It is always okay to feel your feelings!
Click the photo to listen to parts 1 & 2 of this blog.
The big E word - Emotion. To some, it is a wonderful word that helps humans express their love, joy, sadness, and even anger freely in a healthy way, giving them an opportunity to have meaningful and intimate relationships. To others, emotions are a form of weakness that slows them down and causes feelings they do not want to experience.
Whatever your take on emotions, they are a part of life, and today we are going to explore what they are, where they come from, and how to experience them in a way that feels safe and supportive to you.
I could give you the dictionary definition of emotion, but there is no consensus between various schools of thought, so let’s go to our own experiences and understand them for ourselves. Understanding something from your own experience means it came from you. When understanding comes from you, it has more power to it because you recognize that wisdom is within you, not someone else.
The same goes for your emotions. They are yours to feel and use, which allows you to have a unique experience as a human being. Consider the last time you felt an emotion. I understand that for some of you, that may have been a while back because you don’t easily feel emotions; we will talk about that in a bit. But try to remember any emotion, whether it is happy or sad. When you feel that emotion, just notice what happens. Go ahead and try it...
If nothing happens, don’t worry, we are going to go through a process here together, so just follow along and see what happens along the way. If you did feel something, just notice the word we have already used to describe it – feel. You feel your emotions. Sometimes emotions are referred to as feelings.
Often you feel your emotions as some form of sensation in the physical body. Interestingly enough, a colleague of mine told me about a worldwide study that was done that showed how universally we all feel each emotion in the same part of our bodies regardless of country, ethnicity, religious beliefs, or upbringing. What I take from it is that every one of us humans on this planet shares the experience of feeling emotions. What a great way to view your neighbors near and far. With this commonality of understanding, we all experience happiness and sadness. We can relate to each other in this way.
Having said that, I have done my own experiment with feeling emotions in my body and came to some interesting results. At one point in time, I felt sadness in the pit of my stomach, and at a different time, I felt it in my throat. So perhaps science has a bit more research to do, but just consider for yourself and perhaps even do your own experiment to determine where you feel your emotions in your body.
Understand Your Emotions
From a therapeutic perspective, feeling our emotions instead of repressing them is integral to our mental/emotional health. It is being unwilling or unable to feel our feelings that cause us to utilize unhealthy measures to block or repress those feelings.
Many times, there is a reason behind not wanting to feel our emotions. This is often related to a fear of being out of control because, in the past uncomfortable emotions were triggered when we felt out of control. There is also the fear that once we open the floodgates of feeling these emotions, we will not be able to stop them, causing us to be unable to function in life.
For example, someone experiences a traumatic event in which they shut down their feelings to make it through the experience. This traumatic event can be as big as being in the middle of a war or being physically, mentally/emotionally, or sexually assaulted. But the “big” events are not the only ones that cause us to shut down emotionally. We are affected by even the “small” ones, like a child feeling shame when they ask for a second scoop of ice cream and their caretaker tells them they will get fat if they eat more. That child may then either eat to avoid feeling the emotions or stop eating things they think will make them fat in order to avoid feeling the past shame.
We all have feelings we do not want to feel, but when we shut down from feeling the ones we do not like, we also train ourselves not to feel, period, which means we miss the good ones as well.
It is always okay to feel your feelings. Difficulties arise when you begin to have feelings about your feelings!
To understand this, let’s explore what initiates these feelings. The sensations that you may be able to feel in your body when you are feeling an emotion are typically associated with some past event that caused you pleasure or pain.
What that means is that emotions arise when something happens in our life, like the past traumatic event examples, that we then interpret in a specific way. These events then cause a sensation we feel in the body that is then mentally associated with this feeling. That’s a lot of words, so let’s break it down for simplicity.
Emotions are past mental interpretations that we feel physically in the body.
That means that our thoughts, which are our mental interpretations of ourselves and the world, can be experienced in the physical body. Have you ever noticed that when you or someone else are having angry thoughts, their body turns red in places? Or someone who has been sad for a while physically looks depleted? When we are depressed, we either stop eating or eat too much to cover the feelings.
Your thoughts are stored in your physical body and affect the function of your body. That redness that happens when someone is angry is a result of inflammation. The more anger added to that person’s life, the more inflammation they may experience, which can then lead to inflammatory health problems.
These physically stored thoughts were established during past experiences. What that means is that your emotional reactions are based on experiences that happened in the past under completely different circumstances than are happening now. Your body is an actual blueprint for your past thoughts and emotions.
In Part 2 of this blog series, we will further explore how to feel emotions, how hormones impact emotion, and discover the benefits of feeling and clearly expressing emotion. Click here to continue reading.
In Loving Service,
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