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.)
One way is to feel the feeling with all of you – this may take a while if it is in response to something big (like the death of someone you love) and it is OK to get there in small steps. But feeling it with all of you generally means that we then have the freedom of completion.
Evans last blog post..Love Your Disease?
I grew up in a very emotionless household. Everything was very logical and scientific. I had to learn that is was okay to have, acknowledge and express feelings. I love this line: noticing that they kind of enjoy feeling upset. It is absolutely true. I allow myself a really good pity party. There is a little voice in the back of my head saying “Oh, you are being such a drama queen.” My response to that voice “YES I AM” Then I have a good wallow, brush myself off, and deal with the upset in a mature fashion. I am MUCH healthier for this.
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My belief is that women (in general) are better at expressing their feelings. As a guy, I have a hard time doing this. It just seems easier to suppress them (not healthy). I grew up thinking that men don’t show their feelings. We don’t cry, we don’t show our fear – it is seen as weak. The older I get, the more I understand that this is false thinking. We all have fears, we all have emotions. They should be expressed. Sometimes we’re elated – we should show that. Sometimes we’re sad – we should show that too. This is a journey, and one in which I hope to grow and learn in the process. Posts like this really do help. Thank you Robin.
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This is a powerful post for me and I am going to attempt to comment with courage and honesty. I agree that we need to FEEL our feelings to expand and grow. I can think of a personal situation where this is obviously true…yet I am not yet willing to truly FEEL the feelings that lurk in my head. I am afraid of “what’s next” if I truly let myself FEEL the reality of my feelings. In theory, I know in the end I will “live at the center of a sparkle that brightens and dims according to a natural rhythm”…but the path to that sparkle still scares me. This is a pretty exposing comment…but one that needed to be written.
Stacey / CreateaBalances last blog post..Personal Development Mantra
I agree that it’s important to feel and to acknowledge our feelings. I also think that in some cases, denial is actually a legitimate and very helpful tool. I think that there’s a balance – feeling, but not letting emotions take over completely. That’s what I strive for.
Vered – MomGrinds last blog post..You Read Women’s Magazines? I’ll Give You Ten Reasons To Stop
I have developed the habit of asking myself. “How does it feel, what’s the feeling?” So let’s say when I experience aversion toward my neighbor because he’s trespassing again, instead of loosing myself in an angry rant, thinking about building a fence, putting up a sign, and so forth, I shift my focus inward. It’s ME who creates this emotion. My neighbor doesn’t make me feel angry, he brings up the anger that’s already there (I guess you have to believe/experience that in order to be truly interested in this practice). So I stop for a moment, sit down and simply feel, and by focusing on feeling I no longer nurture the negative and limiting belief that generates this kind of emotion in the first place. It’s not always easy to stick with it, others thoughts come up in the process and you get lost (in thinking again). It takes practice like everything else that you want to master. But there is nothing more enlightening and transforming than a thoroughly felt emotion. It takes you to a whole other level of understanding yourself.
Mayas last blog post..Pictures of Lighthouses with Claim to Fame
As a guy growing up it was strongly suggested by the males in my family to not feel or at least not show our emotions. So I kept mine in and it made me a cruel and savage man for over 20 years. Then I learned a journaling technique taught by John Grey of Mars Venus fame. The floodgates were loosened and it all came out. Essentially you just try to describe the feeling and write about it. I am angry because, I am sad because, etc. It works well.
Also it’s important to note that negative emotions are simply feelings that we’ve attached a thought to. Nothing really hurts until we think it does. The next time you cut yourself just feel the vibration without thinking this is bad. It’s quite the experience.
In one of my very first posts I wrote about feelings here.
You Can’t Go Where You’re Going Until You Feel What You’re Feeling
“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.”
So true. I’ve recently just learned how to deal with and recognize my feelings. Identifying your feelings is an important step to self-actualization.
Hiding them and ignoring them can be detrimental.
