I finally reached a point when I am able to experience my emotions as honest messengers and friends, instead of enemies to be extinguished or kept at bay. Well, at least 25-40 percent of the time. That’s a huge leap, given where I began.
I grew up thinking it was bad to cry or embrace my emotions. Before I was 10, I had a notion that tears = weakness, and I just can’t afford to cry when around me things were already falling apart. Perhaps some of you also grew up thinking that pain, insults, boundary violations should just be brushed aside. Hearing comments like, “Forget about it. That was nothing.” or “You’re just too sensitive,” I just thought that perhaps my feelings were wrong. So I shut all emotions tight in a box.
Until of course I couldn’t contain them anymore. Sadly, in suppressing pain and hurt, fear and anger, I had unintentionally suppressed joy.
Now, I’m working on recognizing that my feelings are valid, real, deserve to be respected and recognized. Also, that they are neither good nor bad. So I won’t burn in hell for feeling so-called “negative” emotions like anger or sadness.
Second, I’m working on distinguishing feelings. Another effect of suppressing emotions was that, now that they are surfacing, I could not distinguish which is which. This is perhaps the only time, or perhaps one of the very rare times when someone truly asked, “What are you feeling? Are you angry, afraid, sad, glad?” with the intention to understand me, not to judge me and make my feelings wrong. As months pass, it’s becoming easier to allow myself to feel my feelings fully, and be able to tell myself, “Yup, that emotion is anger. That one’s fear. That’s sadness and pain. It’s okay. You’re okay.”
And to that part of me that shut down my emotions to protect me as a child, I say, “Thank you for doing your best to protect me. I’m a grownup now. I can handle this. I’ll be fine. We’ll be fine.”
I’d like to share with you links to the handouts I was given, and end this post with a quote from Rumi, inviting us to treat our emotions and life’s dark moments as “a guide from beyond.”
- Regarding Emotions, Part 1, by Dr. Inge V. del Rosario
- Regarding Emotions, Part 2
- Regarding Emotions, Part 3