“You can’t punish yourself into change. You can’t whip yourself into shape. But you can love yourself into well being.”
Feelings are a natural part of the landscape of human experience. Joy, sadness, concern, anger, excitement, jealousy, fear, misery. These emotions are intimately woven into the stories of our lives.
Yet we avoid certain feelings like the plague, and understandably so.
- Intense and painful feelings can be frightening or overwhelming.
- We feel out of control and don’t know what to do with them.
- We have no role models to guide us.
- Our schools and families fail us in this most essential instruction.
- Everything about our post modern, feel-good, get-ahead culture encourages us to deny their existence.
How surprising to discover, then, that taking the radical approach of turning to meet feelings rather than avoiding them is the cure for our dis-ease. If we want to be truly happy, we need to stop erecting barriers to our feelings. Instead, with an open heart and curious mind, we must learn to deconstruct them into their most basic elements so we can know exactly what they are.
Only then do they stop driving our choices.
Avoiding Feelings Creates Trouble
Unexamined feelings cause trouble – have you noticed? The avoidance of feelings is the undeniable culprit in your addictions, self-defeating behavior patterns, and interpersonal strife. They contribute to feeling separate, alienated, and alone.
Take a look at any area of your life that isn’t working for you, and I guarantee you will find some painful feelings lurking.
Certain feelings seem so commonplace that we don’t question them. I used to wake up every morning with a subtle sense of anxiety and dread. Some of us live with a low level of sadness or confusion. We take these experiences as normal until we get serious about being truly happy and begin to investigate them.
I say, “No more.” No more “good enough.” No more resigning ourselves to a fraction of the happiness that is actually possible. No more playing out of patterns that hurt ourselves and others under the guise of normalcy. Learn to navigate the terrain of your feelings and you will cease being a victim to them.
Relentless Dedication is Required
The very good news is that we can learn to deal intelligently with feelings. How do I know? It’s been my journey. I finally got fed up with my personal struggles and found the way through to happiness. And I can tell you that it is imperative to learn how to embrace feelings. Only then are you available to the truth of the moment that allows you to make conscious and appropriate choices about what you say or do. In other words, sanity.
Leave feelings unexamined, and you will be driven by them. Take an entirely different approach of bringing feelings out of the shadows, and the possibilities for joy, peace, and fulfillment are endless. You can be a slave to your feelings, or you can be free. What do you choose?
This path of freedom which leads us into the foreign land of feelings is not for the timid or faint of heart. If you are attached to your dramas or afraid to step away from what is known and predictable, you won’t get very far. The more you put up for grabs, the more willing you are to examine every single thing about your experience, the greater the riches that are available to you for sure.
Prepare Yourself for the Lessons
Recently, a client came in absolutely elated. She had been diligently applying the lessons about feelings to long-standing, persistent anxiety. She was thrilled that she had barely felt anxious in weeks. She says, “Before, I thought I had to combat it. I tried to breathe it away or exercise it away.” And now? “I accept it. I notice the bodily sensations that I experience and feel compassion toward them.” So simple, but a revolutionary outcome.
What are these lessons? We will spell them out in the next post or two. In preparation, bear in mind that these are not just words to bring a few minutes of a pleasant feeling to your day. Absorb each of these instructions into every cell of your being. Apply them relentlessly to the moments of your life. Dedicate yourself to happiness and freedom consistently in all of your actions, and you will realize the peace you are looking for.
Do less, and your suffering will sustain.
Are you ready? Begin by contemplating these questions:
- How you run from your feelings. What habits and tendencies do you play out that are driven by unexamined feelings?
- What are these feelings?
- What are you willing to change, give up, or let go of to be free from suffering? Are you fed up enough to try a new way?
You are welcome to share your answers in the comments, or simply respond in the privacy of your own experience. In the next post, we will get down to the nuts and bolts of what you need to know to intelligently address your feelings and how to integrate this understanding into your everyday life. In the meantime, relax and be kind to yourself. Breathe and soften. The true medicine is on its way.