Feeling is healing. But “feeling” is not the same as “expressing our emotions”. A great example of the difference between feeling and expressing is this: The other day my older son took a toy from my 1 year-old. My 1 year-old felt really upset about that. He expressed his feelings in two ways: first, he screamed, and then he tried to hit his big brother. While neither are what we would call “good behavior”, unfortunately, they both are pretty normal for that age. Fortunately, we grow up and realize that hitting and screaming don’t get us what we want and usually don’t solve the problems we think we have. Ideally, with the help of positive role models and experience, we learn alternative, more healthy and productive ways of expressing what it is that we are feeling and are able to discern if expressing is even necessary.
Paradoxically, when we feel something and are unable to express it, the feelings are left unattended and can lead to personal and internal negative consequences like a build up of resentment, anger, self-loathing, and sometimes even depression. What’s interesting, though, is that even if we do express what we feel, if we do it in an unhealthy way (like hitting, yelling, screaming, threatening, hurting ourselves, getting drunk, engaging in unhealthy sexual behavior, etc.) we are still left feeling pretty crappy in the end, maybe even a little embarrassed, and mostly unresolved.
*** This is the beauty of life. ***
I think being human IS THIS. An experiment (maybe even a game?) of feeling something and then trying to express it so that it can be resolved. If we are successful, we identify and implement the healthy ways of expression (which for me usually comes with trial and error…lots of error…). If you think about it this way, literally EVERYONE can be a winner! Every opportunity that passes through our life is an opportunity to learn expression – and from expression comes resolution. From resolution comes resilience and ultimately, an openness and love for all that life has to offer (good and bad).
Feeling to heal isn’t just about expressing negative feelings. Positive feelings also need equal expression. Did you know there are actually people that have a hard time expressing gratitude and joy? I know because I used to be one of them (and sometimes still struggle with this). People afraid to show ANY emotion. Interestingly, the consequences of not expressing even our positive feelings leave us (and sometimes others) feeling bummed. Imagine feeling immense joy at your baby’s birth but being completely expressionless and not showing any emotion? Imagine being at your own wedding with an expressionless face? This is why how we express our feelings is so important! It’s a way to connect with ourselves and others.
But in order to heal what’s hurting inside us, we first have to feel it, and to “feel” it means we open ourselves up to it. In other words, we look at it, we allow ourselves to have those feelings, face them, and honestly acknowledge them. They are real! If they weren’t, you wouldn’t have them. To open ourselves up to what is going on inside of us and allow it to flow through is key. Yes, sometimes that means shedding a tear or two! But sometimes the feelings can be so intense we freeze or want to run from them! The good news is that feeling our feelings doesn’t require us to express it immediately or at all. It just requires you to honestly see it and say hello to it.
This is where the magic lies! Once we are able to honestly see it and say hello to it, somehow, we then are able to successfully and productively express it.
So the next time something happens and you feel something (let’s take anger for example), try saying something like, “oh, something in me is feeling anger. Hello anger. So this is what anger feels like. Yes, I am feeling anger right now.”
I know it sounds cheesy, but it works! What do we do with that anger once we’ve said hello to it? We’ve owned it, we’ve acknowledged it, and we’ve totally taken it in our complete control. We are now empowered with a life-changing opportunity to ask ourselves, “OK! I see am feeling anger right now. How do I want to express that?”
Oftentimes, we realize that we either don’t need to after all, OR we are at a MUCH better place emotionally and mentally to find a truly positive and productive (and less harming way) of resolving the underlying problem.
Life can be hard. Why make it more difficult than it has to be?