I can’t say that I was born understanding how to express my feelings. Some of us are born lucky in this department. Others of us, not so much.
I have always been instinctually aware of how I felt – keenly aware – but didn’t have the tools to communicate those feelings.
I remember sermons in church talking about how our feelings and emotions couldn’t be trusted – I believe the scripture cited was, “the heart is deceitful…”
Which, worked out great for a feelings-stuffer like myself.
But, not really.
I wasn’t aware at the time of how damaging this belief system was until I was adult…an adult who had made many decisions, not based in my feelings or instincts, but rather based in what I was told to do – what I was told was “right”.
The problem with this pattern, is that it slowly eroded my ability to trust my gut – my inner knowing.
All of us have an inner voice.
We all have gut instincts.
We all have emotions and feelings.
We were MADE with these for a distinct purpose. A purpose of direction…of pressing into our deepest self, to Spirit and of knowing/trusting what our next right thing is.
When we are taught to ignore our feelings, suppress them or devalue them, we slowly dehumanize ourselves.
One of my greatest life’s works to date, has been the ability to acknowledge and honor my feelings. My emotions. And my blessed holy instincts.
I could write for DAYZ about the importance of listening to and honoring your feelings. But, all of my points would all circle back to these vital 6 things:
- Your feeling center is directly connected to Spirit. We are not one dimensional beings. We are deeply layered and filled with soul, Spirit, mind and body. Our Spirit resides in our feeling center. It’s why we feel “led” to do things, when our emotions respond. Or why we can’t explain a “feeling” that is telling us something isn’t safe. Spirit is in tune with things that we are not. To ignore feelings is to ignore Spirit.
- Processing feelings/emotions is how we heal. It is no secret that grief is what jump starts the healing process. Grief plays a significant role in how our hearts and minds process pain and trauma. When we prevent our bodies from “feeling” these emotions, it doesn’t speed up the healing process. Rather, it stops it altogether. Just because you don’t acknowledge the feelings, doesn’t mean they go away. They are merely hidden and suppressed – waiting for a moment to explode (usually in rage, anger, heavy sadness, anxiety).
- Creating a healthy relationship with your feelings develops trust within yourself. One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a person, is to remove their own sense of inner direction. When someone doesn’t believe they can trust themselves, they feel lost, abandoned and at the mercy of anyone who will tell them what to do or how to feel. This is a breeding ground for abuse and for those in power to take advantage. Trusting yourself to make healthy decisions is a primary life skill for how to survive independently.
- Trusting your feelings enables you to know your next right thing. I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked to tell someone what they should do next. My answer often frustrates people because I direct them to look inward. I don’t believe anyone should hold that much power over another person. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t seek advice, but inside you should be able to trust your own gut.
- Listening to your feelings protects you. I can honestly say my gut instinct has not been wrong yet. Most of you would probably say the same thing. Our gut holds our deepest feelings. It’s the reason you get an uneasy feeling around certain people. Why you feel like you can or can’t trust someone. Why some places give you the heebie jeebies. Your gut instinct is the number one thing you should follow. And I deeply wish I had known this before now; listening to my gut would have saved me from toxic relationships and abuse. Always, always, ALWAYS listen to your gut.
- Holding space for our own feelings KEEPS YOU REAL. One of the WORST things is when you become vulnerable with someone and they look at you like a deer in headlights. Or even worse, when your feelings are not validated. Ouch. This behavior is often the result of someone who has suppressed their own feelings so much that they have lost the ability to connect with others. Don’t be a fake friend. For the love of everyone in your life, please stay real and in touch with yourself.
One of the push backs I’ve heard is that when prompted to explore painful emotions, it only makes things worse. My initial response to this is, sooo you don’t want to feel the feelings because they are painful? Uncomfortable? Heavy? Hard?
You’re damn right they are.
Feeling trauma, rejection, betrayal, abuse – it isn’t pretty. In fact, it’s messy. Bloody. Painful as shit. But, the truth is, it’s how the healing process works.
Look at it like this: when your physical body undergoes surgery, recovery is HARD. When your body is healing from trauma physically, rehabilitation takes time, effort and pain.
The same is true inside your emotions.
When you are broken, damaged, burned or cut emotionally, it is a trauma – an emotional, mental or spiritual trauma. One that is real. One that needs to be healed. The healing takes time, processing, rehabilitation and lots of inner work. HARD MESSY INNER WORK.
Your feelings are at the center of that healing work.
To wash your hands of the feelings and chalk them up as bad simply because they are uncomfortable, is to deny the way our bodies and hearts are designed to heal.
Now, none of this is meant to dismiss the need for anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications. In fact, those have been a lifesaver for me through traumatic circumstances, and were often what enabled me to do the hard, inner work inside of therapy. I am a huge advocate for protecting mental health.
No one says you have to go at the hard, inner work without tools. And for many, some of those tools include a great therapist and medication.
My point is, your inner pain is just as valid as outer trauma. Ignoring the feelings, won’t make it go away any more than ignoring a broken bone would make it suddenly not broken. Ignoring, simply pushes the trauma (or reality you are avoiding) aside to lay dormant until one day it explodes. But, with the help of licensed professionals and a solid support system, you CAN face that darkness. You can heal. And RISE like a bad ass warrior on the other side.
Healing takes time.
Warriors get bloody.
The beauty is in the ash.
Grace and Peace,
PS: Listen in to my conversation with Dr. Marlene Winell about religious trauma syndrome here