Feelings often get a bad rap. I often hear people use the expression "in my feelings" to connote exhibiting irrational behavior due to being overwhelmed by emotion. Much of this characterized behavior has more to do with underlying feelings of shame. Shame causes us to fight or retreat out of fear that others will see that we really are a failure or not good enough as we so often feel in deep hidden caverns within. Shame is a different beast, for another blog post, on another day.
May I submit a different view of being in your feelings? Our emotions and attached feelings aren't the issue. It's how we view them. If we approach uncomfortable feelings from a place of self- judgment.... I shouldn't feel like this; If I can't control my emotions that means I'm weak; Real men don't cry; Real men don't admit their hurt; I'm a strong Black woman; I don't have time to feel....we create a division within ourselves.
If we learn to accept our feelings when they arise with curiosity, they will share with us their secrets. Sounds cookey? I hope I didn't lose you...Although my words seem like their up in the clouds, I promise you that my feet and mind are clear and grounded.
Let me share more about what I mean. I am currently completing my internship for my masters of science degree as a marriage and family therapist (MFT). I see individuals, couples, children with their parents, anyone really. Being trained as an MFT means that I approach therapy from a systemic lens. Meaning, I view people within context of their systems. In short, we are not islands. Our connections in relationships with others and ourselves inform who we are.
In the therapy office, the majority of my clients have difficulty with anxiety and depression. AND each one who does complain of anxiety and depression has had difficulty allowing themselves to feel their emotions. I found this to be exceedingly true for the majority of my male clients. Many of them couldn't tell me what they were feeling at any given time outside of anger, frustration and their anxiety and depression because they were so numb.
With my clients I work on mindfulness, which is the ability to be aware of the present moment. I take them through a series of mindful breathing and an awareness activity called the body scan where we close our eyes, breathe mindfully while focusing on one part of our body at a time. Every one of my clients have been able to reduce their anxiety significantly by practicing this on their own. This has also opened up a pathway for them to feel again.
One of my male clients was able to put a halt to his panic attacks! He did this by not fighting against himself but learning to be with himself, his thoughts, and feelings with care, mindfully. He is a man who is learning that feeling his feelings won't kill him while not feeling them was trying to.
With another client we were able to work more intentionally on deeper areas of pain that he hadn't allowed himself to feel since his youth. And for the first time in years he grew verklempt, fighting back tears. He is learning that his pain and emotions are not the enemy. They are his pathways to healing. The message that the tears brought him was that he didn't have to bury his pain anymore. He was still a fully grown man even with his feelings. It also provided him with a deep feeling of relief that he hadn't felt before. He said that it felt good. Yay.
I also work with my male and female clients on speaking to themselves with compassion. Many people don't realize that they speak to themselves unlike how they would ever speak to a close friend. Remember when I said that our relationships inform who we are? Have you ever wondered what your relationship with yourself is like? Try taking notice of your inner language this week. When you hear negative self-talk try replacing it with this, "I love you and I won't abandon you again." Go ahead. You can even say it in your mind but it feels more powerful if you say it aloud.
Feelings are meant to be felt. Jesus never denied His feelings. In fact, the Bible says that we have a high priest who sympathizes with us in our weakness because of Yeshua's great sacrifice, which demonstrates His great compassion (BTW that's HUGE feeling right there!) we can go to the Father and ask for help all up in our feelings with no shame. He feels with us. Your feelings make you human. They do not make you weak. So, I dare you. Get into your feelings.