It's funny -- sometimes life and coaching seem to really sync up. These past few weeks I've found myself needing to hear the same lessons I was sharing with many of my clients. Given the conversations I've recently had, and how I've been feeling, I'd be willing to venture a guess that my clients and I aren't the only ones needing this, so I wanted to share it with you, too. :)
Society, media, and expectations of what life should be, combined with personal pressures we put on ourselves have completely filled all of us with expectations that that we shouldn't ever feel bad, hurtful, sad, anxious, or generally negative emotions or feelings. Like, ever. Sure, you can have a crappy day, but actual sadness, or real negative emotions -- keep those out of sight and out of mind at all costs! It seems like we all have this collective belief that if our feeling hurts or is uncomfortable, it is automatically bad and we need to stop it immediately. So what do we do? We ignore it, we eat, we drink, we medicate, we spend time with others, become obsessed with work, somehow over commit or over engage -- we do anything we can to get lost in the daily grind so we don't have to actually deal with those emotions.
Just lock those feelings right up and throw away the key. We are expected not to let them out or ever let those feelings show. But the thing is, when we ignore painful emotion, it really hurts us and those around us. We aren't being real or sincere, nor are we allowing ourselves to process and actually deal with the emotions -- and logically we all know what that's going to do to us….we know it's going to backfire, but we do it anyway.
Well I have a question -- WHAT. THE. HELL?!
Why? Why do we do this to ourselves?!!! After LOTS of reflection on the New Year and 2018 overall and undergoing some really serious personal challenges these last few weeks I have learned a lot about accepting and understanding feelings.
Here's the thing: "bad" feelings are. Not. Bad. They are there to serve, love, protect, and support you. They may not feel good in the moment, and may frankly feel damn right terrible, but those feelings manifested for a reason. That reason was to serve. Ignoring those feelings is like staying inside a burning building when you see smoke and hear the fire alarms going off. If you don't do something about it soon, you're going to get torched.
The next time you are feeling down in whatever way, I'd invite you stop and allow yourself to feel the feelings. I know, it sounds really scary. Something I've learned over the past few weeks is that a lot of the time our fear of negative emotion is actually a lot worse than if I just let myself feel it. Without animosity towards it, without judgement of myself, and without expectation of what I "should" feel, I'm learning to just allow. Just that that feeling flow. There is nothing wrong with how you feel, the emotion arose for a reason. So let it happen and as it's moving through you sit with it so that you can take some time to figure it out. The first thing about feeling your feelings is this: it's not going to be fun, but I promise you it's not as bad as we build it up to be. Sit in it, if you want to cry, do it. Want to scream? Do it. Want to sulk -- go for it, babe. The first step towards processing an emotion is letting it actually happen. When you allow the emotion to flow from you instead of bottling it up, it's stuck inside you for much less time and thus actually affects you less. It's much easier to let that feeling go, by simply acknowledging it and letting it happen.
Next, I usually feel some kind of stress or anxiety or negativity about the "bad" emotion because I want it to go away. So I'm upset or feel guilty about feeling badly. Okay, fair -- but to look at my emotion in a healthy way, it's important to understand the feeling and V A L I D A T E it so that you feel heard.
Here's why: Think about that one friend or family member of yours who always, without fail, makes you feel better if you go to them needing help, advice, or to talk about a problem. I ASSURE you that each of these people have at least one common theme - that theme is validation. They allow you and give you permission or tell you that your feelings are reasonable.
I'd even bet that you've done the same for someone else when they've needed it. And it really helps. The best thing anyone can to do help someone to feel better and heard is to listen and validate their feelings. Truly, that's all anyone wants. You owe yourself the same courtesy. Try it. Allow yourself to feel hurt or sad, without judgement, and watch what happens.
Give yourself time with this.
What I have found works for me when I'm ready to start processing and moving though the feelings is to start to examine the source of my painful emotions -- go deep on this. It isn't just the "well he was being a jerk and I didn't like that" Okay, sure, but why? What did you like about it? And why didn't you like it. Keep asking why. You felt threatened? You felt dismissed? Vulnerable? What really was it that resulted in those negative feelings. The best way to process emotion that I have found is getting to a place of understanding where the source of the pain is. This will take some work, but I assure you it's better than burning down in a bottled up inferno of negative emotion. (I've tried both, trust me on this, processing is better)
Okay so, you've allowed the feelings, accepting them for what they are, and not judged yourself for them having them. Now what? Honestly and kindly ask yourself how these feelings have been serving you. What are they acting to do? Are they working to meet a need of certainty or security, or maybe to give you a sense of significance that's been missing, or to protect you from something? Typically in some way or another it's to protect you or something around you.
As you work through these thoughts writing can really help -- just putting thoughts to paper (or blog) can really help you release the need hold onto them so tightly. When you are ready, and there truly is no rush on this, you deserve time to process and sit with your feelings, start to think about how you'd prefer to feel about the thing that caused your negative emotion and begin to think about genuinely how you'd like to feel instead. Start to replace the negative or hurting focus with focus on this new emotion. I've found that by allowing myself to actually feel my feelings, that they move through me more quickly and I'm more able to exchange the hurting feelings for better feelings ones once they've run their course.
Bottom line: You are deserving of your feelings. Allow yourself to feel them. It won't be as bad as your fear of them, and I promise it will help with processing. Take your time and extend yourself the same love and grace you would to a dear friend experiencing pain. You deserve your own compassion.