Robin, I love this article. I can totally relate to it. I was never taught to express myself. I grew up believing in some ways that showing feelings was a sign of being weak. The Q&A conversation that you wrote sure sounded like an internal dialogue that I went through for years.
I now choose to embrace what I feel and who I am. My feelings are indicators for me on choices and direction to take.
You’ve also described how you deal with fear physically. I enjoyed this portion of it particularly. You also said that you are dealing with specific issues of fears. I have every bit of confidence that you deal with them eventually. I’m at this point myself; already free of many but not totally.
Take care!! Hugs,
Evelyn Lims last blog post..My Abundance Mind Movie
@Evan – hi – and thanks for your “feel the feeling with all of you” tip!
@Urban Panther – ha ha – maybe I could come to your “pity party”. Thanks for giving us insights into how you handle upset!
@Lance – hi there – It’s so sad, isn’t it, the way so many men have been trained to not feel their feelings. Many women are in the same boat, but I think I’d agree with you that in our culture it’s more widespread with men. I’m glad you are working through this – and thanks for your comment.
@Stacey – thanks for your thoughtful response, Stacey! I think that observing yourself going though this, as you have described, is something that can really make a difference… to you and to those of us reading your comment.
@Vered – hi – letting emotions take over completely all the time would not be very helpful, would it! I think that when people do that, it’s most likely they are using the emotion to mask another feeling they are suppressing, which is why everyone finds it annoying.
@Maya – my pleasure! And thanks for the inspiration! I was stuck with this post, but knew I really needed to write something to balance up the focus on thoughts – and when your comment came in I suddenly knew how to approach it. Also, thanks so much for sharing how you might deal with a situation that brings up anger (and I DO believe the feelings are already inside us and the external situations just bring them to the surface).
@Tom – Oh Tom – thanks so much for your honesty and integrity in sharing this with us – I’m sure anyone reading your comment would be inspired by it. And I think it is true… emotions are just movement in us – the way we think about them makes them “wrong” or “right”.
@Chris – Great to hear you are getting in touch more with feelings! I’m sure you already feel quite a lot – our challenge is to start feeling the feelings we have been ignoring. Good luck with it all!
@Evelyn – thankyou! I reckon just about everyone in our culture was brought up to not show feelings, you know! I like your “My feelings are indicators for me on choices and direction to take.” …a useful way of looking at it, I think. Thanks for the encouragement – and hugs to you, too!
Feelings are meant to be felt, aren’t they? I’m not sure when or how, but culturally we’re taught to suppress our negative emotions and it’s almost instinctive to do so.
I’m not sure if I have a specific technique to release negative emotions, but I do not that I won’t try to suppress it. I really like the passage you have from Roth!
Hi… Robin, thank for sharing this thought. Feeling is the main factor making the relationship between human and to other living creatures.
Hi Robin, always insightful reading here. I see a lot of myself in this post and I will just deal with anger. I tend to hold in or delay my feelings in this area because if I acted on them, I would get into some physical altercation. I try to use my mind to think of what the outcome would be if I had a temporary lapse in judgment and did something stupid. After I calm down, I try (and this doesn’t always work) to see it from the other person’s view point….if I’m wrong, I apologize. It takes A LOT to get me angry and if someone has taken me there, then know that I put up with a lot of uh, stuff before hand, justice is served.
I always feel it, I just need to control it.
I like this a lot: 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.
Good job on this post, you’re qualified. 🙂
I totally agree with you, Robin. Being on the spiritual path isn’t about being ‘peaceful, calm and loving all the time’, it’s about being real. A lot of the time, when we’re getting upset, we’re acting out old patterns of behavior. Just looking at why this is happening can help, but there comes a time when our feelings just have to be faced. We need to *express* instead of suppressing – though without causing serious damage to anyone else 🙂
I’m interested in your experience of magnifying and so releasing your fears using your breath. I use a similar technique which I call the welcome breath. I’ve described it here:
I thought I’d invented this technique myself but clearly you invented it too! I guess these ideas are just floating around in the collective subconscious…
Other than that, simply *observing* your emotions (without getting into a mental dialogue about them) can also be effective. More recently, I’ve been using Ho’oponopono too, which I’ve also blogged about.
