Feeling Our Way Along
Over the centuries white Western culture has gotten very skewed in its comfort with and acceptance of certain emotions. Anything happy to the point of manic is great so let’s celebrate with our friends and family by going out and buying things (food, drink, experiences such as movies or games….) Fear is also good as long as it encourages us to buy things. Fear of not looking good enough buys cosmetics and skin care products and exercise packages and surgeries. Fear of not looking abundant enough drives car, clothing, jewelry and home sales. Fear of not having the best, brightest, or newest thing drives pretty much all electronics sales. You get the drift here.
On the even less healthy side of things, we’re taught actual emotions are to be hidden and controlled, either not expressed or expressed only through acceptable forms. Like buying things to express our feelings instead of actually expressing them (Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Christmas….). Or soldiering on even though we’re grieving and everything about us just wants to cave in. Or hiding the actual fear of becoming a new parent. Or moderating joy at the achievement of a long time goal.
Emotions are seen as interfering with the life of the mind. They refuse to be controlled, they have a rhythm and rhyme all their own, and they are often overwhelming. They are a direct conduit to our true selves leaving us vulnerable to all around us. This is the core of the issue with emotions. They are unapologetic expressions of our soul’s experience of this embodied life in each moment. They take us out of thinking and put us right in the middle of being in all its discomfort and ecstasy and revelation. They rip through our carefully crafted defenses and excuses and deafen us with the truth. They refuse to build from one to the other in a logical progression or even to acknowledge the past or the future. Each now is just…now…regardless of what happened just a moment ago or what is coming next.
But here’s the thing. Over all these centuries we’ve built up fear around experiencing our emotions because they aren’t controllable and they defy our constructed worlds. We’ve made them into the opposite of the mind and logic and turned them into the enemy which needs to be defended against. No wonder we’re always seeking happiness and never finding it. It’s an emotion and we’ve made it unwelcome. However our emotions have equal value to our thoughts. They have just as much ability to support our lives, to guide us in the right direction, and to help us make our dreams a reality. But in order to do this we first must recognize them and then allow them space to be.
Like with the body meditation from last week, you can bring the Akasha to you, shifting your awareness so you can sense the Akasha all around you and interconnected with you. Once you are in that state you may listen to your inner knowing to feel any feelings which have been persistent in your life recently. If something has been going on, this is a good time to let it bubble up. Don’t control it, don’t judge it, don’t anything, just feel. You will find there is a great deal of knowledge and ‘aha’ in there if you just let it be and don’t try to make it do anything. If you don’t have anything bubbling up at the moment, sift back through the past few days to things which have caused you emotions in the moment, the more exaggerated and out of the blue the better. Bring those memories back up and relive them. This will trigger the emotional response. Then let everything play out. Don’t judge, just experience. When you’re done, the message will begin to be clear either as an unspooling awareness of the truth of the situation or a new emotion which brings revelation.
The Emotional Rollercoaster: Whose side are these emotions on anyway?
Our emotional selves have a lot more in common with the body than with the mind. They are invested in the truth. They aren’t interested in pretending a situation isn’t what it actually is, they aren’t here to ignore some things and latch onto others, and they are here to help us be safe and healthy and in the now. That’s not to say emotions are anything close to simple or they aren’t problematic. Loving someone you can’t have, “irrationally” hating something or someone, or feeling depressed when you do something you actually have to do on a regular basis sucks, to put it mildly.
Then things get more complicated by situations such as loving two diametrically opposed things and loving them equally and at the same time. Push-me/Pull-you anyone? Or feeling you need to do something you know is wrong, but you can’t help yourself? Or being overwhelmed by the feeling that you need to do something which is absolutely right and yet will cause pain to everyone around you, even yourself?
Then let’s up the difficult quotient even more by adding where the emotions interact with the mind even more directly. Time is a feature of the left brain/logic side of your mind. And knowing time exists allows us to understand history and our past narrative as well as project into infinite possible futures. So we have an endless supply of ways to create emotional responses in the now which have little if anything to do with this now at all. Reliving the same past event over and over is an oldie but goodie. Or letting the problem solving side of the brain invent many different dangerous possible future outcomes from a current situation which trigger emotional response as if they are really happening. That’s being prepared just in case, right?
