I just watched a clip of Glennon Doyle Melton’s talk at Oprah’s Super Soul Sessions, and WOW – SO GOOD! It looks like this clip is before Glennon fully got into the “pain” part of it all – yet all by itself it’s still really good.
But let’s talk about that resistance to pain. What if we start leaning into our emotions more rather than running from them? What if rather than drinking, eating, rationalizing or pretending them away, we actually chose to pause and feel? Feel and accept? Then refocus and move forward? It might be easy to think we always feel our feelings, but what if we’re really only on the cusp of awareness, and our swift action stops our emotional processing in its tracks – keeping it in a holding pattern?
Depending on the strength of the emotion, reacting too quickly can feel like it’s keeping us safe – but that’s always only temporary. Because the longer we go without ever revisiting those emotions, the longer they stand on our doorstep, waiting to be let in.
We think we’re strong. We can deal with it by brushing it to the side. But is that really “dealing with it?” What if we changed what it means to “be strong” and “deal with it?” When did dealing with it become equivalent to leaving them there and not ever doing anything about them? Processing emotions is like lifting weights at the gym. Once we feel it, we’re already holding the weight. The longer our muscles are contracted from holding that weight, the more tired and exhausted our arm will eventually feel; unless we continue the range of motion and finally release the weight. Some of us have held onto unprocessed emotions for YEARS, and over time it has made other areas of our life very tense, possibly to the point of illness.
Intense emotions, however, don’t really go away until we acknowledge their presence. Isn’t it ironic how our attempts to avoid painful emotions only encourage them to stay longer?
Like a train coming to town – the only way out is through.
Sometimes we deliberately stuff our emotions down, bottle them up or ignore them because we’re afraid we might implode if we actually felt any more of that pain. Here are a few things you can do to make the process of feeling those emotions easier:
1) Connect with or create a support system for yourself.
2) Ground and remind yourself that you are safe before exploring emotions.
3) Contact a professional who can support you through the process.
Last year I had a session with a coach who pinpointed some trapped emotions within me. I didn’t anticipate we were going to explore those emotions, but I’m so glad we did. Bringing my awareness to the emotions; identifying where I felt them in my body; then safely observing them and noticing how they moved through my body was an eye-opening experience for me. I had never felt emotion move through and out of my body quite like that. She essentially walked me through a process in a safe environment so I was able to easily allow and release the emotions that surfaced. I had been holding onto those emotions for years. Decades, really. For two weeks after that, I continued to process and move through the emotions; and then I felt an immense sense of peace and relief. I had released another piece of emotional clutter and the result was AWESOME.
Sometimes we intentionally don’t lean into emotions because we’re afraid if we do, we might stay there. Then how do we get back? The key for this is to be aware that leaning into them is what gets us through them and to the other side quicker. Look ahead and decide where you want to go after this. If you’re standing in stuck-town (“I feel stuck!”), realize that where you are now is only temporary and can change as soon as you decide to take action to move somewhere else. Maybe you want to go to happy-town… or peace-town… Okay, I know those are silly… but you get the gist.
The point is – that as long as you know you don’t want to stay there, choosing to feel the full range of your emotions means you won’t have to stay stuck in them. Sounds backwards, but it’s actually right on target. Some areas in life we can skip steps to get further ahead – our emotions, once felt, aren’t one of those areas.
Painful Emotion + Leaning Into It + Awareness = Ease and Release, A.K.A. Brighter sunnier days!
What are your thoughts?
Do you always know when you’re feeling an intense emotion?
How easy is it for you to identify your emotions when you’re feeling them?
What has helped you to be aware of when you avoid certain emotions?
What helps you to feel those emotions so you can release them?