One of the biggest challenges that we as humans face, is our inability to acknowledge our feelings. Why is that?
For many of us, we spend a lot of time and energy trying to hold on to the good feelings and just as much energy, or perhaps more, trying to avoid unpleasant feelings. The denial of our feelings causes all sorts of emotional, physical and spiritual suffering. I believe a dysfunctional relationship with our feelings causes illness, suffering and emotional distress. There is something powerfully liberating about being authentic with our feelings.
I spent the first half of my life having no idea how to handle or manage the feelings I had on a moment to moment basis. Being authentic with our feelings is not an easy thing to do when most of us are taught to deny, suppress, hold in, or modify what we’re feeling. We quickly learn which feelings are acceptable and desirable and which ones aren’t.
When we aren’t authentic with our feelings we have no chance to be real about our lives and create more happiness. This became a profound personal lesson for me when the denial of my own feelings started to cause physical symptoms in my body. Feelings give us a reading about where our thoughts lie, and if we ignore them, they will express themselves in some other way, usually with physical or emotional symptoms. That is what happened to me.
Physical and Emotional Symptoms
I was living the life that everyone dreams: Enough money to retire young, travel, and all the luxuries that many people strive to have. I was feeling deeply unhappy and was denying my unhappiness. I would say to myself, “what have I got to be unhappy about?” or “I shouldn’t be unhappy” or “I should feel grateful.” I felt like the spark in me had gone out and what I didn’t realize was that my physical health was also being affected.
My stress hormone, cortisol, was out of whack and I had the symptoms to show for it: extra weight around the midsection, sleep problems, foggy thinking, sugar cravings and a general feeling of being unwell. I was depressed, anxious and feeling lost and the whole time trying to put on a brave, smiling face. I might have been able to fool other people, but I knew that there was something in my life that I needed to change.
Acceptance of Feelings
The moment I started to accept my feelings and honor them, recognizing they were an accurate reflection of what was going on in my life, was the moment things began to change and ultimately heal. I made some tough decisions in order to honor what I was feeling and I let my feelings be my guide rather than my thoughts.
It was around this time that I learned to meditate and about mindfulness. The more mindful I became with my thoughts and feelings, the more peaceful I became. It didn’t mean that I never felt sad, angry or afraid, it just meant that I embraced the full range of my feelings, without judgment or struggle. I replaced the “I shouldn’t” with “I am” and accepted the full range with kindness.
As I began to be authentic with my feelings, I made some changes that were aligned with my soul’s purpose and the light was barely shining became brighter. I was beginning to heal. I was beginning to feel deeply again. I wasn’t numb anymore.
I was reading an article the other day and it described how we are happier when we experience the full range of our emotions without judgment. That is the key! As soon as we go to battle with our feelings we have lost our peace. Peace is possible in the midst of feeling happy as well as when we’re sad, afraid or angry.
Meditation and mindfulness are the most powerful tools I have discovered that create a shift that promotes healing. When you’re living from an authentic place there is nothing preventing your light from shining brightly!