As I let myself feel that gratitude well up – both for having the courage to take the leap and for my dogs who bring me so much laughter and joy – I am amazed at my capacity to FEEL. I have this firm belief that our capacity to feel the “hard” feels is equal and opposite to our ability to feel the “good” feels. And yet I find myself surrounded by people who are trying to keep ALL THE FEELS somewhere in the middle or trying to numb out the “hard” feels in order to avoid them. The reality is that, in HMO, feelings don’t work that way. When we push down one, we eventually end up pushing them all down and living a life of flat-lined existence.
My clients know that I like to use the analogy of a French press (I LOVE any excuse to draw poorly on my white board!) As they’ve heard me say a myriad of times, coffee grounds are like all of the feelings we have that are floating around in our system and the plunger is like our attempt to push down certain feelings. Unfortunately, in real life, we don’t get to selectively push them down, picking and choosing which ones we will allow ourselves to feel. Nope! The plunger pushes down ALL of the grounds (emotions) indiscriminately. Keep avoiding the hard feels long enough and you’ve got a steam hot cuppa “blah” – or worse, depression – in your hands!
This is one of the few areas that I’m okay with a “black & white” perspective. We either allow ourselves to feel all the feels, or we don’t. Well, shoot, maybe it’s not even quite that B&W after all….maybe it’s really sepia colored experiences that result from trying to push away some feelings, leaving us with the watered down experiences of other feelings. If we can’t feel the painful, low feels, I don’t think we can feel the super fun, juicy, joyful high feels.
I invite you to consider painful experiences or feelings you’ve had. Now, I want you to take your right index and middle fingers and place them across the inside of your left wrist. Do you feel a pulse? Phew! That means you’re alive. That means you SURVIVED painful feelings/experiences. I do that with patients and clients all the time because something about being human seems to make us forget that despite how painful, sad, angry, etc we might feel in the moment (or try to avoid feeling) somehow we survive and it passes. Instead, become fearful of those feelings and try to avoid, numb, push them away, which just creates more fear and anxiety the next time those types of feelings arise.
Rather than spending so much energy on pushing away feelings you don’t like, I invite you to be curious about the feeling. Where do you notice it in your body? Does it have a color? A temperature? A weight? If it had a voice, what would it say? The more we push things away, the stronger and more solid they become. If we explore them with curiosity and gentleness, they dissipate more quickly. That’s not to say we don’t every have “hard” feels or struggles. we do. But the Buddha said that “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”. We will have pain and experience negative emotions, but the suffering is in the resisting them, trying to avoid them, preventing like they don’t exist…..all of which shoves them underground and, eventually, they leak out in some unexpected, maybe messier, way.
What would life be like if you could allow feelings to come and go – not grasping nor pushing them away – just like the clouds rolling through the sky? I invite you to explore this idea and see what happens. Feel free to contact me if you would like support in experimenting with this process.