I’m not well, I feel drained, and I think my job is making me sick. I believe I won’t be here much longer… took the day off.
I wrote the following as part of a series on feelings three years ago…
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Feelings, pt. I (Personal Novelas)
“Feelings aren’t facts, but it’s a fact that you feel.”
— Popular 12-step fellowship saying
“Everything is always washing into my heart. And I have the choice in any moment to open to it or to close to it, to resist or allow it to protect myself from it or to open to it and let whatever response comes just be.”
— Amy McCarrel
Awakening, another word for being present, is an option for anyone at any time. My own experience tells me that everything necessary for our fulfillment – our happiness — exists right here, right now, this very moment. All we have to do is awake to that potential and actually experience it, rather than to continue to conceptualize it.
My work brings me into contact with literally hundreds of people every year. And I am totally amazed by the number of people who have chosen to take responsibility for their own awakening outside the context of organized religions. There is a wave, a movement, of people seeking to find their own answers and that is one of the most remarkable things about the time we are living in.
There are two knee-jerk (conditioned) responses to feelings, and they both have their price: to run from them, or indulge them. In addition, we attach “stories” to our feelings, creating our own personal novelas (novelas are Spanish-language soap operas: Amor Salvaje!, or, Deseo Bestial! LOL!). In the process however, this does not mean that feelings are not real. Moreover, I do not mean to imply that the awakening process results in a super calm person floating around offering benedictions to everybody.
Let me state two myths about awakening:
Myth #1 Awakening to our original self means not having feelings, especially “negative” ones like anger, fear, jealousy, or greed. Instead, the process leads to an unchanging, always calm, state.
Myth #2 You have to choose between feelings and presence. When you have feelings, you have lost who you are.
These two myths are stereotypes and quite laughable, if you ask me. Being awake is to feel completely, love passionately, to become transparent.
Two reactions to feelings and a heavy price to pay for both: running (aversion) and clinging (desire). Two sides of the same emotional coin. We live in a male-dominated society in which feelings are dismissed as inferior to reason. If you doubt me, then just take a look at all the reactions to T.O.’s recent cyring jag, or Hilary Clinton’s supposed tears. To be “emotional” is considered unprofessional and we spend much time and money constantly “processing” our feelings away. I think in this sense, women, or rather, our feminine aspects, offer a much in teaching us to be present with our feelings.
I have a simple technique when I am working with overly analytical people (most of whom are women!). Ask anyone what they are feeling and they usually will proceed to describe to you what they are thinking. Therefore, what I do is to ask them to tell me where they feeling it in their bodies. This usually works to center someone in the moment, rather than spending time chasing his or her emotional novelas.
This is where the feminine principle can help us: that wonderful capacity to experience our reality in the body can become repressed when our little “mini me” starts whispering.
But I digress…
We pay a high price when we avoid our feelings as they arise. They then become sticky and gooey and don‘t pass through us as cleanly. A lot like being emotionally constipated. What happens with avoidance as a coping strategy is that we first create a tension in the body and literally cut off the free flow of sensation. Parts of our bodies become numb. Many women, for example, carry a lot of numbness in their genital areas as a result of sexual betrayal/ trauma. In order not to feel anger in the belly, we clench the solar plexus and block feeling, blood flow, and energy. The blockage remains and even becomes more entrenched.
To use another example, in order to avoid feeling fear we contract the pectoral muscles and collapse the chest. The consequence is that, over time these attempts to stop feeling leads to imbalances and stress-related illnesses. We literally create body armor to protect ourselves from feelings.
Another consequence of avoiding feelings, especially the ones we view as negative or threatening, is to become “rational.” We develop strategies (rationalizing, intellectualizing) in order to control or stop feelings. As an answer to the question, “Why am I feeling this?” we quickly say something beginning with “Because”: I am angry because you… or they made me feel sad because they… And in that way, we get caught in the endless rollercoaster of cause and effect.
The other trap is indulging (venting) our feelings. Sometimes this happens right away (I was notorious for this! LOL!) and sometimes it simmers for a while before boiling over—maybe after a few hours, days, or even years. The point is that once the floodgates open, there is hell to pay and a big mess to clean afterwards. You can even cause permanent damage. Indulging (or venting) is just another way of rebelling against the tension created between the feeling and its repression. We have to compensate for our initial response with an explosive mixture of emotion and willfulness:
Angry?!?! You’re damned right I’m angry, and you’re going to sit right there and listen to why!”
Exploding is just another way of attempting to have control (not experience) our feelings and avoid feeling overwhelmed. You think you are managing the feeling, but in fact, you are not feeling, but rather you are doing emotion. We create drama. Rather than experiencing feeling as a wave, we constrict our sense of self and become the wave itself. Instead of feeling anger or sadness, we become it. Listen to the language we use to describe these states: we say, “I am angry,” “I am sad.” This expression of what we are feeling has temporarily taken over our identity.
Once in the possession of our small, fearful selves, the “mini me,” the only choice we think we have is either to repress our feelings or to be taken over them and become reactive. Either way, we are still stuck on stupid. We are still controlled by our personal emotional novelas disconnected from the reality of the world around and in us, and we are still unable to give ourselves and others our deepest gifts.