Emotions have received a bad rap. Or, at least emotions judged to be “bad or difficult” have.
You’ll no doubt have noticed that Bodywork and Breathwork, by increasing chi, or energy, bring up or shake up our feelings and our emotions. Feelings seem more powerful, more edgy.
This is so because of the re-balancing of energy that takes place in Bodywork. As the muscles relax and as the flow of energy strengthens, past hurts and traumas release.
It is not unusual, for example, that working on the upper chest release points will unearth painful memories of “broken heart” experiences, and the recipient will feel like sobbing.
As this energy moves and the area begins to clear, the sadness may be replaced with great joy, and loving feelings.
A full range of feelings exist simultaneously in the body — we choose to be unaware of the one we are NOT focussing on. Yet, many feelings exist simultaneously in this area of the body.
In the West we are used to living in our heads and passing judgements on everything, (right/wrong, good/bad are most common.) We have also likely segregated our emotions into two camps:
- Grief and pain and anger are likely on the “bad” list; we want them to be over, or to not exist at all.
- Love and joy and happiness and passion are usually on the “good” list; we want them all the time.
The balance of life — and how chi “looks” — is like a coin. In a three-dimensional world, there is no such thing as a one-sided coin. If happiness is on one side of a coin, sadness must be on the other side. If love is on one side, fear will inevitably be on the other.
And so it goes — to have one set of feelings, you have to have the other. To experience one, you have to be willing to experience and express the other.
Our goal in this section is to come to terms with our emotions.
We will look at feeling our feelings, expressing our feelings, and fully experiencing the range of our feelings in an open and honest way. We’ll look at the judgements we have about our feelings, then find ways to move past the judgements to peaceful coexistence with our feeling nature.
- The first step in this process is to consciously give yourself permission to feel your feelings.
- Secondly, as an emotion arises, it is important to acknowledge and name it.
- Thirdly, in a safe, secure, and non-violent way, you must express the feeling .
So, when you feel sad, say, “I’m feeling sad right now.” If the feeling “feels” like crying, allow yourself to cry.
If you find yourself escaping to your head so you can ignore or judge the feeling, instead return gently to the feeling.
In Bodywork, the painful feelings often emerge first. As they are expressed, the painful feelings are replaced or joined by pleasurable feelings. Again, notice the feeling.
Often, when we feel a feeling emerging, the first thing we ask ourselves is,
“What bad thing will happen
if I express this feeling?”
I once worked with a client, doing both counselling and Bodywork. She had told me a bit of the story of her tumultuous upbringing, which had a lot to do with her parents ordering her to be whom they wanted her to be (not uncommon, eh?)
I was working on her chest points, and a lot of sadness was rising to the surface. Then, poof, she put her feelings away.
She cried exactly one tear. I waited. Her jaw shook, but no sound came out. I whispered, “Can you remember when they first told you to keep your mouth shut?” She nodded and sighed. That’s was as far as she ever got with “letting go.”
My client had grown up in a home where the free expression of emotions was extremely restricted. The expectation was that the kids would be seen and not heard.
As an adult, she unconsciously chose to carry this crazy belief with her. She automatically stifled every vestige of emotion.
In the process, she tightened so many muscles to repress the anger and sadness that she was practically giving herself a hernia.
Moral of the story? We are kidding ourselves if we think an unexpressed feeling ever goes away.
Another client, a 17-year-old woman, mentioned that she had been sad and weepy, and that her mother had spent a long time trying to cheer her up. When that didn’t work, the mom had offered to “Stay with you and be sad with you.”
All my client wanted was for her mom to stop trying to cheer her up, and leave the room, so she could cry herself out.
This was unacceptable to mom, because mom had an issue around her daughter crying and being sad.
Fortunately, my client stuck to her guns and eventually ushered mom out of her room, cried herself out, then rejoined the family.
The mom upset herself throughout the entire episode — because the daughter wasn’t dealing with her sadness “the right (read mom’s) way.”
In a session with the mom, I encouraged her to look, rather, at the results:
The daughter had learned to go to her room, grab a pillow and have her emotions!
After that turning point, she’d asked her mom to hold her while she cried. Mom chose to do what she’d been asked to do; she stopped trying to manipulate her daughter into doing what she thinks is best (or better put, what is more comfortable for the mother.)
Everyone is Lost in the Cult of Happiness
We must look to our culture to explain the phenomenon of disliking our feelings, especially the “bad” ones. I put in the “bad” qualifier, but would hasten to note how many people also fear their good feelings.
You ever hear this one? “Oh boy. I’d better stop enjoying myself this much or something bad is going to happen.”
The idea is that we should really only feel “neutral.” Otherwise, the gods are going to even things up. After all, “this much pleasure can’t be good for you.” Right.
Advertising is designed to convince people that they are not happy, and they’re not happy because they lack something.