Maybe you could write a bit more about rebirthing some time? I think this whole area of releasing your emotions is really important. Thoughts and emotions are what get in the way of us experiencing our true nature. Thanks for this post!
@Al – hi there – yeah we sure do it fast – it’s something we are very good at. Geneen writes some good stuff – I’ve read at least 3 of her books.
@love ely – hi there and thanks for your comment! Animals do seem to be a bundle of feelings, don’t they!
@Natural – well now thankyou! I think most of us would be afraid of our anger – or what we might do, at least to some extent. Glad you’re feelin’ it (at least if we feel it we can move to the next place).
@Simon – hi there – thanks for your thoughtful comment, Simon. I’ll have to check out the things you have mentioned. That’s interesting you have been using breathing – I like your name for your technique! I didn’t invent the breathing process I mentioned – it’s something that comes from doing rebirthing. See you.
That was indeed a great article, and I agree completely.
Like other men who commented before, I also grew up in a climate where men didn’t express feelings — particularly, non-masculine feelings like sadness, sorrow, fear, and so on. But the flip side was that I was always a child who cried easily. I have always been very empathic. i cried watching TV. I cried reading. I cried often.
This created a great deal of conflict. Lucky for me, I discovered music and that is where all my suppressed feelings go. I still cry a lot when I’m alone (any news stories about tragedies involving children do it for me. I can’t read/watch stuff like that since becoming a father). But I remain a master of non-expression. I do enjoy turning them into beautiful songs (well… some of them are actually not so pretty), though.
It’s a cool synchronicity that we were thinking about similar issues. I have some upcoming posts that explore the issue of feeling as well.
Ari Koinumas last blog post..The Basis of All Desires and The Truth about Growth (Digest)
Robin, I agree that feelings are a key part of how we create and manage our life. And I also think some feelings we are more comfortable with than others. I had some major losses and betrayals in childhood and a particularly troubling adolescence and my way to cope was to kick into survival gear. I trusted no one and when threatened, even by my own fear or nervousness, my first reaction would be anger. It fit my “survivor” identity and it served a very important purpose at the time because it helped me keep fighting for myself and my future. The way I saw it, the alternative was to be a victim and give up.
Of course the problem is that when my life settled down in my twenties I couldn’t let go of this subconscious need to be the survivor. I kept attracting situations that required me to buck up, get my metaphorical fists out, stand alone and come out fighting once more. It wasn’t until the past few years that I came to see the problem was that I wouldn’t allow myself to feel scared or unsure or to acknowledge how little I trusted myself and the world around me.
Even today, after a year with a brilliant transformational counsellor and some powerful healing work using time tracks and kinesiology, I still find myself very uncomfortable with certain emotions. Anytime where I feel “weak” or like I could be perceived as a victim, I shut down and become quite intellectual, and if pushed, I get angry. But considering one half of my family have shut down their emotions to the extent where they are like your example and have little ability to demonstrate feelings or communicate about anything “, I think I’ve done pretty well.
I always tell myself life is a journey and you’ve just got to do the best you can.
@Ari – it’s great that you have found a creative outlet for your emotions, I reckon. It’s interesting, I think, that we are often able to feel some kinds of feelings, so we think we are quite emotional, but can be actually stopping ourselves from feeling other kinds of feelings. Thanks for telling us about your emotions!
@Kelly – hi there – life sure is a journey, isn’t it. I think quite a lot of people have learnt to be angry (or rebellious) so they could fight against the situation they were in (your story reminds me of a girlfriend of mine who was not looked after, as a child – to put it mildly). Thanks so much for letting us know about your approach to these issues – I think it really helps everyone to hear how other people are going. (I must try kinesiology.)
