Today I am pleased to have a guest post by Galen Pearl of 10 Steps to FInding Your Happy Place and Staying There. I have been reading her blog for close to a year and have appreciated her honesty and compassion for herself and others. Her pearls of wisdom are never short of luster. Today she is talking about feelings…
“Feelings, whoa whoa whoa, feelings….”
Feelings, Roger Whittaker
I Am Not Angry!
Years ago, I was a very uptight person. I didn’t see myself that way. I saw myself as being in control, of myself and of, well, everything else. I never got upset, never cried, never asked for help or let anyone see if I was struggling. Of course, I never struggled. Thinking back, I never really laughed, either, not a deep belly laugh.
I had a friend who was short on tact, but always told the truth as she saw it. She observed that I was an angry person, very angry. “Seething with rage” is how she described it, along with “barely contained,” and “always on the brink of exploding.”
How did I respond to her assessment? “I am not angry!”
I Am Not Afraid!
Another time, also years ago, this same friend and I were discussing the primary driving force in our lives. It’s sometimes hard to see it in ourselves, so we were seeking insight from each other. When it came time for her to identify what she saw as the primary driving force in my life, I was expecting something that would reflect the bold risks I had taken in my life, the adventures I had been on all over the world, the professional success I had achieved, and the less traveled roads I had walked.
My friend did not hesitate. “Your primary driving force is fear.”
I did not see that coming. After being momentarily disoriented, my defenses kicked in. I confidently proclaimed, “I am not afraid!”
At the time, I thought that my friend did not know me at all and perhaps was not such a great friend after all. Looking back, however, I think she might have known me better than anyone, and was a good enough friend to tell me the truth.
Feelings: Anger, fear, grief, sadness, even happiness. I did not like them. They were so unpredictable. Unruly. Chaotic. Big. Threatening. Scary. Better to keep them under lock and key. No telling what would happen if they got out, but it wouldn’t be pretty. And once out, I might not be able to get them locked back up. I would be at their mercy. My life would be a mess. As Jim Morrison observed, “We fear violence less than our own feelings.”
But feelings can’t be ignored, no matter how unjust or ungrateful they seem. –Anne Frank
Milarepa, an 8th century Tibetan Buddhist, came back to his cave one day to find it filled with demons. He didn’t know how to get rid of them. He tried to teach them Buddhism. They ignored him. He got angry and attacked them. They just laughed. Finally, he gave up and said, “I’m not going anywhere and it seems that you are not either. I guess we will have to live here together.” As he turned to make some tea, the demons promptly left.
Like Milarepa with his demons, I eventually made peace with my feelings, not because I became wise, but because I became exhausted. Denying, repressing, or locking up feelings takes a lot of effort. Like leaks in the dike, as soon as you plug one, another one springs forth. I finally sank to my knees in defeat as the dikes gave way.
Guess what I found out. The feelings weren’t half as bad as my fear of the feelings. True, some feelings are more pleasant than others. Some are uncomfortable. Some are downright painful. But feelings are a package deal. We can’t choose some and deny others. Learning to tolerate and even to embrace all my feelings allows joy to flow freely.
And when challenging feelings arise? I make them tea and cookies.
We would love to hear from you: Do you all allow yourself to feel? Is it helpful?
Galen is a Southern girl transplanted to the Pacific Northwest. She has 5 kids, 2 grandchildren, 6 birds, and a dog. Her blog is about 10 habits that transformed her life from one grounded in fear to one grounded in joy. Her book 10 Steps To Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There). Find Galen on Facebook 10 Steps To Finding Your Happy Place, too!