“What’s wrong?” “Nothing.” “Are you okay? Is everything okay?” “Yeah. I’m fine.” But at the time you were not fine. Something was bothering you, and your tone of voice showed it all.
Does this sound familiar? Have you been brushing off, rationalizing or suppressing your feelings for a long time? Perhaps a very long time? Maybe it started long ago when you were a little child, when you were punished by freely expressing your feelings…
Until you slowly lost touch with how you truly felt, or were no longer able to express the emotions you harbored inside. Then one day the suppressed feelings erupted like a volcano and took you totally by surprise. “Where did that come from?” The intensity of the emotions shocked you and those around you, because they burst out unexpectedly – or worse, were unjustified.
Perhaps emotional premenstrual episodes like this carry a message, a healing invitation for the old wounds, buried and forgotten.
In “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom,” Christine Northrup says that healing can occur in the present only when we allow ourselves to feel, express, and release emotions and unmet needs from the past that we have suppressed or tried to forget. I can’t agree with her more.
Growing up I was cut off from my feelings, partially because they were not encouraged, and partially as an unconscious self-defense mechanism.
On my own journey to healing I’ve experimented with many different ways to get in touch with my feelings: expressing them constructively or creatively, and transforming negative emotions into opportunities for learning and growth.
There are three strategies I find particularly helpful: 1) recognize your feelings, 2) own your feelings, and 3) transform your feelings.
I will explain the first strategy in this post, and the other two strategies in subsequent posts.
RECOGNIZE YOUR FEELINGS
Whether you feel upset, angry, frustrated or sad, there’s no wrong and no shame in how you feel. You feel the way you feel because of past experiences, your interpretation of current events, and your current belief systems.
Behind every negative emotion, there is an unmet need, either from the present or the past. Connecting with your feelings is to connect with your deepest needs and desires, and to get in touch with the wisdom of your inner guidance.
When you experience an emotion, ask this question: “How do I feel?” Be honest with your feelings, and name your experience. Then ask, “Are you trying to tell me that some of my needs are not met? Tell me more…” Pay attention and see what shows up.
Allow yourself to feel fully and completely. Observe the thoughts that go through your mind and the sensations that you feel in your body. Don’t judge. Just watch, listen, and feel.
It may be difficult to connect with your feelings at first if you have been disconnected with them for a long time. Just remember that practice is the mother of skills, and that with practice you’ll eventually become affluent in the language of emotions.
I hope you find this strategy helpful on your journey. I encourage you to keep a daily mood journal to connect with your feelings, and record your journey. You are welcome to read my personal mood journals, which I post regularly on cycleharmony.com.
P.S. Dr. Christiane Northrup has some really good discussions on the effects of emotions on health, and how we can understand and embrace our own emotional nature as women. I highly recommend her book Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom.