What do I know about feelings?
The very thought of dealing with my feelings scares me!
How do I get out of this hole I‘ve dug myself into?
How can I get out of my head and back into my feelings?
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just within some of us; it is in everyone. As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”-Marianne Williamson
I can’t believe I’m writing this chapter. The truth is I hate feeling my feelings. I‘m not good at it and I don‘t do it well. Feelings scare me. They are dark, shadowy, primal and way too powerful. I’m afraid of where they are going to carry me and what I will do when I get there. They are too loud, too direct, too intense, too passionate and just…too much for me. I am a feelings flunky. I am excellent at getting others to talk about their feelings, but I’m usually very protective of my own.
I guess in a weird kind of way this makes me perfect to write this chapter. I know what’s hard about living with your feelings and I know what happens when you try to avoid, stuff, or ignore them. However, even I know why all of the work is worth it. So, if you don’t mind hanging in here with me, let’s travel through the land of feelings together and see where it takes us. I promise, the journey will be worth it.
Has anyone ever told you that being alone doesn’t have to be “lonely?” I bet that sounds like a lot of baloney when you do, in fact, feel lonely. You will be told, call a friend, etc, but you may not want to bother your friends, especially if they are all married.
Dang, it really is a bad feeling, isn’t it? Especially when you know your ex is not lonely, whether that means dating, or out with friends playing. Maybe this is his or her time with the children and you find yourself alone in the house for the first time in a very long time. You may want company to go out to eat, see a movie, or just have adult conversation. OK, so you do feel lonely – now what?
Having a list of things to do is very helpful. What is it you like to do alone? Do you remember being married and wishing you could have time alone in your own house? Some ideas are: Read a great book, journal, take a long luxurious bath, go to the gym, go for a drive, go to the movies alone, rent a movie (a chick flick that will make you really cry is always good to get the feelings out), clean out your pantry or closet, meditate, etc. See the list of fun things to do in the Appendix. It is important to have a plan of things to do BEFORE you get in the position of feeling lonely and sad.
My list of things to do when I feel lonely is:
Ultimately, what we need to learn from this experience is how to love ourselves. How do you become comfortable with you, as your own best friend? It’s particularly good to do things so you actually like yourself, as you may be spending quite a bit of time with yourself. Perhaps this is a time to get closely in touch with your creator, with your own guardian angels, with the playful side of yourself?
How do you feel about being in love with yourself? What qualities do you have that you just absolutely love? What qualities are lying dormant within you that you want to develop? What is your relationship with the creator? What is your relationship with your guardian angels or spirit guides?
A Feelings Primer
I decided it was a good idea to start with the basics. Since I don’t really understand feelings I figured maybe one or two of you out there struggled with them too. I’m going to ask, and attempt to answer, some really basic questions. Please don’t expect a well-researched dissertation on the emotional being. I just want to give us something to start with.
First question. What are feelings? This is a perfectly reasonable question. And I’m going to give you a nice short answer. For this article we are going to define feelings as inner sensations which come from our bodies. These sensations can be felt and they often provide information or energy. When defining feelings, it helps to think of what feelings are not. They are not thoughts and they are not our identity. Feeling is not the same as thinking. This is an important concept for someone like me, because I want to stuff feelings into my head and try to think them to death. This doesn’t work. Although it’s true that both feelings and thoughts give us information, feelings have a different charge to them. They are earlier and more basic than thoughts. Thoughts tell us how to do something. Feelings give us the impetus to do something and tell us whether or not we want to bother.
Feelings are also not our identity. Feelings pass through and affect us, but they are not us. This is another important concept for someone like me. I get confused about the difference between feeling something and being something.
For example, Kristi says, “During my divorce I often experienced feelings of helplessness. When this happened, I had to remind myself that feeling helpless did not make me helpless. I still had all of the tools and skills at my disposal that I possessed on days when I felt powerful and optimistic. Helpless was just the feeling of the moment. Eventually, it would pass and I would feel something else. My friend Connie repeated over and over during her divorce, “I am not my feelings.” She said it helped her to stay grounded during difficult times.”
What do feelings do? Feelings bring energy and information to us. They also vibrate. When you begin to pay attention your feelings, you feel them vibrate in your body. One thing I have learned is that different feelings vibrate differently. And they vibrate in different places. Anger rolls out in big crescendos from my liver. Fear twangs like a tight little string near my throat. Guilt has a different tone to it than worry. Affection vibrates entirely differently than lust.
I spoke earlier about the information that feelings bring us. Feeling information comes from a different portion of the brain than thinking information. This information is older and more primal. It isn’t tied to words or logic. It is there for survival. Feelings have the ability to cut through the bull of our logical minds and get to the essence of things. Feelings answer questions like: “Do I love or hate this?” “Will I be happy here?” “Is this what I really want?”
Kristi relates, “When I decided to divorce, I needed the directness of my feelings. For years, I had talked myself into staying in my marriage. I had a litany of words, arguments and reasons of why I should stay. My thinking kept me trapped. It was finally my feelings, the undeniable realness of my pain and loss and anguish that allowed me to cut through my thinking and leave a marriage that was destroying me and my family.”
Feelings also give us incredible amounts of information about ourselves. They let us know what we are made of. They take us to the depths of our pain and joy. They stretch us to the limits of our strength and show us reserves of love kindness and forgiveness that we never knew we carried. They show us our shadow. The not-so-pretty parts that we are required to face (and embrace) if we want to be a fully functioning person. Finally, feelings make us universal. Feelings bring us closer to God and closer to our own spirit. Feelings are the language of our heart.
Another thing that feelings do is bring us energy. Like their vibrations, different feelings bring different kinds of energy. Some feelings move us forward, others hold us back. Both impulses are good when they are respected and responded to appropriately (we’ll talk more about that later).
If you think about it, all great action begins with feelings. We didn’t think our way into the Civil Rights movement; we felt the injustice of oppression and were moved to change it. We don’t gaze upon our newborn and think our way into parenthood. We are run over by the Mac truck of baby love and carried onto a path of selflessness, responsibility and devotion that we never would have planned on our own. (Think about it–who honestly would let a teenager live in their house for 5 years if they weren’t motivated by love!)
Strong feelings drive us to our highest actions, and sadly, carry us to our worst. They also keep us going in the day to day rhythms of life.
Just as feelings can carry us forward, they can slow us down or stop us in our tracks. Who hasn’t been stilled by an unexplained urging that cried “Don’t move!” even when logic and reason said to keep going ahead? Often we find that kind of intuitive message keeps us from charging forward into a big unseen mess.
Sometimes our feelings may call us to slow down a bit. Kristi explains it further: “I used to hate feeling worry or guilt until I started to pay attention to their energy. I thought they were just there to torture me and make me feel bad. Now I realize that worry and guilt ask me to slow down. They usually spring up when I am in the middle of change, and they represent the parts of me that aren’t too excited about changing. They don’t want me to stop. They want me to be thoughtful and deliberate, to go slow and not be too reckless in my decision-making. It’s a reasonable request. And when I pay attention to them, worry and guilt stop heckling me and trust me to work myself through change in a responsible manner. Also, when they leave, they are usually followed by their neighbors, peace and calmness.”
Other articles by Lori S. Rubenstein