How to feel your feelings

How to feel your feelings

secondA couple years ago, a teacher friend asked me to put my hand on my second chakra and tell her what I was feeling.

I was sitting amongst a group of women who are all warm and caring people, and we were all taking this course to learn more about working with the human energy system, which I find fascinating. So logic would indicate that I would have been feeling good. Perhaps relaxed, excited, calm or curious.

But when I put my hand on my second chakra, the seat of all of our emotions, I was shocked. I noticed an impulse to run and heard something like “get me the fuck out of here.” Like, I am not doing this, I do not want to be here, and while I’m at it, fuck fuck fuck! My teacher agreed that I had “lots of f-words in there.” Which is kind of funny, but confusing. How can my logical mind think it was feeling one way, when in fact my base emotions were something much different?

Put simply, I believe our logical minds are very well conditioned to be “appropriate”. Essentially so. If I’d walked into that class and said lots of f-words and then ran away, well, I wouldn’t have learned anything that day and I would have offended several lovely people.

The trouble is, our logical minds often trick us into believing that those surface feelings are all there is. On some level, I was feeling relaxed and excited. But I was also triggered on a deeper level. I think what I had tapped into was an ongoing undercurrent of frustration and discontent that I hadn’t realized or articulated was bothering me.

For example, I have found the loss of autonomy that comes with motherhood very challenging (though it’s not something I feel encouraged to express, as a mom). I was probably still feeling quite exhausted by breastfeeding and the sleep deprivation that comes with having a young child. And examining your feelings doesn’t always feel good–often it is anything but that. My system was screaming “fuck!” in an attempt to avoid these challenging feelings and the realities behind them.

However, if we are unwilling to feel, or don’t know what we are feeling, we cannot live authentically. How can we minister to those aspects of ourselves that need extra care, or attention, or love, if we ignore difficult feelings? How can we assert our needs in our relationships or identify when our boundaries are crossed if we ignore how we are feeling day in and day out?

There is so much more to this idea of emotions being rooted in our gut. Scientists now know that there is a larger collection of neurons in your gut than there is in either your spinal cord or peripheral nervous system. If you’ve ever had “butterflies in your stomach,” then you’ve experienced a good example of it. There is the advice to “trust your gut” (my favorite advice, by the way). Is it possible this is great advice because our gut feelings are more helpful than our logical brain when it comes to certain situations?

I can’t say that learning to feel my feelings has been super fun all the time. It has certainly been informative, and surprising. Feeling my feelings has lead me to a deeper truth within, and more authenticity in my relationships. It’s amazing how things shift when, instead of acting on surface emotions and dancing around an issue, you level with truth.

Case in point: My husband was on the phone the other day talking about something that upset me. My surface emotion was anger. After I sat with it for a bit longer, I realized that I was actually feeling some sadness and embarrassment. By the time he got off the phone, we were able to have a much more effective conversation than we would have if I’d responded with anger. Because I wasn’t mad, I was hurt, and by telling him so, he could apologize sincerely and mend the ouch. I felt validated, I felt seen, and I felt better.

It’s a simple exercise. The next time you’re feeling triggered emotionally, set your hand just under your belly button and ask yourself what you’re feeling. Angry because someone cut you off in traffic? Perhaps on a deeper level you’re mad at yourself for not leaving earlier. Someone at work said something offensive? Maybe you are feeling that your work isn’t valued. I’d love to hear what surprises you get when you do this simple exercise! It will change your life.