We are in a time and culture that hyper emphasizes feeling “good” and pathologizes feeling anything else. It has taken a toll on our ability to be present, honest, and authentic even with ourselves. When we evaluate some feelings as good, positive, or acceptable and others as bad, negative, or unacceptable, we set a disconnect from a huge part of our human experience in motion. Over time, we may lose our ability to access our full range of emotions. Or, if we can access our feelings, staying with them may feel uncomfortable and scary. Here are some steps to help you plug in and feel all the feels safely
If we are constantly running from one thing to the next and responding to external stimuli and stressors, there’s no room for us to have an internal experience or connect with ourselves. We need space in our schedule to be quiet and still so the feelings can arise naturally. We need a physical space where we can feel peaceful, safe, and uninterrupted. We need to create a small energetic container for ourselves free of judgment, pressure, distraction, and demands. If this feels like a daunting task, start small and simple. 5-10 minutes a day. Here are some things you may want to try.
- Sit quietly on a pillow with a candle, listening to soft, relaxing music.
- Take a warm relaxing candle-lit bath.
- Lay on the floor with your favorite blanket or
- Do some gentle stretching or Restorative Yoga.
- Gaze at some trees or passively experience nature.
Start with what feels easiest and most accessible.
Give yourself permission
If you are used to moving fast and getting things done, the idea of making space may bring up feelings of guilt, inadequacy, or anxiety; it’s often our internal resistance to feeling feelings we don’t want to feel. We can get in front of this resistance by permitting ourselves to do nothing and be unproductive and unavailable. Showing up for ourselves so we can have the experience we need and relieving ourselves from the need to do it “right” or explain our feelings to others right out of the gate.
What permission do you need to give yourself to make space for your feelings? Giving ourselves permission may lead to or require some affirmations. Here are a few you may want to incorporate into your practice.
- It’s ok for me to take this time.
- I am worthy of making space for myself.
- My feelings are important.
Be in your body
When we attach thoughts to our energy, they become our feelings. These “energetic feelings” exist primarily as sensations in our bodies. When we don’t know how to be present with the sensations, our minds get involved and go into a state of analysis, which disconnects us from our physiological experience. These mental loops create little whirlpools where the energy gets stuck rather than floating on and releasing. The more we can stay in our bodies and out of our thoughts, the more quickly and successfully the feelings will arise and subside.
Try reorienting yourself to the physical sensation you experience. Notice where you get stuck in mental loops or analysis when feelings arise. Where is it in your body? What is the texture, color, shape of it? Place your hands there. Breathe into that spot. Even narrating or repeating the feeling or sensation aloud can help you stay present.
“I feel sadness. I feel heaviness in my chest. I feel burning behind my eyes.”
Stay for completion
We tend to cut our feelings short for various reasons, generally because we are uncomfortable or feel like we don’t have time. When strong emotions arise, we try to contain them and put them away. Which means sending that energy back into our bodies to recirculate, accumulate and resurface stronger another day. When we can stay with these strong feelings until they naturally subside, we effectively release the energy stored around them and come to completion for that particular feeling event. Now that doesn’t mean that feeling won’t come up again or that the root of it is resolved, but it means that we are not avoiding, resisting, containing, suppressing, or stuffing the energy of that feeling. We also build that “muscle” so that it’s a little bit easier and more natural each time.
One of my favorite ways to allow energy to move all the way through is by crying. You can also use breathing, sound, visualization, and body movement. Sometimes a feeling just needs to be seen and acknowledged to end. We generally recognize completion by an easing in the intensity of sensation and a deep natural exhale.
Our goal as humans is not to feel happy all the time. It is to have the capacity to feel all things fully so we can be fully connected and alive. The more we follow these steps, the more comfortable and confident we become when handling discomfort and intentionally working with emotions. As confidence in handling our strong emotions increases, we are less distressed and overwhelmed when things come up. It also means we can receive the wisdom, information, and healing that our feelings are meant to impart.
Finally, the more we can be present with our own emotions, the more we can be present for those we love— and that is worth the work.
Here’s a great podcast with Brené Brown, Emily Nagoski & Amelia Nagoski on managing the stress cycle.