The other night A and I were watching The X-Files and the theme of the episode caught me by surprise – it was about feelings.
[And, yes, I am seriously watching The X-Files from start to finish.]
In the episode Mulder and Scully are investigating an unusual weather-related phenomenon. The town has been experiencing a serious drought and one man believes that he is the rain king. He charges an obscene amount of money to show up and call in the rain and ultimately save farms. In the course of the investigation they uncover several other bizarre occurrences like a blizzard in the middle of summer that seem to all center around one person. It turns out [spoiler alert] that the extreme weather is a result of suppressed feelings from the weather man. He’s been in love with someone secretly for years and his unfelt feelings manifest as extreme weather.
When we were watching it, A said “Well, this is right up your alley.” My alley being all things woo-woo. And as I thought about it, I realized that the message of this episode was definitely up my alley.
Unfelt feelings don’t vanish – they accumulate. And that energy has to go somewhere.
The saying feel your feelings is certainly all the rage these days. But it’s so much more than a cliché. It’s required. So many of us swallow our feelings. We do anything we can (food, booze, relationships, work, exercise, social media) to numb over our feelings. We ignore them. And we do this with the hope that they will just disappear. We’re heartbroken and we are afraid to deal with that pain so we distract ourselves with the false belief that the heartbreak with simply go away. But it doesn’t go away. It settles into our cells, our bones, our memories. It festers. It rots. It waits. And our feelings are insanely patient. They will wait and wait and wait. And as soon as they spot on opening – B O O M. They take us down.
Not the way they did in the X-Files – we’re not causing tornadoes and blizzards. But by snapping at someone, overreacting to something, going from calm to chaotic without warning, making us sick, and generally infecting our thoughts and behaviors. Outside of calling Mulder and Scully, what’s a gal to do?
Learning to feeling your feelings
Give yourself permission
If you’ve been running from your feelings for years (or even days) – you need to consciously decide to feel them. It’s easy to ignore them, distract yourself over them, numb them, or not even notice them at all. A few years ago I was working with a coach and she recommended a simple but oh-so-effective exercise. Every night right before I closed my eyes and every morning before opening my eyes I would repeat It is safe for me to feel and I am ready to feel. Repeating those words allowed my body and mind to calm down. I was taking control back and letting the protector part of me know that I was strong enough to handle whatever feelings came my way.
Sit with your feelings
The most effective way to feel your feelings is to literally FEEL YOUR FEELINGS. As soon as a feeling starts to bubble up – allow it. If you feel yourself about to run – pause. Even for one second. Just breathe and sit with it. Allow yourself to name it. I feel angry. Sad. Broken. Excited. (side note: positive feelings are sometimes WAY harder than negative feelings to feel – they can feel so much scarier) Content. Joyful. Exhausted. Alone.
So even if the hot loneliness is there, and for 1.6 seconds we sit with that restlessness when yesterday we couldn’t sit for even one, that’s the journey of the warrior.― Pema Chödrön
I love these words from Pema Chödrön so much. I remind myself that I am a warrior for sitting still and allowing myself to feel my feelings. I am strong and capable and will survive it. And one second turns to 1.6 to 4 to one minute to one hour to 12 hours.
Remember that this is a journey. Be gentle and forgiving with yourself. Continue to give yourself permission to feel and reassurance that it safe to do so. And show up for yourself. Sit with the feeling a little longer than you could yesterday. You’ll begin noticing your triggers and default reactions. Once you know that, you’ll be able to catch yourself in the moment. Maybe you had a really stressful day and you find yourself standing in the pantry shoveling cookies in your mouth. Step back, breathe and ask yourself: What feeling am I running from? Or you are sitting alone and starting to feel lonely – so you reach for your phone to distract yourself with some scrolling. Instead – put the phone down and allow yourself to feel the loneliness.
If you want support with feeling your feelings, schedule a free consultation and we’ll talk!