To feel or not to feel, that is the question
Feelings; sad, happy, tired, angry, calm, frustrated, excited, euphoric, stressed, anxious, hyper, fearful, to name a few! We all live our lives experiencing a myriad of these emotions and sometimes we can even experience many of them in one day. We have a tendency to search for and want to hold onto the positive emotions and very often dread, fear or avoid the painful, negative ones.
The plain fact is we’ll move through all of these states, but it’s what we do with them and how we move through them that counts.
Do we choose to stuff down the difficult emotions? My vice for many years was eating, I could go so far as to say binge eating. It started over twenty years ago, as an Au Pair in Switzerland. It was the first time I’d left home and I experienced such awful homesickness. My 19th birthday came around shortly after arriving and I woke alone without my friends or family and the normal rituals that had accompanied birthdays in our family. My friend from primary school bought me a box of Maltesers every birthday, but she wasn’t there, so in place of this, to bring happiness and familiarity, off to the local shop I went and bought myself a large bar of nutty Lindt chocolate and hence my unhealthy relationship with food began and continued. Food became my go to for many emotions.
I’m happy to say that my regular meditation practice has brought me relief from that. I’m now much more aware of my patterns and meditation has brought down the stress hormones in my body and managed to regulate my hungry and full hormones. I no longer feel chained to the cupboard and I’m not weighed down with the other negative feelings of guilt and disappointment that would come after piling through bars of chocolate, cake and crisps! I’m also more able to make healthier food choices, this is not to say I’m perfect, I still eat chocolate every day, but just one and there will be days where I slip up, but I don’t beat myself up about it anymore ☺
Do you have vices for dealing with your more difficult emotions? Is yours to come into the house after a long day, an argument, a stressful week and open a bottle of wine, do you sit in front of the tv and demolish a sharing bag of Nachos, do you take regular painkillers or drugs? Many of us do this to avoid facing our emotions and taking action. It’s a quick easy fix to finding relaxation and relief.
Sometimes as a society, it is encouraged for emotions to be suppressed, we can’t be seen crying, angry or depressed as in some ways this seems tantamount to failure and a lack of control. Some people don’t necessarily know what to do if they know this is how you’re feeling, but it’s ok nonetheless to have these emotions. We are not weak for feeling sad or feeling stressed or feeling low or depressed. How many of us have been through a traumatic event and felt unsupported by those you trust? This is because difficult emotions make lots of people uncomfortable. We’ve got to tell ourselves that IT’S OK TO FEEL.
How often have we heard others or ourselves say to our children “Stop crying”, “Stop being silly”, “Count to 10” when they’re angry. Are we almost telling them not to feel? Often they feel out of control and the only way for them to release is to have a tantrum, or a physical pain or withdrawal. Open ended questions are great ways to help children understand their feelings. How does your body feel? Where are you feeling discomfort? What are the thoughts going round in your head? It’s healthy to experience a range of emotions, it’s good mental hygiene, to ensure they or we don’t get to an emotional tipping point. Let’s show our children that it’s ok to express themselves and then help them put together a plan of how they can ease their suffering.
This also goes for ourselves. So what do we learn through meditation practice:
We learn to acknowledge the feelings that are there, name or identify them and then let them go. The more we do this in a safe meditation space, the more the brain learns ways of dealing and processing our feelings in our everyday lives.
We have more awareness. That’s not to say there’s a miracle cure. We will all experience pain, loss and difficulties. Our journey is an ever changing one, but we can use methods of making it an easier journey, through taking the time to connect our body and minds and really take stock of where we are.
Ask ourselves, what am I feeling? Acknowledgement takes away a lot of the power of difficult emotions and situations. Breathe into it and let it go!
‘Everything is temporary’ is a mantra I’ve used a lot over the last couple of years and this has helped me work through some difficult times. Its repetition reminds me that we move through emotional states constantly. Meditation clearly isn’t the only way of working through emotions, exercise being another, but I haven’t quite mastered that yet, maybe I’ll meditate on it ☺