Good post above!
Agree that when you are in touch with your own feelings you:
* Become a more real and authentic person.
* Become more honest with yourself about who you are, where you have come from, and where you are going.
* Begin to be more willing to take risks and become more vulnerable and intimate in interpersonal relationships.
* Cease being in denial about what is really happening in your life.
* No longer pull in and hide so that you become invisible to yourself and others.
* Take the risk of no longer disassociating or becoming numb when things are going on in your life which are negative or overwhelming.
* Make yourself stay conscious to the reality of your life so that you are able to recall or remember it in the future rather than to have no memory of it.
I could probably write a book on this but being in touch with your feelings simply what makes us human.
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Hi, Robin — some early deaths (dad, sister, granddad) within a few years of each other made me close up my shell. It’s taken awhile, but I’ve been dedicated to letting that shell soften and dissolve. Helpful paths for me included NLP, learning that life isn’t about duty, and being married to a wonderful man who teaches me by example how to embrace life instead of do life unemotionlly. Slowly, I’m embracing my feelings as part and parcel of who I am.
You have me thinking with this one. Feelings are unpredictable, aren’t they? I agree with SpaceAgeSage. When we have had a death in our family, we do tend to close up and not (want to) feel, but then you find out you cannot complete your grieving process if you don’t. Over the years I have learned to express my feelings by voicing them. Whether I’m happy, sad, stressed, angry, or whatever, just voicing them to someone makes all the difference.
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@Sam – hi and welcome! Ha ha maybe you should write a book! Thanks for this list – it’s great. I like “Begin to be more willing to take risks and become more vulnerable and intimate in interpersonal relationships” especially.
@SpaceAgeSage – hi there – and thanks for sharing your story. It’s great to see what people have been finding helpful – thanks for that too!
@Barbara – hi there – I think what you are saying is so true… just being able to voice your feelings to someone makes a difference. Thankyou!
Well, I’ll eat my hat Robin. I got myself that Ask and It Is Given book by Esther Hicks and decided to read some of it before I read your post, as I thought it would help me understand what you’re explaining better.
And now I’m reading this and you’re telling me the danger of guiding my thoughts, yet she has just told me I should be doing it. Now I’m really stuck.
The way you described feeling the fear leave your body is interesting though. And it’s obviously done you a lot of good, as it’s diminished your fear in similar situations.
Hi Robin – I’ve read more of the book and it says exactly what you’re saying. You have to allow yourself to feel fear, so that you are able to move onto a better feeling and so on. If we don’t feel these emotions, we can slip back into a worse one – eg. depression.
Oh Cath you crack me up! Please don’t eat your hat, as you might need it! 😀
I think this is an enormously confusing area, that can take quite a while to sort out. I really do think that working with feelings on a physical level in some way needs to be part of our self-development process (or it at least makes things speed up).
With fear, it’s a feeling stuck in the body and the mind invents reasons for it – say, “everyone will leave me”. If you change the thought but don’t clear out the fear, the mind just invents some other reason for it e.g. “something’s going to get me”. Just one way of looking at it (I’m still working through this myself).
Hi Robin. Another thought provoking post. I grew up in an angry household and learned to “hide” to be safe. I also grew to believe that anger was not a good thing and that I must not show it.
But, it is pretty hard to ignore. I guess the trick is to be balanced enough to not react or get angry in the first place. Ummmm can any of us do that yet?
Davinas last blog post..Stepping Out Of These Old Shoes
@Davina – I think the trick might be something to do with letting feelings flow through us in a way that we don’t become stuck in them or a victim of them.
Still working on it.
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hello again robin. I love this post because so many people think you can put a layer of positive feeling and thought over negative ones and achieve a successful life, and use this delusion against people who are trying to be authentic. It is freeing to see that others have spied out the truth. We feel what we feel. If we are lucky we can make peace with that and still have desire to live.