Archive for emotions

Emotions: The Water’s Fine

I don’t know about you, but I never learned anything in school about emotions, except, of course, that I shouldn’t have any. I’m sure it was easier for the teachers that way, but it wasn’t such a great lesson for me, or you, either, I’m guessing. So, over the last several decades, I’ve been doing the work of (1) learning to identify my emotions, (2) allowing myself to experience them fully, and (3) sharing them in situations where it is important for me to do so. And let me tell you: sometimes, it’s just plain ‘ol not fun.

In fact, there are times when identifying, experiencing, and sharing our emotions is excruciatingly uncomfortable. It’s no wonder the majority of us are addicted to something, diagnosed or not. Addictions work. They take the edge off, protect us from discomfort, help us forget for a while, and give us something to deal with that we think we can control… unlike our emotions.

Unfortunately, however, these seemingly benign behaviors – the ones we get into to get out of experiencing our emotions – only work until they don’t. And then, guess what we’re left with? The havoc we’ve caused by engaging in these destructive behaviors, and, our emotions – the new ones and the ones we were trying to avoid! So, as much as we might not want to, it’s in our best interest to get in there and get a handle on these things called emotions, even if our teachers shied away from the task.

Now, before I go any further, let me also say that there are volumes upon volumes written on emotions, and I won’t come close to addressing all there is to say about the subject here in this little blog post. What I will say is that if you will give yourself the gift, as uncomfortable as it may be, you won’t be sorry in the long run.

Even if you’re starting at the very beginning (that’s a very good place to start), with learning to identify which emotions you’re experiencing, you are embarking on important, enlivening work. I’ll never forget when I began to be able to make distinctions between emotions that I’d previously thought were interchangeable. Discovering that guilt and shame aren’t the same things, learning how they felt different in my body, and that they called for different responses was liberating. Also, I used to believe that rage was “anger on steroids.” Now I’ve come to know that rage and anger are worlds apart; one being about crossed boundaries, the other being about invisibility and powerlessness. (A little test: can you identify which is which?)

I tell you all of this not because I’m sitting all high and mighty on some mountain top, with it all figured out, and therefore living a perfect life. Far from it! I tell you this to invite you into the pool of learning about emotions with me. If you’ve not yet dipped your toe into the water, come on in. It may be chilly at first, but soon you’ll see that “the water’s fine.” If, on the other hand, you’ve been aware of this work for a while, and feel called to learn even more, I invite you to wade a bit further out, perhaps even swim into the deep end. Sure, it’s scary there, but you can always just dog paddle until you get your bearings. Besides, it’s worth it. You’re worth it.

See you in the pool!

Are You Accepting The World’s Invitation?

It was February 19th. I glanced up from my desk and my eyes rested on the lovely rose that my partner gave me for Valentine’s Day. “One more day, and I’ll have to throw it out,” I thought to myself. Then, I continued the one-way conversation in my head, “That’s how it is with fresh flowers. I have to make sure I really enjoy them while I can, because the window of opportunity is very slim.” I was referring to the fact that I had waited several days after receiving this exquisite gift before I realized that I needed to put in my office. Given that my office is where I spend the majority of my working hours, having the rose there, and sooner, would have allowed me to enjoy it even more of the time, before I could enjoy it no longer.

That’s how it is with life, too. It brings us lots of presents, and not just on the designated present days, but every day. Inherent in those gifts are myriad opportunities to experience life more abundantly. That’s only if we fully receive them, however. Otherwise, we miss out on all the richness they, and life, have to offer.

In a sense, the world is inviting us, always, to take in what it has to give us. And I don’t mean physical things. Goodness knows, most of us have enough stuff. (I know I do.) No, by saying “take in” what the world gives us, I am suggesting that we see past the stuff, and/or the circumstances, and glean the meaning from what we have been given. And, I’m suggesting that we do this no matter how we label the new item or occurrence.

Of course, when we experience something we perceive as  “bad,” meaning unpleasant or painful, we must first acknowledge those feelings. No amount of glossing over them will make them actually go away. In fact, quite the reverse will happen: If we don’t allow ourselves the emotions that immediately follow such experiences, then those emotions will begin to cloud everything that we do, even while we are trying to avoid or deny them.

Then, once we have fully owned the truth of our feelings, we can respond with a wholehearted yes to the invitation  and  ask ourselves the following questions (in addition to any of your own):

  • What, if anything, is there for me to learn ?
  • What might I have done differently?
  • Is there a metaphor that could apply here that would enable me to see a different, deeper meaning what I first supposed to be true?
  • Is there an action that is appropriate for me to take now, given this new knowledge?

The most important thing for us to remember when engaging in this process is not to judge ourselves! This only serves to keep us stuck in the muck and will not only not allow us to move forward, but it will inhibit any kind of real learning and/or change going forward.

So, the next time the world outside you offers you an invitation to go inside, I hope you’ll take it.  I think you’ll be glad you did.  In fact, I believe that we must go within or go without all the rich beauty and meaning there is – all around and deep inside us.