Feeling Our Feelings
It’s a bit comical to be writing about feelings when I’m someone who didn’t feel a darn thing for most of my life. I mean, seriously. I felt absolutely nothing. I was a robot who was not trained to feel her emotions. Perhaps you can relate.
It wasn’t until my 30’s that I actually realized I had “feelings”. I thought all the sensations I felt throughout my day were just “me.” The rage, the grief, the jealousy, the shame and so forth. That’s a sneak peak into how numb I was to my own feelings and the lack of self-awareness I had. So much of this was fueled by the deep stress response I had lived with since I was a child. Everyday felt as though I was trying so desperately to dog paddle my way out of overwhelming sensations (such as anxiety, panic and paranoia) that took over the sensitive, creative artist trembling inside of me. I, of course, did a marvelous job of hiding all of this from everyone because I was mortified of these feelings, so I amped myself up to live above the pain and lived my life at 100 mph. This was how I coped so I didn’t have to feel a darn thing.
I was on autopilot, which is how I was raised, and I had no idea my thoughts were connected to my feelings and that my thoughts and feelings communicated with the cells in my body and impacted / created physical symptoms. I mean, come on. That all sounded ridiculous to me. Like, seriously? It sounded like hocus pocus for many years but from where I sit now, freshly out of a 14-year chronic health journey, I can say this: it’s true. It’s just that we’re taught otherwise.
And, so now I can see how we’re all so confused and anxious and how so many of us are unwell because we’re trying to fix the manifestation of thoughts and feelings (physical symptoms) with a quick fix approach. And it doesn’t work. I know many of you know this already but I’ve found that the more I heard this and the more quick fixes that didn’t work longterm, the more it all started to click for me and make sense.
I could sit here and babble about what I’ve learned about feelings over the years but that’s not really my speed. I’m more here to say, hey, I’m going to talk to you like I’m talking to a friend – because that’s what I needed way back then when I started this journey. Trust me, I’ve read tons of books on the mind and body and at the end of the day, they’ve been insightful but what has helped me the most is hearing about other people’s experiences in their own words – it sort of humanized it for me and made it more digestible.
When I first heard the phrase “feel your feelings”, I had no idea what on Earth that meant or what I was supposed to do with that. Feel what, exactly?
I was so out of touch with what was going on inside of me that I didn’t even know there was anything to feel. It’s sad to think about how lost I was in my own mind looping around with anxiety and everything else that kept me in a constant state of survival. The interesting part is that I had no idea I was lost or completely consumed by my mind (and completely out of my body). I just assumed I was my thoughts, I was my feelings and all of this made up “Amie”. Well, I surely had a bit of a wakeup call to say the least when I realized this wasn’t true.
The mind loves to produce negative thought patterns, which in turn make us feel depressed or sad or anxious or whatever yet this is not who we are. If we can start to become conscious of what we’re thinking and telling ourselves throughout the day, we can grab ahold of these thoughts and start to change them. Once our thoughts start to change, our feelings eventually change and we end up in a completely new experience than we did when we were looping negativity. The issue is that we’re so unconscious of these loops because they’re so subtle. We bypass the thoughts and we end up just feeling the blah feelings wondering how we got here. This is what dictates our day and who we believe we are.
Now, this takes time and there are no shortcuts but I will say what I wish I knew when I started this journey was that most of what we’re telling ourselves day in and day out is what we were fed in our childhood by our parents criticism, yelling, rules and so forth. If we can start to watch how we talk to ourselves (ex: how we scold ourselves for not doing something perfectly, how we don’t like the way our body looks, how we’re constantly in a rush to ahead for love and attention, etc.), we can soon start to see how this is impacting our body as a whole because as I mentioned at the top of this article, our thoughts are always giving information to our cells.
This is exactly how I became unwell for so long. Abuse, emotional pain and trauma of any kind often leads to self-hatred and looping thoughts of negativity, which in turn tells the cells in our body what to do and manifests as anything from depression to physical disease and so forth. It’s different for all of us because we’ve all had such different life experiences but what binds us all together is that we all feel the same emotions and feelings day in and day out. We may not think others are suffering but we’ve all been through ups and downs that dictate our thoughts and feelings so please know you’re not alone if you’re just realizing you’ve been living your life stuck in loops of negativity, anger, shame, fear etc.
What’s helped me on my journey is to find quiet time to sit with myself and feel my feelings. What does that mean exactly?
For me, it means sitting in a comfortable position with my feet on the floor and back pressed straight up against the back of the seat with my eyes closed and my entire body relaxed – everything from my jaw to my shoulders to my hands and hips and legs and toes. All of it. Then, I allow myself to listen carefully. There will be something said at this pint because the mind does not go blank for long. It may be, “I hate this. This doesn’t work. I can’t do this. I’m tired. Did I turn off the lights in the other room? Maybe I should go check.” This is all the mind.
Most likely it’s sad or doesn’t feel loved or needs a hug or is irritated or scared. Be with all of this. Be with the feelings that arise from this irritated state and go deeper into them. You may find your body shaking a bit or heating up. Allow the sensations to come over and out of you like steam leaving a tea kettle – watch the sensations arise and then watch them leave. Mine usually leave through my head, other times my mouth or my heart. Yours may exit through your feet. Do whatever works for you and whatever intuitively feels good.
Let it all go.
I do this everyday for at least 15 minutes, sometimes longer, but I’m now aware of when I’m trying to get up to escape an uncomfortable feeling versus when I’m ready to get up and get back to my day. Start to become conscious of the difference.
You can do this.
Lastly, please work with a therapist or healer if you find yourself experiencing unpleasant emotions as they can be overwhelming. I’ve needed a lot of help from various healers who specialized in many modalities over the years when I couldn’t process emotions on my own. Believe in yourself. This isn’t easy but there is relief on the other side of feeling our feelings.
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