Numb No More! Liberating the heart and spirit for emotional well-being

Thursday, March 31, 2016

How would a person learn to manage feelings after much practice in detachment and distraction? Why learn to feel? Doe that not get us into trouble? Is it not better to strengthen one’s self by NOT feeling?

Conditioning one’s self to avoid feelings is never a good thing. We become symptomatic and best and at worst, numb or walled off. Soon you will have little ability to tap your inner world and know what your heart is needing. So why do so many of us learn to cut off feelings?

Well…that is a big question loaded with cultural complexity. In our family of origin and in our communal circles, we learn a lot of messages about whether to and how to express emotions. What are some of your messages? “Don’t cry like a baby,” “Don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill,” “You are soft,” or today’s teens tell me if a boy is called “sweet,” it is an insult because he is vulnerable.

In the gender-typed socialization of females, the lesson may be that it is good to be self-demeaning and express feelings of doubt, fear or sadness because when you are less confident and secure, you are less threatening to your female peers and thus, more approachable and likeable.

Regardless of the myriad of messages any of us receives while growing up, we all live in a kind of happy-ever-after “Disney World” culture that may have us believing that “happy” is the end goal, leaving many human beings feeling disappointed if not depressed in everyday living.

There is a way to come into being, to connect with your heart and sustain healthy social presentation that is neither too vulnerable nor too stoic. We can manage our emotions and keep our boundaries in doing so. Where to start?

Start with finding quiet space to simple sit and breathe. Yes, breathe…slowly and deeply for a few minutes. Then resort to quiet natural breathing and listen inside for a few minutes. Whatever comes up, be it a thought [cognition] or a feeling, try to acknowledge it without judgement. For example, you may sit in the morning, or tap into your heart while taking a bath or shower. Perhaps you notice, “I am sad about…” or “the frustration from…is still here.” Just acknowledge sadness, fear or anger. You may also notice peace, joy or pride. No need to over think. When you find yourself in your head, move back to your heart and the rhythm of your breathing.

Why do this? We live in a culture that over exercises thinking and doing and dismisses feeling and being. Yet, by feeling, we may release stress through a few tears; we may strengthen ourselves by becoming clear and true to our needs and who we authentically are. This is a private sanctuary that belongs to you. You may turn inward and notice.

Think of feelings as colors that range in tone, such as lavender to dark purple. By tapping the feelings, you practice feeling the richness and by allowing the feelings to flow and move around or be released, you are not stock piling them up and dead bolting them until they bust out in a headache or other symptom. Practicing feeling feelings strengthens our ability to identify and manage affect. As we do so, we have less need to escape or run and hide from our hearts.

Some folks are running so much, they accidentally reinforce a distorted fear about feeling negative feelings, such as sadness or anger. This may result in a big batch of anxiety and depression. So, another benefit of tapping, expressing and releasing feelings is an overall sense of balance. When we are grounded in reality, we are less reactive. We can face the truth about our needs and adjust expectations and behavioral choices in accordance to the emotional needs.

Let’s take feeling guilt. You tap inward and recognize a feeling of guilt related to procrastination. Just acknowledge the feeling and sit with it. You may then be able to move toward a baby step on an action plan. Or say you are sad and have not given yourself sufficient time to grieve a loss. Notice the sad and let it take you where you need to go, whether it is a good cry, writing in a journal or looking at photos of a person you miss.

For folks who have walled off their emotional process and may be trapped in all-or-nothing feeling which means the faucet is either off or on, try rating feelings by number or intensity of color. This can be a way to not over dramatize or distort. So, for example, if what comes up is “I hate work and feel so miserable I want to quit,” see if you can work with it and reform it and do a reality check until you can reframe it to “While there are aspects of work I like and thrive in, there are two things I really need to change either by speaking up or adjusting my expectations…” You may be able to temper the feelings with a broader perspective. In addition, by addressing specific frustrations and asserting yourself or letting go of an unrealistic expectation, you will be better able to except the reality of work frustrations.

Conditioning one’s self to notice and manage feelings is not only doable, it is liberating for your heart and spirit. You can break free from numbness and feel more confident and present within.

This entry was posted on Thursday, March 31st, 2016 at 11:07 am and is filed under Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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