be made, perhaps. The person might eventually choose to grow, or they might choose to stay angry and eventually shut down.
All our feelings
Feelings are unpredictable. They don’t behave. We can get into trouble if we control them and we can get into trouble if we don’t. We can learn to express them and grow, like in the anger example above, and we can be afraid of them and suppress them. I suspect that learning to express all our feelings in a healthy way can take quite a while, but if we don’t do it, we will be killing ourselves off bit by bit.
Because suppressed feelings cause illness, aging and accidents.
We use lots of things to suppress our feelings… alcohol, smoking, drugs (including coffee), reading, TV, over-eating, over-working, over-anything… And the funny thing is that we don’t only suppress the so-called negative emotions like fear, anger and sadness—we also suppress feelings of aliveness, excitement and joy (too much of a good thing can be dangerous, you know!)
The trouble with “thinking positively” and “controlling thoughts” is that in doing this we might lose the gift of the feelings that are stirred up in us. For me, using the power of thought to create what I want in my life means to focus on what I want (say, more money), and notice and try to change any contradicting thoughts that show up (say, “I don’t deserve to be wealthy”) and allow myself to feel the utter devastation of feeling I’m a worthless slug who doesn’t deserve anything good… until the feeling is a non-event (knowing it’s not really true and it’s just a feeling and I’m not wallowing, am I)
I tend to think of feelings as the glue that holds thoughts in place… we don’t have much hope of turning our thoughts around if we don’t deal with our feelings.
I’d like to tell a story about an incident where I dealt with fear many years ago…
I was home alone at night, and a heard a strange noise outside. I felt a wave of fear go through me, and I thought ah-hah! I can do something with this. I lay on my bed and focussed on feeling the fear, which was not difficult… I was scared. I knew the doors and windows were secure, so I felt safe enough to experiment with the feelings.
I started noticing which parts of my body the fear was in (probably my back—I don’t remember) and concentrated on magnifying the fear. I used my breathing to enhance the feeling as much as possible. After a while a really cold shiver went right through my body, which I suspected was the fear leaving my body (but who knows?) Then I relaxed for a while… and decided whatever it was had finished.
I can honestly say I have felt very little fear from things like noises in the dark since then—it was striking at the time. I’m not saying I’m free of all fear—I have some issues going on at the moment that I know are due to fears… it’s probably no accident that I’m writing about feelings. It’s just that they are not fear-of-noises-in-the-dark-type fears.
I love the way Geneen Roth describes walking into our centre, in her book Feeding the Hungry Heart – The Experience of Compulsive Eating.
We all run. We are all afraid of our own hungers. Except the ones who aren’t. The madmen, the artists, the saints. They walk right into the starkness. They absorb their grief. They become, they actually become, the space between one breath and another. The madmen stay mad because they are caught in the eye of the center, whirling. They become so emeshed in the heart of the darkness that they think that’s all there is. They leap into, but do not know how to leap out of.
The artists, the saints, get to the other side. No longer afraid of their own hungers, they seem to live at the center of a sparkle that brightens and dims according to a natural rhythm. But even the madmen are ahead of us: at least they leap. We would rather remain hungry and afraid. We would rather turn to food or drugs or drink that dulls the call, never reaching the loamy hungers inside.
It’s OK to feel it. Are we willing to be artists, or saints?
* * *
What do you think? If any of you would like to report on techniques you’ve used to release feelings from the body, that would be great! (Personally, I’ve used rebirthing for this.)