The Art of Feeling What You Feel

Before we dive into today’s post, I wanted to share that I’m running a huge Thanksgiving sale on the Overcoming Panic Attacks program, a yoga and meditation based course that is self-paced, through Friday 11/24. It’s over forty percent off and probably the lowest it will ever be, so if you’ve been interested in joining our sweet little group, now is the time. Click the link to learn more about what is offered and feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions.

Growing up as a highly sensitive person, I felt A LOT, and I often had no idea what to do with such intense emotion. So very quickly, I learned that it was safer and more comfortable for me to stuff my emotions down inside a dark, lonely corner where they wouldn’t have to be seen or felt or explored. This habit of avoiding emotion worked wonderful for many years.

But of course, that unmet emotion had to come out sometime, somehow. All of the things I had left to fester began seeping out through anxiety, panic attacks, nightmares, depression, and so forth. The unresolved trauma showed itself in strange fears or unnecessary anger. It became apparent that what we don’t deal with sticks around. What we don’t meet in our emotional life will eventually beg to be seen.

So for the past several years, I’ve set my intention to allow myself to feel what needs to be felt.

It’s scary to step into the unknown of difficult sensations. Often, if I allow myself to cry, I get worried that I’ll dive off the deep end and never stop. Or if I allow myself to sit with fear, I get scared that it might break me or kill me with its intensity.

But we are strong enough to handle the emotions, sensations, thoughts, and pain that course through our bodies. As children, it might have been too difficult, but now, as adults, we are capable of exploring this without letting it break us.

So the past few days, when intense emotion has bubbled up within my chest, instead of moving on with my day and pretending like the pain isn’t there, I take a moment to pause. I give myself permission to feel. I allow myself to cry, to grieve, to write, to express it through movement like yoga or dance. I don’t make myself wrong for crying. I don’t get scared that I’ll fall into pieces if I let myself go. I just accept the tears and watch them flow.

And then, inevitably, there’s a softening. There’s a clarity. The tears and other forms of expression have washed away the grip of unacknowledged sensation in a sweet release.

It reminds me of all the times I’d talk to my fiance, overcome with extreme anxiety, worry, and frustration. And he would simply tell me to cry. He’d give me permission to cry, because he knew that I always, always feel better afterward.

Then, I don’t stay there in that sad, anxious place. After I feel what needs to be felt, I have the strength to move on. Letting the feelings visit but not stay. Visit but not live here. Inviting the emotion in for tea but then sending it on its way when it has taught me what it can.

So I will tell you this: you are strong enough to feel and explore what’s here. There’s no need to be afraid of sensation because it will move through you and it’s only here to teach you. And yes, it will stay around, even if we try to hide it away somewhere, until we look it square in the eyes and ask what’s needed. Can you meet this with kindness? Can you love yourself enough to sit with the totality of your experience in a human body?

If you need some direction and guidance on how to sit with difficult sensations, here is a video that might be helpful.

And as always, it can be wonderful to explore feeling with a supportive professional, like a therapist or counselor, especially if you are dealing with trauma. Please take care of yourself and recognize your limits. While there has been a lot of stuff I can sit with on my own, I made the compassionate decision to see a professional when it came to exploring a specific trauma in my past, and that support from someone else was absolutely necessary for me in order to move forward. Lots of love to you sweet friends!

Becoming Your Own Source of Love

If you’re anything like me, you might have learned early on that you needed to gain others’ approval in order to feel worthy. This may have led to perfectionist tendencies and a deep desire to people-please.

Unfortunately, as a child, I never learned how to step into my own power and realize that the approval I was seeking from others could be found within my own being. So I desperately, frantically searched for my worth through the eyes of others. I had to be perfect in ballet to get the approval of the director and my peers. I had to be perfect in school to gain acceptance from my teachers and family. I had to be the perfect girlfriend, which meant giving up my own needs, in order to feel loved. On and on…

I still find myself looking for my worth outside of myself, though I am becoming more and more aware of this pattern. Can you imagine how much anxiety it creates when your self-worth is a roller coaster ride, controlled by outside circumstances?

Then, in meditation recently, I realized that: I can be my own source. Everything that I seek outside of myself- love, acceptance, approval, happiness, peace- I can provide for myself. I can fill myself up from the inside out. So I imagined all of these beautiful qualities shimmering through my body and filling me up as if I was an overflowing cup of joy.

There are so many people that I’ve given my power away to. It’s as if my power has been seeping from my body all these years, going towards the people and things that I thought could fill me up. And now, I’m practicing taking back that power, realizing that I don’t need their love or approval in order to feel worthy. Then, I take all of my power back. I recharge.

When we can begin to develop a sense of stability through our own ability to provide the emotional nutrients that we need, we can then begin to trust ourselves. We don’t need to worry about making mistakes or not being perfect. We know that we’ll be okay no matter what, because we have our own source within.

This change won’t happen for me overnight, of course, but it feels powerful. It will be a practice to notice when I’m searching for love outside of myself, and gently bringing my attention back to my own heart, my own bubbling spring of peace.

Keep an eye out for a guided meditation on becoming your own source that I’ll have out in the next couple of weeks.

For now, ask yourself:

  • Where am giving my power away by seeking approval from other people, things, achievements?
  • When I notice this pattern, can I turn my attention towards myself instead? Can I fill myself up from the inside out?

Even if you don’t yet know how to fill yourself up, just bringing the attention back to yourself and examining your inner world can be a wonderful first step.

A Guy’s Perspective on Mental Health Struggles: Guest Post from Gio Reyes

I’m excited to have a guest post on the blog today from my college friend Gio, who recently opened up about his struggles with mental health. While I know what it’s like to be a woman experiencing anxiety and depression, I can imagine it’s very different to navigate the mental health world as a man. Thank you Gio for being so open and honest, and helping others feel less alone!  Continue reading