This is the fifth in a series of articles about self-care.
The way we respond to the question “how do you feel” reflects the state of our soul. If we respond with a superficial and meaningless “Fine,” if we respond before we actually know how we feel, if we respond in a way that is opposite of our truth, if we resist the question, resist replying, resist knowing how we feel (or we know someone like this), this article is for us.
How we feel is part of our soul’s experience.
Although how we feel is not who we are, how we feel is part of our truth. And our truth is valuable because it adds meaning to our world. By noticing and accepting that our feeings are valuable and worthy of being known, felt, said, heard, and respected by us, we honor our soul.
Feelings have power.
The power of any type of feeling is not diminished by our lack of care, lack of attention, or disrespect of that feeling. As famed psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud said, “Unexpressed emotions never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.” If there is any doubt as to the validity of this statement, we may ourself, “How do my unexpressed emotions come out?”
Feelings are to be expressed.
A January 2018 article in Time magazine by Hilary Jacobs Hendel, LCSW, psychoanalyst and emotions educator lists that, “Emotions have energy that pushes up for expression, and to tamp them down, our minds and bodies use creative tactics—including muscular constriction and holding our breath. Symptoms like anxiety and depression, which are on the rise in the U.S., can stem from the way we deal with these underlying, automatic, hard-wired survival emotions, which are biological forces that should not be ignored.”
Do we block how we feel?
As Sigmund Freud said, “People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own souls.” The Time article adds to Freud’s statement by listing that, “What we learn in our society is not how to work with our emotions, but how to block and avoid them (through) alcohol use, prescription drug use and screen time. When we do acknowledge them, we swat them away with mantras learned since childhood. (‘Mind over matter,’ ‘get a grip’ and ‘suck it up’ are familiar ones.) Thwarting emotions is not good for mental or physical health. It’s like pressing on the gas and brakes of your car at the same time, creating an internal pressure cooker.” Knowing the problems caused by blocking emotions, might lead us to ask …
What are the alternatives?
Although we may not see many examples of healthy ways to live with our feelings, it seems obvious that the way we may currently handle our feelings, is not the healthiest way. When we’re ready to explore options, there are many methods, all of which are rooted in observation and inclusion.
How might we observe our feelings?
Rather than waging war against, or imposing a gag order on our feelings, we can bring our compassionate attention, also called observation, onto them. We can simply observe them with curiosity and love. Without judgment. Without criticism. Without blame. Instead of being afraid of the power of our feelings, when we observe our feelings, we pay attention and notice that the feelings are present.
After we notice our feelings, we can choose to include them.
As Sigmund Freud said, “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” When we honestly bring to light our feelings that have been buried in the darkness of our own denial or disapproval, and accept those feelings as part of our own soul’s experience of life on Earth, we are choosing to include our feelings in our experience of life. By doing so, our soul grows in wholeness, and we notice and include more and more of ourself.
Shift our perspective to acceptance.
To begin including our feelings into our conscious daily experience, a perspective shift, as in this nature analogy, can be helpful. Sri Anandamayi Ma described it like this. She said, “A tree is like a saint. It calls no one to itself, nor does it send anyone away. It offers to protect everyone who wants to come to it, whether this be a man, a woman, a child or an animal.” Like the tree, we can begin to include our feelings, by standing tall and protecting every feeling that comes to us. We can be willing to observe, receive, accept and care for all our feelings, knowing that they are temporary and transform like clouds, as we curiously and lovingly observe and include them.
Warmly welcome feelings.
Whenever we experience something new, it’s nice to feel welcomed, worthy and valued. Same goes for our feelings. For us to observe them, we need to know that our feelings are worthy and valued by us. By saying the following three affirmations below, and fully feeling the highest meaning of them, we improve our perceived value of our feelings.
Say three affirmations.
Below are the same affirmations we spoke last week, as we learned how to Relieve Anxiety: Listen Within. These three affirmations may be said internally, aloud, or sung, as needed. Note: To receive the maximum benefit of affirmations, feel the feelings of the words, while speaking the words. If we feel any resistance, that’s a “note to self” that internal-inquiry may be helpful.
Affirmation #1: I do matter.
Affirmation #2: I am worth listening to.
Affirmation #3: I am important.
Intro & three steps to begin to observe and include our feelings.
Before I begin the three steps below, I prepare myself by releasing my focus on what’s going on around me, then focusing on what’s going on within me, and next, breathing deeply and slowly until I feel my complete attention within myself. Then,
- ASK, “How do I feel?” I do this by quietly focusing my complete and easy attention within, listening to my experience.
- ALLOW feelings to be experienced. For me, this means I notice the emotions and bodily sensations that arise.
- OBSERVE feelings, without criticism or coercion. For me, this means I am present with my feelings for the purpose of knowing and understanding myself and my needs more fully. I am observing and including my feelings in my experience. I am not observing my feelings with the intention of changing, coaxing or scolding them.
Rather than avoiding feelings …
We can create a caring, safe, inner-place to feel our feelings. By doing so, we neither look to others, nor lean on them, to care for us. This allows us to feel noticed, appreciated, respected and cared about, by ourself. And, by caring for ourself rather than looking for others to care for us, we can simply share love with others, rather than needing something from them.
I encourage you, to give yourself the peace and safety of observing and including your feelings. By doing so, you will always know that somebody cares. Let us know how applying today’s concepts works for you! We enjoy hearing from you 🙂
Always with love,