Emotions are funny things. Well, not really, not unless you’re feeling hilarious. Emotions are really quite straight forward (trust me!) But what is funny is the way we squirm and worm our way out of feeling what we’re feeling. Too much joy and the party pooper of the mind starts to remind us of all the possible doom coming. Too much sorrow and the ‘law of attraction’ folk will tell you to cut that out, lest you bring more on. Women are too emotional and men are emotion-less, or so we’re told. Both of those narratives, by the way, are not only total bs, but also perpetuate a collective dismissal of emotion. And emotions, my friend, are an incredible compass for living exquisitely.
One of the most common battles I’ve seen between the mind and the emotional self is about the validity of feelings. We feel something and then we think that we shouldn’t feel that way. Sound familiar?
I’m angry but I think I should be open and forgiving (so I feel ashamed about it.) I’m envious but I know I should be joyful and congratulatory (so I feel disgusted with myself.) I’m terrified but I wish I could feel excited and grateful (so I feel defeated.) I’m lonely but I should feel satisfied and connected (and thus, my loneliness is inflamed.)
Complexity builds with emotions when we’re trying to control and contort them, when we’re trying to shoo them away, make them what they’re not, feel the pretty ones and dust out the petty ones.
This week’s practice is about giving all that a break. This week’s practice is about dropping the meaning that we attach to our feelings and, more importantly, dropping our analyses about their validity, and simply feeling them.
Practice: Do this practice 3-4 times per day. If you really want to take it on, set an alarm to go off at different points throughout the day. When the alarm goes off, stop what you’re doing for a moment. Place your hands on your belly and your heart, close your eyes and tune in.
Notice which emotions are present. Maybe you’ll be able to identify one, or possibly several that are present at once. Name them, either out loud or in your head, like this: I feel grief. I feel anxiety. I feel joy. Stay here for about a minute, breathing and feeling exactly what you’re feeling.
**Do not make up what you think you should feel in order to create a particular state! Simply name what’s there. If you’re not practiced at identifying emotion in the moment, you may not know how you feel right away. That’s ok, just keep getting quiet and asking, what do I feel?
Notice that you’ll probably have a story attached to the emotion. For example: “I’m feeling anxious because when I walked in the office today I felt like I was getting the cold shoulder and then so-and-so said they wanted to talk to me and the last time this happened….” So what are you feeling? Anxious. The rest is the story that’s attached. I’m not about to negate the validity of stories, but for this practice, they’re not helpful, they muddy. Simply feel the feeling.
We often think we have to do something with our feelings. But we don’t. Feelings arise. They’re like weather, they come and move and change and go. Feelings are here to be felt. The better we get at simply feeling what’s there, the better we become at navigating all the complexity that comes with the emotions that arise. So many of us don’t get to actually feel what’s there because we’re too busy listening to our narratives about the emotions. The negative associations that people tend to have around emotions being too much, all consuming or unpredictable usually stem from lack of practice with allowing them and feeling them.
May we all bring kindness and compassion to ourselves this week as we engage with the fullness of our emotional selves. May this practice nourish you and how you relate to your experience of life.