The way that we feel is a real part of our experience and a real part of us. Emotions are not frivolous things that can be ignored or denied. Too many of us are in the habit of running away from the emotions that feel bad, and chasing after the ones that feel good. In ignoring the ones we don’t like, we actually block the ones that we want to experience and prevent the flow of the ones we prefer. Emotions must be allowed passage and suppressing them results in a kind of congestion that traps us in the very state that we are trying to avoid.
It is understandable why we choose to ignore certain emotions. These are the emotions that feel bad. We also try to pretend that we are not experiencing certain emotions because of what we believe those emotions say about us. We have been conditioned to associate certain emotions with being of bad character.
These meanings have been learned through a process of conditioning that is now self-reinforcing, and socially reinforced. Anger is a big one that is reprimanded and therefore rarely acknowledged in a healthy way. Our emotions do not say anything about the quality of our character. They are a feedback system for us to use as a tool to understand what to do next.
When we feel an emotion that had been pre-defined as ‘bad behaviour’ it can set off the alarm bells to suppress, sometimes even well before we consciously realize that we have felt it. Regardless of whether we are aware of the experience or not, it happened. The body holds the physical tension and chemicals that are associated with the emotion, and the psyche has recognized a situation that is being ignored. An emotion is a clue. If it feels bad, it is a sign that something is out of alignment and needs to be addressed. Slapping on a smile will not get you out of feeling bad. Looking at the situation will. There are no ‘bad’ emotions, so stop judging and diverting yourself, and start approving of all of your emotions through the lens of curiosity.
Discouraging ourselves from feeling emotions cuts us off from our personal feedback during social interactions and may result in ignoring the cue that a personal boundary has been crossed. Everyone’s boundaries are a little different so go with your gut over the status quo.
I encourage healthy acknowledgement of everything that we feel as true and worthy of our personal experiences. You do not have to act on every impulse, but please do acknowledge it lovingly and make choices based on your own feedback.
Emotions exist on a hierarchical scale in terms of which ones feel better to experience. This explains why sometimes we lash out when we feel hurt. A person who experiences sadness and wants to feel better may choose anger as a more empowering stance relative to sadness. Keep this in mind next time someone seems to be on the attack. Let yourself feel your emotions and they will upgrade naturally.
Try to experience the sensations of your emotion instead of telling a story about it. Pulling something apart with the mind can be a way of adding fuel to the fire. By telling more stories from old patterns the whole thing is spun into a disjointed web. Just pause and allow the emotion to pass coherently in one path. Once one passes feel the next one until you feel finished. With practice you may feel the physical release as the emotion changes.
For those who have a difficult time connecting with their emotions, I urge you to practice feeling the physical sensations in the body as a daily exercise until you are able to connect with the quality of your emotion. For example, describe to yourself what the spoon in your hand feels like – cold, smooth etc. Every emotion has a physical link and this exercise will help you to make the connection. Remember that no emotion lasts forever. Another simple technique that serves as a restorative practice and preparation for exploring your emotions is to sit or lie down with eyes closed and follow the movement of your breathe.
Every emotion has a reason that is personal to the experiencer. Let us stop judging ourselves for our emotions, stop judging others for their emotions, and work on supporting each other on reconnecting with the best version of ourselves.