Feeling your Feelings (BTW You Are Not Your Feelings)

Recently, as I was feeling overwhelmed by emotions and stress I remembered something Rev. Deborah Johnson said, “Anything unlike where you are trying to go will come up to be healed.”

In remembering that I felt a sense of ease as it reminded me that my pain and discomfort are a sign of healing. My discomfort and pain are coming up to be healed to make room for the new. So I honored my feelings by allowed them to have their voice and knowing that when it passed, a bit more of that would healed and well on its way to being a scar.

When I suppress my feelings I am disowning myself much in the same way that my family did (“don’t cry, what’s wrong with you,” etc.). Like any aspect of yourself that you disown (your power, your sense of worthiness, your sexuality,etc), it will come out in distorted and sabotaging ways. Like Rev. D says, “What you don’t allow yourself to feel gently, you will feel violently”.

I remember being told that I need to feel my feelings. That confused me because if anything I felt like I feel my feelings too much. I drown in my feelings! But there is a subtle difference in feeling your feelings as an observer (witness self) with compassion for yourself and drowning in your feelings with judgment. The switch from one to the other takes practice, and I have moments where I am either doing one or the other.

Then there’s the Buddhist concept of “you are not your feelings”. You have feelings, but you are not your feelings. Feelings come and go and emotions are nothing but secretions of the mind (like you’re liver secretes bile). Hmm, here I am trying to feel my feelings, and then I learn that I’m not my feelings? How does that work? In mulling that over, I think these two concepts (feeling your feelings and you are not your feelings) can work together.

If you feel your feelings (as an observer and with compassion), then you can let them go and not identify (grasp) as your feelings. At this point, I believe that if you are just starting in healing work and by-pass the first step and just try to accept that you are not your feelings, you are just discounting and abandoning that part of your wounded self all over again. Once you are skilled in honoring yourself and your feelings, then I think it’s easier to have a strong emotion and go into remembering “oh right, I;’m not my feelings.” But like someone who is has never run before, you need to work your way up to the ability to run in a marathon by gong for a walk.

If you practice meditation, you can incorporate this mindfulness excercise that includes saying to yourself:

  • I am not the body – I have a body.
  • I am not the mind – I have a mind.
  • I am not my emotions – I have emotions.
  • I am not my roles (think about some roles you have – parent, child, sibling, employee, employer, etc) – I play these roles.
  • I am not my sensations – I have sensations.
  • I am not my possessions – I have possession (added for us materialistic Westerners who have an attitude that he with most toys wins.
  • I am not my actions – I take actions.
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