This is the seventh of a series of shows about self-care.

If we’d like to heal, we need to feel. Unfortunately, many of us are out of touch with what we feel emotionally and physically—thereby holding our healing at bay.

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Emotions can be felt, not healed.

Emotions are the result of something. That something may be in the form of an experience, such as a painful break-up, which causes a shift within us. Sometimes this shift comes in the form of a wound. The wound causes pain—a feeling that we experience in our body and our emotions. The effects of a wound within the body and emotions can only be felt, they cannot be healed—because they are simply a result. We can distract or numb pain in our body and emotion for awhile, but the wound is still present, and is experienced again when our “distraction of choice” wears off. Rather than distracting or numbing our body and emotions as a temporary escape, we can heal our wounds. And healing requires feeling. By fully feeling, accepting and caring for pain in our emotions and our body, we can heal the wounds that cause them.

Why does feeling our emotions seem difficult?

Most of us were not raised to care for our emotions and don’t know how. Our emotions, and how we treat them, have an all-encompassing effect on how satisfied we feel about ourself and life. Most of us want our emotional state to feel good, but don’t know how to provide ourself with consistent, pro-active care. To exemplify this, I’ll share a first-hand experience about how I cared for the emotional and physical pain experienced by a little boy.

A story of caring for emotions.

It was a bright, sunny, sixty-degree Saturday. After an hour of weight-lifting, I felt a strong, intuitive pull to take a walk at a nearby park. I had been there many times before, but this time, rather than walking on any of the wonderful trails, I felt inexplicably pulled to walk through a dense forest, near an area where people play disc golf. As I made my way through a thicket and briars (only intuition would lead me to want to choose such a path), I heard a shrill scream of a very young child. Having spent much time with children, I knew the sound of that scream was a cry of pain, fear or both. I looked toward the shriek and saw a man in his mid-thirties walking about 15 feet ahead of a two-year-old boy who was screaming and holding his hand over his eye, while stumbling to try and catch up. Another man, who looked of similar age to the first man, was walking about the same distance behind the boy. The man ahead said loudly as he kept walking, “What’s wrong with you, haven’t you ever been in a forest before?” The man behind said, as he kept pace behind the boy, “He poked his eye with a stick.” The boy kept screaming. The man in front said, with a harsher tone, “What’s wrong with you?” as he kept walking, and the boy kept screaming. The man then turned around, bent down, and shook the boy while uttering strong words. The boy stopped screaming and was holding his breath. At this point, it seemed that neither of these men knew how to care for emotions. I decided to walk toward the three of them, the sound of briars scratching up against my clothes, branches cracking and leaves crunching. The crouching man stood up. They all looked at me, but no one said a word. “Hi,” I said. “I came to say hi. Hi Cutie Pie,” I said as I crouched down about 10 feet away from the boy—his little index finger pointing at the spot where his eye got poked. “Did you hurt your eye?” I asked. “That happens sometimes, even to big people. Yeah, that happens.” And I just kept smiling and looking in the eyes of the little boy. And he sort of smiled at me. And then he turned his face into the man’s leg. And the man said, “I think she needs a hug. Go give her a hug.” And the little boy ran towards me. I opened my arms and he buried his head in my chest, his arms raised up over my shoulders as he sniffled for about 15 seconds. Then he took a deep breath, turned his head to the side, and lay it on my shoulder for awhile. Then the man said, “We gotta go.” So I said a smiling “G-bye” and waved to them both. The little boy giggled as he took the man’s hand and said, “She was playing hide and seek!”

Emotions need attention and tender care.

Caring for our emotions and physical feelings can be as simple as it was with the young boy. Regardless whether we are surrounded by people who are not able to care for us, as adults, we can learn to care for ourself. We can learn to be aware and notice any areas of pain in our emotions and body, and care for those areas in whatever way we need. Care can take many forms — What does care look like to you? For me, depending on the emotion that I need to feel, care might look like: hugs, soft blankets, meditation, prayer, healthy food, a walk in nature, journaling, sea salt bath, working with wood, shooting skeet, exercise, rest, planting in my garden etc. To start, dedicating even 5 minutes a day to feeling and healing, counts. Caring for our emotions doesn’t need to be difficult, but it does need to be done if we want to heal, be healthy and free.

There are destructive long-term effects of not caring for our emotions.

The least of which is feeling ignored and misunderstood. The worst is physical violence, emotional open-fire, suicide and/or a lifetime of suffering. I’ve experienced many of those, but refused to accept a lifetime of suffering, so I took the deep dive into my emotions and feelings, needs and wants, and healing my old wounds. But many people don’t, and suffer the consequences. As Victoria Tarratt, provisional psychologist said, “Suppressing your emotions, whether it’s anger, sadness, grief or frustration, can lead to physical stress on your body. The effect is the same, even if the core emotion differs. We know that it can affect blood pressure, memory and self-esteem. Longer term, there’s an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease. And avoiding emotions can also lead to problems with memory, aggression, anxiety and depression.”

