It’s so easy to discount our feelings.
We’re taught all of our lives by the world around us that it’s not okay to feel bad. That it’s not okay to worry, to stress, to feel low and down. We are taught that all of these feelings are to be pushed away and dealt with or resolved in any way we can.
Because we want people to feel ‘happy'. We want people to be their ‘best selves’, we want people to dream and believe in all they can be and create in the world. But we forget that the whole gamut of feelings is part of that.
We can’t love ourselves if we embrace some feelings and disown others. We’re human. We’re meant to feel all the emotions we feel. There are not some bad and others good. We just perceive them that way.
In life ALL feelings have value. All feelings are helpful. They all tell us something that is worth listening to. No we don’t always like the feelings we are having, but often it’s because we try to push some feelings away in favour of others.
We all love the feeling of being on top of the world, BUT without the struggles we would never find ourselves there in the first place. If life was easy we would be completely unsatisfied. Because joy is often about overcoming the struggle and learning something from it. Not because we don’t experience the struggle any more, but because we realise we stretched and grew and became something more because of the richness of the experience.
We’re not reactive beings who experience something and then leave it there. We have the immense capacity to learn all the time as we feel. We feel in ways that help us pay attention, to recognise what is happening and to learn something new that we’ve somehow missed before.
The problem is that as a society we are presented predominantly with happy images, joy, love, passion, beauty… and we are missing the images of the life that is complete in all its many other colourful aspects.
There’s not a person in the world who doesn’t experience a full gamut of emotion. We may all give these emotions slightly different labels and experience them differently, but we are all still feeling everything, in our bodies, hearts and minds as well. We're feeling all the time, every minute of every day.
Take a minute now to ask yourself exactly what you’re feeling? What is it?
Are you ‘happy’, ‘elated’, ‘joyous’, ‘calm’ or ‘free’ as we sometimes assume we should be.
Or are you ‘unsure’, ‘nervous', ‘fearful', 'sad'. ‘angry' or just ‘jittery'?
What you’re feeling will be completely unique to you. And you’ll recognise it differently.
What's excitement to you will be fear to someone else. It’s all in the experience and the labels you give to these bodily feelings.
Feelings are powerful in spite of their continuous presence. It’s not like we get used to feelings and just start to ignore them. Feelings have a funny way of getting us to switch on and start paying attention. In fact feelings will stop us in our tracks and force us to pay attention.
We can’t NOT do this because feelings ARE what mobilise us and motivate us towards something. They help us move forward, they help us make decisions, they help us stop when we need to rest, and they help us run in the other direction. They’re powerful intentional signals from our internal guidance system which are leading us in the direction we are meant to be going. We know when something feels off or when there’s something we need to be doing differently.
We know when we feel good that things are moving in a direction that’s aligning us with the life we want and the person we want to be. (I'm not talking about addictive behaviours here - which is a whole other story for another day!...)
Difficult feelings are like warning signals, guiding us and steering us in helpful ways. If we felt good all the time we’d have no idea what to choose and what not to choose.
But even deeper than this, our emotions tell us a lot about our own internal dialogue and patterns of relating - to ourselves and to the world around us.
Certain situations we’re experiencing now may be triggering old feelings. As if they’re happening again right now. When really it’s just a warning sign in your body of something you’re thinking, something you experienced or learned in the past, or something you’re still healing.
You’re thinking, 'Here we go again’.
You’re thinking, 'There’s something different I need to be doing here in this situation', or you’re thinking 'This doesn’t feel right, what on earth do I do now…?'
You’re experiencing your current situation through the lens you carry. You are judging it and yourself. And your feelings are guiding you and helping you on your way, to finally honour your own inner wisdom, to heal what's been holding you back and stopping you moving in the direction that feels right for you.
What does it really mean to honour your feelings?
You simply claim them. You claim all of them. You allow for them. And you trust them. You recognise them for what they are - powerful guidance tools which you have within you that tell you everything you need to know.
You know when you need to stop and re-evaluate. You know when you need to slow down. You know when you need to move forward. You know exactly everything you need to know. You know it in your heart and in your body and soul. Every part of your being is screaming it to you.
So why don’t we listen? Why do we hold back our feelings and refuse to claim them all as our own? Because we've learned to disown them and push them down. We think by pushing away fear that we’ll find safety. We think that by pushing away anger that we’ll find peace. We think that by pretending we feel good that the bad feelings will go away. But they won’t. The ‘bad' feelings are here because you need them.
You need them to steer, guide and heal you. They will tell you everything you need to know if you allow for them.
And with this acceptance of how you’re feeling, the very things you have been trying to push away will be experienced anew.
Imagine being able to sit with sadness. Imagine being able to own your anxiety. Imagine being able to love yourself through your anger. Having the tools to breathe and experience these in a way that is more useful and helpful to you.
This is what they are there for. To help you. Every. Single. One.
It’s time to honour them and in so doing honouring you.
PS. If you're ever experiencing overwhelming feelings it may help to reach out to someone you trust - a friend, family member or even a GP. There are times when we all need someone to help us process what we are feeling and seek further support where we need it. In Australia you can contact lifeline on 13 11 14. They're available by phone 24 hours 7 days a week.