I have long been struck by how much we try not to feel. How much I try not to feel. How we are surrounded by things which orchestrate, choreograph our feelings and yet, we aim to avoid feeling. Or, we passionately express our feelings in peculiar places like on the social media post of someone we’ve never met or rant at the bus driver.
Recently, I read this from Elisabeth Brooke’s book Herbal Therapy for Women (a book to which I turn often to guide me on using herbs to support a patient from an emotional perspective).
In our culture, we are not encouraged to express our feelings – it is more acceptable to remain cool and logical and not rant and rave.Elisabeth Brooke, Herbal Therapy for Women (1992)
Since the writing of the book, I think that this has changed and now we are bombarded with images of people overwhelmed with emotion in times of extremity – reality TV is full of emotive scenarios and people being plunged into places which expose them to their fears. I am not sure this counts. These are large feelings in usually unreal situations such as swimming under ice or dropping off a cliff with some elastic around you. These are the choreographed spaces where you would be fool NOT to feel terrified, as it goes against every grain of our survival instinct to do these things.
But, what I think Elisabeth is talking about, are the day-to-day feelings which we push down in order not to be seen a certain way, or to appear miserable/complaining/negative… there’s a long list of the things we’d rather not be seen to be. But, they are all very real daily experiences, some of which are messages which need to be heard.
‘Messages which need to be heard’. Messages which we often try to ignore, push down or hope will just go away. Messages from our bodies. Messages from our hearts. And, this is what Elisabeth goes on to say:
From a health point of view, this is a disaster as the feelings are there anyway, whether they are expressed or not.Elisabeth Brooke, Herbal Therapy for Women (1992)
This is what struck me so forcefully; “…the feelings are there anyway…” Those feelings are there anyway. You have those feelings whether you choose to acknowledge them or not, whether they are expressed or not. Whether we express them appropriately or not. Whether we dish them out to whichever poor soul gets in the way or not. They are there anyway.
This is obvious and logical. But, for some reason, it has struck me as new. And, it has given me ready pause for thought. Each time we fight down our feelings, or they subside, or we squash them out of existence, we are not releasing them, we are not healthfully acknowledging them, we are trying to pretend they are not there.
This. This is what’s so important to me. As, it is my strong belief that those squashed down feelings are not lying passively in a forgotten corner, they have not become benign because they are ignored. I believe that they are on many levels creating a kind of chaos in physical and emotional health. And this is the crux of how how I want to be supported in my journey. And, it is the way I aim to support the people who come to me. To release those things which are creating internal havoc in our systems. Whether it is a light, ‘niggly’ symptom or a swathe of raw emotion, they almost invariably have come from a place within our psyche. We are all one. There is no mind, body, spirit. It is all one.
So, in our defense, we set up all kinds of protective mechanisms against re-feeling or re-experiencing whatever it was which caused us that first pain. This is normal and a predictable response – we are programmed for survival. And, whilst they worked and served us well for that instance, they rarely do, once it is over. But, we fiercely protect ourselves against pain and keep those protections in place because they worked that first time.
I feel. I feel deeply and often. It’s sometimes overwhelming. It’s sometimes cathartic but it’s always there. Day-to-day feelings as well as feelings from old experiences and protections. I think this is normal. Am I more attuned to my feelings? Some of them but certainly not all of them. Do I try to push down and ignore my deeper, more hurt parts of my self? Of course. Does this work out for me? No, not really.
But, just like you, I am often afraid of my feelings. And, it’s all very well being told it’s OK to feel them, but what if they overwhelm me, create more trouble, are too much, will destroy those around me or I can’t cope with them? What then?
And, you can feel it coming, can’t you? The moral of this story.
Well, I am not sure I have one. It’s a journey I am still on. A journey I anticipate will be with me the rest of my life. But I am trawling the murky depths. I am exploring what it is like to feel my feels. And, I am finding out that they don’t destroy me or anyone around me as long as I don’t act out on them. And, that’s the key. I have learned that feeling is one thing. Acting out and trying to give them to someone else is quite another!
So, what do I do? I think. I feel. I tap and I use herbs. All of these things have the power to shift and change my experience of the old, the new and the current space.
And, I am exploring new modalities, ways of thinking and being, ways of understanding our inner world and this is a wonderful journey.
I am not going to stop you being too afraid to face your feels. I don’t have that power but if you are ready to take that first step towards lifting your life out of those old feel patterns get in touch.