Ignoring emotions strengthens them.

A study from the University of Texas found that by not acknowledging our emotions we’re actually making them stronger. “For example,” Tarratt says, “you might be angry at your brother and after stewing in your anger, not saying a thing, you could encourage an emotional outburst. So when you’re driving the car a few weeks later and someone cuts you off, you can get all-out road rage, causing an accident. That explosion and overreaction to a situation is your body’s way of releasing that pent-up emotion,” due to the lack of care.

Emotional reactions aren’t conscious.

A Time magazine article by Hilary Jacobs Hendel from February 27, 2018 shared the following. “Current neuroscience suggests that the more emotions and conflicts a person experiences, the more anxiety they feel. That’s due, in part, to the vagus nerve, one of the main emotional centers of the body. It responds to emotions triggered in the mid-brain by sending signals to the heart, lungs and intestines. These signals ready the body to take appropriate and immediate action in the service of survival. The body is ready to react to perceived danger before the person is aware that an emotion has been triggered. It’s the reason why emotions aren’t under our conscious control.”

Neglected feelings cause pain—emotional and physical.

“Consider Frank, a patient of (Hilary Hendel’s) who was greatly bothered that he could not afford the kind of car he really wanted. Something as simple as Frank’s thwarted car desire triggered a mixture of sadness, anger, humiliation and anxiety. He also had physical symptoms, and although Frank had some inkling that his stomach troubles had to do with stress, he was unaware that emotions in particular were causing his intense stomach pains. Because he hadn’t paid attention to his emotions, he had no tools for what to do to feel better. When Frank’s eyes saw the car, and all of a sudden he felt sadness, humiliation and anger. His stomach went into an instant state of upset.”

Feeling and caring allow healing.

“Frank’s stomach continued to hurt until, through therapeutic personal growth, he learned to tune into his body to recognize and separate out each emotion, name them and tend to (or care for each of) them, one at a time. Frank healed his stomach by allowing himself to feel sad. He mourned the loss about not getting his fancy car. He validated his angry feelings after learning they were natural. And he learned specific skills to release his anger in ways that were healthy and not destructive to himself or others. He practiced self-compassion in response to his humiliation, and that decreased, too.”

Feeling emotions allows them to pass.

As Frank experienced all of his feelings, they passed, as core emotions do when they are deeply felt in the body. “By working with his emotions, Frank changed the firing pattern of his vagus nerve and healed his stomach pain. Clients tend to avoid painful or conflicting emotions in their lives—just as most of us do, because that’s what we were taught. But to heal the mind, we need to experience the emotion.”

Four tips to begin feeling and healing.

  1. Get kindly-curious to learn. That means be gentle, easy and interested in learning about ourself.
  2. Ask, “How do I feel?” and “What else?” And listen with kindness, openness, interest, patience. I get my journal to take notes and find this helpful. Again with the compassionate care to learn our truth.
  3. Ask, “What do I need? And then, “What else?” And let the stillness of waiting for the answer be easy like a pond without a ripple. Not searching or thinking to find an answer, simply allowing the answer to arise from the depths of the pond like a submerged bobber.
  4. Give ourself what we need, immediately. This is a Bingo moment. This may seem like a struggle at first, to give ourself what we need, but it becomes exceedingly rewarding and fulfilling over time. Ps. When we fulfill our deepest needs, our unhealthy cravings lessen and eventually dissipate. When we do not fulfill our needs, we are prone to addictions.

The benefits of emotions.

When we’re kindly-curious about our emotions, the inner learning can be deeply validating and healing. Although the idea of living without emotions may seem easier, emotions are a fact of life. And we can learn to see our emotions as flavor, fragrance, protection, care and overall incredible way to experience being human.

If we feel unworthy to know and care for our emotions …

Remember and repeat our three affirmations from the last six weeks:

  • I do matter.
  • I am worth knowing.
  • I am important.

Rather than fighting, fleeing, stuffing or drowning our emotions …

We can create a safe, inner-place to know, care for and learn from them. 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 own emotions, rather than looking for others to care for them, we can simply share life with others, rather than needing something from them.

Will You?

I encourage you, to be kindly-curious, feel and learn from your emotions. 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 🙂

Join us in Knoxville, Tennessee, any Sunday in April for the Will You Grow, Love and Adventure Brunch Series at Knoxville’s Luxury Venue—Ancient Lore Village! Check out the event video to get all the delicious details, book your tickets and come have fun with us in April!

Always with Love,