And then there’s the capper, which is to avoid specific feelings at all costs. These feelings are usually connected with past or future events and are triggered by current events. For example, having been bullied throughout school for a particular physical or personality trait has left unhealed wounds and complex emotional scars. Any event which brings us into contact with people who look like, speak like, or act like the bully, any situation that makes us feel like we felt prior to/during/after the bullying events, anything that heads us towards feeling bullied, triggers a strong reaction to avoid feeling that way ever again. To prevent ourselves from feeling these feelings we overwhelm them with louder, bigger, easier to cope with emotions like terror, anxiety, anger, or rage and then we medicate those feelings. In self-defense we layer emotion over emotion; we turn our attention away from the truth and focus on the controllable distraction and the act of medicating.
With all that going on, I hesitate to make blanket statements to my clients like “Listen to your feelings.” Because listening to their feelings, the loud ones, might be part of the root cause of the problem. I also hesitate to use the “peel the onion” analogy because it’s been over used and a bit abused and people think they know what it refers to and therefore shrug it off like any other overused Facebook meme. But in this case the analogy often applies. Emotions, even the ones used as distraction, are a pointer leading us towards the truth, but, again, this isn’t like the mind where things are linear and logical. The journey to emotional truth is like peeling back the layers. Emotions are not random, they aren’t “sound and fury signifying nothing”. Like the body they contain message. They are aspects of the self which are seeking recognition and acceptance so they can fall away and rest, allowing the next layer to come to the fore and have its moment.
Which is easier said than done, because many times we don’t know what we don’t know. How do we know what is under this layer or what is a layer at all? How do we know what fear is a distraction and what’s real? Do we all have to become therapists for ourselves or get our head shrunk just to be normal? Not that I’m aware of, but the only thing I know for sure is that I might be wrong. :) However, the practice of feeling our feelings, being with them, learning from them and therefore discovering ourselves is something we can learn to do.
It’s practically impossible to will yourself into feeling something that you don’t. Opinions can be changed, but feelings simply are. For example: you can try to like Cod Liver oil. It’s good for you and as a supplement it has all kinds of benefits. You can will yourself into taking it because you know it’s in your best interest. You can like the effects it gives (although I’ve never met anyone who likes burping after taking Cod Liver oil, which happens more than you would think.) You can minimize its taste by taking it in pill form. You can do all kinds of things around it, but in the end what you will have changed is your relationship to it and not your true feelings.
Feelings are amazingly resistant to force or will. They only get stronger when they meet opposition. In fact they act like teenagers who have been grounded, finding all kinds of ingenious ways to get their freedom. Trying to will yourself into feeling differently is often a lost cause that can lead to frustration and a feeling of failure. So instead of trying to force things, why not invite new feelings in. We create space for our feelings by the words we use and the meaning we put on things around us. Like the increasing darkness of winter, we can experience this as a lack of light or as a snuggly time of candles, warm blankets, and hot nurturing beverages. Neither perception changes the season, but the way in which we choose to interact with it changes us and invites different feelings to be in residence.
Our feelings are valid and have a great deal of wisdom to share with us. The simple act of listening to them can allow them to move through us, like a spring storm, leaving everything clear and bright, changing our entire perspective on things. If we’ve heard the message and things don’t change, then it’s time to invite new feelings and messages in. We create the environment around us which effects how we feel. We therefore can change the environment to invite more positive feelings. It can be as simple as laying out a bright-colored cloth over a dark table. Think of all the bright colors of fall and how they lift our spirits as they glow against the dark browns and greys around them. The more we create inviting spaces within ourselves and in our surroundings, the more positive emotions will make themselves at home.
For my clients, and myself, I find a two pronged approach to creating a relationship with feelings to be helpful. When working with the emotions themselves, discovering what they are and feeling them in my body, listening to their wisdom and letting them teach me, I like working with the techniques of Raphael Cushnir (cushnir.com) His book, The One Thing Holding You Back: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Connection , teaches ways in which we can discover how our bodies and our emotions are interacting and help us get to the underlying layers. I’ve put a link to his website and book in today’s post. For insight into what the underlying layers mean in this life (short/medium/long term) I work with my mentors and guides in the Akashics. I’ve posted a link in today’s post to my Mentors guided meditation which can help you access your guides in the Akashics.