Why do we struggle so with feelings? Often, when I am working with people, I find they are resistant to talking about what they are feeling. Time and again, when I ask someone new to the world of feelings, what they are feeling, the response is often one of anger and push back. It is almost as if I asked them what the color of their underwear is. I once had someone ask me, “What do feelings have to do with anything?!” I get it. Why do feelings matter anyway?
When I first began to do my own personal growth work, I did not know how I was feeling most of the time. If you asked me, I was sad a lot but underneath it, I was angry and didn’t even know it. When we were children, we felt a lot of feelings, anger, sadness, happiness and excitement. They were as natural as the air we breath, but as time went on, we learned in our families to shut down certain feelings that were not acceptable. Some of us were shamed for feeling certain feelings. Some of us experienced anger as scary because people in our families were irresponsible with it. In the next several blogs, I want to tackle this subject around why feelings are important. In order to transform our lives and relationships we need to know, accept and work through our feelings. The result of feeling our feelings can bring us a deeper understanding and love for ourselves and a greater intimacy and connectedness in our relationships.
Here is part of an article written by Peter Bregman, where he talks about the difference it has made in his marriage to acknowledge his feelings…..
Do You Know What You Are Feeling?
“Over the 23 years since we met, my wife Eleanor and I have spent considerable time, money, and energy on our development. Individually and together, we’ve taken workshops, studied meditation, practiced yoga, written in journals, talked about our dreams, participated in training programs, and gone to therapy.
A few weeks ago, we were taking a walk along a rural road, questioning why we do it. Is all this inner work simply navel gazing? Or does it impact our lives in a real way?
Just as we were exploring the question, we turned a bend and heard a loud party at a house on the side of the road. As we approached the house we could see the deck was filled with about a dozen college-aged men joking around and drinking.
My body tensed and my emotions intensified. I felt a mix of fear, insecurity, competitiveness, and jealousy. I saw them as the kinds of guys Eleanor would be attracted to — big, alpha, confident — and I felt inferior. Which made me feel aggressive towards them. It took me about a minute to realize what I was feeling and why.
I turned to Eleanor and told her what I was feeling. She laughed; she also felt aggressive and had an immediate, instinctual, emotional response, but the opposite of mine. She saw them as obnoxious, uncaring, sexist, and unattractive. She felt superior to them. And resentful that they would probably end up having power in our world.
Two seemingly simple but actually incredibly difficult and crucially important things happened in those few seconds: we recognized what we were feeling, and we talked about it.
Simply being able to feel is a feat in itself. We often spend considerable unconscious effort ignoring what we feel because it can be painful. Who wants to be afraid or jealous or insecure? So we stifle the feelings, argue ourselves out of them, or distract ourselves with busy work or small talk.
But just because we don’t recognize a feeling doesn’t mean it goes away. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Not feeling something guarantees that it won’t go away.
Had I not talked to Eleanor about what I was feeling when we saw that deck filled with drinking college guys, I would have gotten clingy to her, looking for some reassurance that she loved me. And, if I had not received it — and why should I since she would have no idea what was going on in my head? — I would have become distant, resentful, and insecure.
But instead, we just laughed and focused on other, more interesting conversation. Apparently, all that navel gazing really does impact our lives in a real way. “
An important part of us – who we are, how we grow, what we want and need, is connected to our feelings. May we have the faith to believe they matter, and the courage to feel and work through them in order to transform our lives one day at a time.
Grace and peace, Sheryl