How much energy do you expend trying to talk yourself out of how you feel?
Frustration, sadness, anger, bitterness, fear, grief, resentment, regret – the list goes on, filled with gloom and darkness. We often believe we’re somehow “wrong” for feeling these emotions. If we’re allowing ourselves to wallow in them, or if we choose (for instance) to envy a friend’s good fortune instead of celebrating it, there may be something to that. Most of the time, however, there are good reasons for our feelings, and attempting to deny them out of a sense of guilt or wrongness will only make things worse.
Pain, whether it’s physical or emotional, is a sign that something is not right in our world. Even something as trivial as a splinter in a finger hurts, and there’s good reason for that: it doesn’t belong there, and if we don’t pull it out and take time for basic hygiene, it could develop into something much worse.
Likewise, anger at a person who has betrayed us, fear or nervousness when we are stepping out of our comfort zone, loneliness when we’re isolated instead of surrounded by friends and family – all are signs that something’s not as it should be. Rather than suppressing these dark feelings or making ourselves feel even worse by believing we “shouldn’t” feel them, we can use our emotions as indicators of what needs attention in our lives. Just as an unattended splinter can lead to infection, so can an unattended dark emotion lead to the greater pain of lost opportunities for a more fulfilling and gratifying life.
We can wrap an enormous amount of energy into a never-successful quest to deny, suppress, or push away a legitimate feeling. By ceasing to expend that effort of denial, we will always – without fail – start to feel better. If that seems counter-intuitive, stop to think for a moment. Feeling better is inevitable because we are no longer heaping the gloom of guilt and self-denial on top of the original dark emotion; instead, we are acknowledging and accepting that we not only feel the emotion, but have valid reasons to do so.
Furthermore, by accepting the fact of our feelings we release ourselves to see options that are invisible when we deny reality. When I accept that I’m really angry at someone who betrayed my trust, I am free to make a choice: will I be noble and just let it go, will I have a constructive discussion with him, or will I decide never to see him again? When I recognize that the nervous butterflies in my stomach are about to lift me right out of my chair with their flapping, I can weigh the potential benefits of moving out of my comfort zone against the potential penalties of staying safe – and knowing the reasons for my discomfort makes it much easier to step forward and take action. And when I acknowledge the loneliness I feel, I can find ways to reconnect with old friends, develop my relationships with current acquaintances, or just head out to my local yarn shop and talk knitting with whoever happens to be there.
None of those options are possible if I refuse to look the initial emotion in the face – whether it’s anger, fear, loneliness, or anything else – and understand that whether I wanted it or not, it’s here, and it has important things to tell me.
What uncomfortable emotions are you denying? Can you find ways to be kind to yourself and acknowledge those feelings? What shift in your energy does that bring about?
(c)Grace L. Judson
About the Author
Grace Judson is the founder and driving force behind Svaha Concepts. She coaches people who are ready to play - and WIN - the game of living life on their own terms.
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