Deconstructed Faith,  Inner healing work,  Relationships

6 Painful Lessons Learned – from not trusting my feelings

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,

Anna

PS: Listen in to my conversation with Dr. Marlene Winell about religious trauma syndrome here

Author. Blogger. Speaker. Momma to 4.

8 Comments

  • Keith

    Anna, nice piece. Have you ever read any of Malcolm Gladwell’s work? He has written several best sellers, but one is applicable to your post. It is called “Blink.” In short, our subconscious or gut-feeling is a compilation of our experiences, good and bad. As a result, we sense things or intuit things before our conscious mind catches up. He uses numerous examples in everyday life that we each can call upon.

    One example that I recall is a firefighter walking into a house and sensing something was wrong with the fire and asking his fellow firefighters to back out quickly. What his conscious mind could not understand just yet, was the fire was burning below the room they entered and the floor would collapse.

    Another example was a speed dating example where a group of men and women would sit across from one another for about ten minutes and then move to the next possible dating companion. What the data showed is these men and women determined in less than twenty seconds if there was any chemistry. Their subconscious knew.

    My point is our feelings are important and should not be dismissed as less than factual. They are flavored by our experiences. So, that gut-feeling may not be off base and actually is a better indicator than we think.

    Keith

    • Anna Dimmel

      Hi Keith! I have not heard of that book, but it sounds fascinating. I love the examples used of the fire and the speed dating. Both exemplify exactly the point that our instincts are connected to more than we consciously are aware of. So good. Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Charity

    Nice post.

    I don’t think God intends us to distrust our intuition, which in my opinion is somewhat separate from our “heart.” Our instincts are not always tied to our feelings — and in some cases, they can go directly against what our emotions are telling us to do. My instincts told me not long ago that my cat was dying, even though everyone insisted she wasn’t. My emotions told me not to have her put to sleep, because I felt attached to her. In the end, I listened to my instincts and went through the emotional pain of having to say goodbye, because I loved her enough not to prolong her suffering just to make myself feel comforted by her presence longer. Had I listened to “my heart,” she would have suffered needlessly by starving to death, slowly, from kidney failure. But my instincts won out — and you could say it was my compassion that won out, so in a way, it was a blend of “knowing” and “emotion” — but it was the deeper love, and not the instinctual selfish desires of my heart that I had to listen to.

    I think that’s what scripture means, when it says the heart is deceitful above all things. I could have lied to myself, and argued myself out of my instincts (and believe me, I wanted to) but in the end, always trust your instincts. About people. About pets. About places. About whether to trust or love or say goodbye.

    They say children have the best instincts, that they are PURE instinct. Maybe that’s also what Jesus meant, when he said we need to be like children — total trust in Him… and possibly, our God-given instincts.

  • Larry McKnight

    Anna, a look into the Hebrew behind those verses in Jeremiah reveals NO word or tense that justifies the word “wicked” after desperate. The underlying words that are there mean “resistant or capable of holding us back like an uphill trail” and “frail or vulnerable”. Our hearts are vulerable and that can make us feel desperate. That makes them worth protection and attention. And, that is exactly what God has done in choosing to give us new, soft hearts of flesh. That is what Holy Spirit has done by actively strengthening our inner-man hearts so that Jesus; the Word of the Father, can live in those vulnerable and frail hearts by faith. What do you bet that having Jesus Himself living in our heart turns out to be a pretty effective cure to frailty and vulnerability. If we distrust the voice from our hearts, we distrust the literal source of the voice of Jesus in our lives.

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