Feelings or emotions are not acknowledged by many people as a priority for whole health. There are many reasons why. Most people have been taught indirectly that how they feel doesn’t matter. Let’s look at how that happens and understand ways to unwind our feelings and go inward.
Let’s start with our worldview. We do not currently have a paradigm in which getting emotionally “fit” is valued; in other words, we are not taught to live in the world emotionally. As a result, many associate feelings with being weak, stupid, vulnerable, crazy, ashamed, or wrong. Our worldview mainly focuses on the physical world and our physical selves. Emotions are hidden, stuffed, repressed, suppressed, and judged.
Most people aspire to be happy. How often have you heard yourself or someone else say, “I just want to be happy” or “I just want you to be happy?" What does it mean to be happy? If we are not “happy,” have we somehow failed? The truth is feelings fluctuate, which is why achieving perpetual happiness is a setup for disappointment.
If happiness is the goal, people will pretend they are happy, despite how they really feel. This is called spiritual bypassing, a way to avoid facing your unresolved issues. The thought is, “if I just focus on the positive, everything will be fine.” Acknowledging the underlying feelings comes first—then focusing on the positive.
Let’s aspire to be free instead. We can free ourselves from the thought patterns and emotions that hold us back from living a joy-filled authentic life. Freedom comes from facing our feelings, not avoiding them. Practitioners who work with networks of energy know that for healing to take place, feelings often need resolution. The question for the practitioner is how to help the client move through the resistance of feeling to release the energy block.
Resistance. What is it? There are many, many ways to experience resistance. Examples are fear of anything or everything, procrastination, staying very busy and distracted, thinking “I’m too tired,” “I don’t have time,” “I don’t have the money,” hypervigilance, tension in the body, perfectionism, or just plain avoidance of doing what you know you need to do. Everyone experiences resistance.
Resistance wants us to stay in our comfort zone and be “safe.” So, how do we work through resistance to feel and heal? First, one becomes mindful of the resistant voices. Then one takes action anyway. In her book Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert says, “It seems to me that the less I fight my fear, the less it fights back. If I can relax, fear relaxes, too.”
Gilbert had a good point; relaxation is beneficial, but there is something more profound, and that is surrender. When one can surrender to the feelings behind the resistance—yes, magic happens. Think of feelings as the static that gets in the way of you living the highest version of yourself. When one does not follow through with what one knows is the best choice, frustration and anger ensue. Self-judgment and self-loathing, conscious or not, lurk behind our resistance. Those feelings lead to more self-betrayal, and a cycle ensues.
Mindfulness of our thoughts and feelings is key to authentic and lasting change but we avoid our feelings because we have feelings about them! We judge them. Emotions have a negative connotation in our culture. Thoughts like, “I don’t want to feel that pain,” “I don’t want to be out of control,” “how I feel doesn’t matter,” “if I feel, that means I am weak,” and “I should just be grateful” are examples of fear, sadness, spiritual bypassing, and self-judgment.
So, why do your feelings matter?
Feelings are energy in motion. They need to move. We can get physically ill if we suppress, repress, hold on to, avoid, or push them aside.
Daily decisions we make are based on how we feel. Love, hate, and fear drive decisions more than any other emotion.
Our feelings help us understand our thinking and beliefs. They add value to the human experience. Feelings underlie patterns, beliefs, and habits. We have to understand them to make changes.
So, what to do? Choosing to stop listening to all the voices that tell you "you can’t" is powerful. Most importantly, attend to the feelings. Stop and meditate. Notice how you feel. Ask questions about the feelings. Find a practitioner who can help you unwind the suppressed, repressed emotions. Be present with them, embrace them. Stop avoiding or running away or avoiding how you feel because how you feel matters.