And, “coincidentally,” the thing that is (supposedly) lacking is the
precise product being advertised.
So, the average ad, either directly or indirectly is saying,
Buy our car, (tampon, deodorant, dish detergent, whatever) and you will be able to do anything, be anything, be admired, smell nice and have lovely hands.
And if perchance you stop feeling happy, we’ll sell you more.”
We buy into this (literally and figuratively) because we judge that we should be happy all the time. That everyone but us is happy all the time. Or that it’s just our family that is unhappy or dysfunctional, and that’s because of the kids, or because of my spouse, or how I was brought up.
We’re miserable, but we think no one else is. Let’s buy a cure, and, as the story goes, “live happily ever after.”
Nice, but it doesn’t work that way, although you’d never know it by the sales racked up.
In truth, we are complex beings with a wide range of feelings. We get sad at movies, nostalgic driving home, weepy at sunsets, inconsolable at death, ecstatic with triumph, heated with passion, orgasmic in bed (and elsewhere, if you breathe — 😉 ) and we can literally feel all of that, and more, at the drop of a hat, in a single hour — in a single minute.
Our natural state is not happiness.
Our natural state is awake, aware, and
feeling our feelings in their fullness.
To be fully present requires the willingness
to feel everything, at maximum intensity.
Since we’ve spent our lives in a vain attempt to avoid pain, naturally we teach our kids to run away from their feelings, lest they be hurt. How silly, eh? We KNOW they’re going to be hurt, and yet we think we’re doing them a favour by protecting them from being hurt. All we really do is send them out into the world completely unprepared for failure, for pain, for heartbreak.
Yet out they go, and then (hopefully) they figure it out by themselves. And they also assume they’ve been betrayed, because mommy and daddy lied to them. Or they think that they must be bad, because this stuff “shouldn’t” happen to “normal, good people.”
Being overly protective accomplishes only one thing: we teach our kids, (and continue to reinforce in ourselves,) the techniques of denial and minimizing.
- “I’m not heartbroken, I’m just a little blue today.”
- “I’m sad, but it’s not important and I’ll get over it as soon as I get up and cook supper.”
The way past all of this is through honesty and openness and the willingness to take[tooltip tip=“We use the word responsibility in the form “able to respond.” A responsible person knows that every action has a consequence, and this is an acceptable price to pay for being an adult.”]responsibility[/tooltip] for your choices and your emotions.
Of course, this honesty and openness has to be with ourselves before we can choose to be honest and open with others.
A friend recently described going to a professional meeting. A new acquaintance saw her, raced over to her table, gave her a huge hug and said, “Oh, my God! I’m so glad you’re here, I just love you so much!”
A hush came over the table. My friend smiled at the woman and thanked her sincerely, but the rest of the people at the table were clearly uncomfortable. The woman said, red faced, “I don’t know where that came from. I’m so sorry.”
Now, what happened here is that the woman, in a moment of “loss of control” expressed clearly what she was feeling in the moment. This, however, is not something that ordinarily happens at professional gatherings in the inhibited country of Canada (nor elsewhere, truth be told.)
Then, the woman, remembering her tribal training, thoroughly embarrassed herself, simply because she let a feeling, an emotion, slip out.
My friend was not the least bothered by the emotion, as she has spent a good deal of time learning to live with and express her own feelings. She did what she could to be clear that she was pleased with this spontaneous expression, but the woman was already busy judging and condemning herself.
And the rest of the table lapsed into uncomfortable silence, mostly based upon their own projections of having a lapse and doing the same thing — blurting out a statement of their own passion — and then having to deal with the heat of of their own embarrassment.
My point is mostly this — the woman expressed what she was feeling. That intensity of feeling is our birthright and is clearly a part of us. What might life be like if we were willing to be more honest and open with such feelings? If we were to do so, we would have to stop judging our feelings and learn to express them.
I used the above “positive” example — the expression of an emotion most judge as positive — to indicated the depth of the repression of any emotion that exists in our society. Let’s now look at a “negative” example.
I don’t know about you (obviously!) but when I get angry, my hand becomes a fist and I want to either hit something or yell, or preferably both. I often yell in the car, while driving. I occasionally smack the steering wheel. I drive nails and dig dirt and chop wood. All are things I can put some of my aggressive energy into.
Because I long ago decided not to stuff my anger. And I also know that I have dissipated most of the anger in me, so far.
Do I consider myself a “bad” person because I get angry? No, of course not. Why would I? Is that going to keep me from anger? I judge that I have a wide range of emotions, and I judge that they have survived the natural selection process for a reason.
Think about it. The Theory of Evolution indicates that evolution works toward strengthening what works and eliminating what doesn’t. Over millennia, of course. Emotions have always been a part of us. If they were superfluous, they would be gone by now. Simple as that.