Updated: Feb 23
Image source: Austin Chan | Unsplash
Feelings. They are a natural part of our experience, and so why do we so often fear and avoid them?
• In many cases it’s a fear of the unknown. What’s on the other side of this feeling? We prefer to stay in familiar territory where it’s safe, even when what’s familiar to us is miserable. This can result in an avoidance or refusal to acknowledge certain feelings. Will I be okay if I venture into the unknown?
• Trauma attached to feelings. This can be tough. Sometimes it’s all too intense and overwhelming. We might think that we can’t go there with certain feelings or fear how long the feeling will last? It’s just too much!
• The uncomfortable nature of feelings. It’s the pain and pleasure principle. On sensing discomfort, we humans seek instant relief - be it food, alcohol, cigarettes, distraction, shopping and so on...
• The presence of associated feelings such as shame, guilt and embarrassment. When a feeling doesn’t align with our ideal self (how we want to be viewed and seen) or with what we believe to be “acceptable”, we may deny the feeling or disassociate ourselves.
• Being taught that “bad” feelings aren’t okay. We may have learnt that it’s more appropriate to be positive and therefore the negative must not be seen or experienced but of course the ups and downs are a natural part of life. We want to find ways not to dismiss the lows but to use tools to navigate through them in adaptive ways.
What we can do to move through feelings instead?
Remember that happiness is not our natural baseline. There will be highs and there will be lows and everything in between. The key is in navigating the lows by seeking out healthy ways of responding to our feelings. Thoughts and feelings are transient and won't last forever.
If suppression confines us, perhaps it is expression that sets us free. Emotion seeks expression. Move. Stretch. Walk. Dance. Write. Cry. Sing. Shake it out.
Use your body to feel your feelings, not your head to think them.
We are all great story tellers, creating narratives that align with certain feelings or situations. We might experience something that makes us feel uneasy, something that triggers a deep seeded belief or an unresolved wound or fear and BOOM - the story begins.
These stories cause us to spiral, leading us down paths of self-sabotage, producing irrational reactions in ways we don’t intend and igniting vicious cycles that can lead to bouts of depression and anxiety.
What’s more - we repeat our stories. Time and time again, same context but within different scenarios.
I'm not good enough, smart enough, attractive enough, wealthy enough, skinny enough, perfect enough...
Maybe we tell ourselves that we aren’t good enough, perfect enough, smart enough or wealthy enough OR perhaps it’s that we don’t fit in, that we aren’t likable, successful or capable enough. There are many stories (the self- deprecating ones are all lies, of course!).
But, what if we started to interrupt the cycle? To move out of our heads and into our bodies. If we deliberately took action to feel into our feelings, instead of thinking our feelings.
Notice the sensation of a feeling - where it is located in your body? What is the colour or shape of your feeling? Breathe into it. If the mind wanders off to your story (and it will), gently bring yourself back. No judgement. Allow the feeling to be there. Hold space for it. See if you can encourage the feeling to express itself through the body.
It can be so incredibly uncomfortable and hard sometimes but bodywork and physical movement are great modes for channelling feelings, moving us away from our stories (where energy / feelings get stuck) and back into our bodies where energy / feelings can be released.
Date | 9 December 2020
Author | Rochelle Smith, The Honour Project