“I just feel so irritable today, I don’t know why. Guess I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed.” Ever said that? Ever said, “I don’t know why I’m crying!” Ever cried when you were mad, when all you wanted to do was cuss someone out? We’ve been taught for so many centuries that our feelings, our emotions were just unnecessary but troublesome appendages. Our job then, was just to pretend them away for so long that when they made themselves evident, we would not recognize them or know why we had them. Then, of course, because we don’t recognize them or know why we have them, they are just that much easier to dismiss, push away, repress.
In fact, in the Western world not only are we considered to be weak for having emotions, or for showing them, but we are also thereby put in doubt about the degree of our spirituality. Spiritual people are always calm, loving, kind and giving. They never have difficult emotions—or as most would put it, they never have “negative” emotions. Spiritual people have not attached themselves to anything, therefore, they never feel anything hard. Spiritual people always feel joy and peace. NOT!
Spiritual people feel just as many difficult (no such thing as a negative feeling) feelings as anyone else—but they may know how to process those feelings differently. And they had to learn how to do that. They had to develop a skill at processing feelings. So, what does that look like?
“I just feel so irritable today, I don’t know why. Let me just sit with that feeling for a while and let it talk to me, so that I can come to understand what’s going on there. I wonder what this irritability has come to tell me.” That’s what it looks like. But let’s expand that a little. Sitting with a feeling doesn’t mean stopping the world so that you can contemplate your navel for an hour or two. It means that as you are going through your day, you allow yourself to mentally sit beside that feeling—listening to it. What is it grumbling about? And now that you know what it’s grumbling about, that doesn’t mean that you go cuss someone out who needs to learn a lesson or two. Rather it means that YOU listen to the grumbling and allow it to tell you WHY that particular thing bothers you. Once you know that you can see how this day’s emotions are still attached to some old stuff you are still working through. Or, you can see how you might solve a problem that’s been nagging at you for a long time—only you weren’t paying attention till now. Or, you can see how important something is to you, that perhaps you have previously dismissed.
Sitting with your feelings implies that you believe that each and every one of your feelings has a message to you, for you and about you. We tend to believe that our feelings have come to tell us about what someone else has done to us. But actually, our feelings have nothing to do with all the someone elses out there. They are OUR feelings. They are meant to serve US. They are there to help us grow. To help us see things we would not otherwise see. To help us to solve problems. To help us to connect to deeper and deeper levels of Self. To help us connect to our own divine Source.
Your feelings are not your enemy. They are not evidence of your weakness. They are not meant to be sent away immediately when they are felt. Imagine a divine Source that would create a human entity with the skill that absolutely should not ever be used. That’s what we have believed about our feelings: They are meant to be pushed out of sight, out of mind immediately when they are first experienced. That’s a little bit like saying “I have this right arm here, but I’m not ever supposed to use it—for if I do that is evidence that I’m not a very spiritual person.”
We can start the process of allowing our feelings to inform us more about Self and life anytime. One way to start paying more attention is to stop for about five minutes three times a day and just write down what you are feeling. That will put you more in touch with your feelings. After that you might begin dialoging with your feelings, asking them what they have come to tell you, so that you can begin mentally sitting beside the feeling to see what it has to say.
Andrea Mathews is the author of four books, the latest of which is “Letting Go of Good: Dispel the Myth of Goodness to Find Your Genuine Self.” She is the host of the very popular Authentic Living Show and a therapist with over 30 years’ experience.