Opening Your Heart to Your Emotions
Last week I posted about the importance of Saying Yes to Healing. In that post I touched on how, when we don’t allow ourselves to experience an emotion, we end up protecting ourselves – more specifically, protecting the part of us that feels hurt, sad, angry, etc. This prevents the natural flow that would cause the emotion to dissipate.
Why don’t we allow ourselves to fully experience an emotion at the time it comes up for us?
There are times when it may not be safe or appropriate to experience an emotion fully – for example, during a meeting at work, in an emergency situation where we need to respond, or in some situations with our young children. Growing up, we may learn that certain emotions are not acceptable in our family so we learn to hide them.
Unless we make a point of making room to feel those feelings at a better time (after the work meeting, when the emergency is over, when we have a little time away from our kids), those feelings go into storage in the body.
One of the primary reasons we resist our feelings is because they can be uncomfortable. We would rather not feel anything than have to be with our suffering.
We add to the discomfort by judging our feelings: we tell ourselves, “I shouldn’t feel this way” or “I don’t have a right to feel this strongly about it; it was just a little thing.” We deny emotions that we think would threaten a current relationship in an effort to keep the peace.
As time goes by, we can make a habit of ignoring or denying our feelings. We develop a strong mind that attempts to deal with emotions by talking us out of them, encouraging us to “be reasonable.”
After a while, we may not even be aware of our emotions in the moment. They may occur to us hours after the event that triggered them, if at all.
These feelings don’t just go away, however; they collect in the body. When we lose our awareness of our feelings, we lose a critical connection to knowing ourselves. Carrying the unfelt feelings can weigh us down and put a drain on our vital energy. Our heart center becomes clogged and closed.
When we give ourselves the time and space to deliberately turn our attention to our feelings, they can begin to move.
Noticing our emotions
If we are in the habit of sequestering our feelings from ourselves and living in our head, then the first step is deliberately noticing what emotions are present for us in a given moment.
Go ahead and ask yourself right now… What am I feeling right right now?
Naming our emotions
Labeling our emotions can be helpful in allowing us to be present with them without feeling swamped by them.
See if you can be aware of your emotions without having to change them – even without having to explain or justify why you feel this way.
Being kind toward ourselves supports us in allowing our feelings to be present without judging them.
When you are having a hard time, imagine giving yourself a hug and saying something supportive to yourself, as you would do for a good friend.
Like changing any habit, it can take some practice before we are aware of our emotions in the moment they come up. As we open ourselves up to this flow, gradually unpleasant emotions stick around for less time and there’s more room in our life for joy, gratitude, and love.
Wishing you abundant joy and love,