It’s Safe To Feel Your Feelings
Sitting on my bedroom floor, leaning against the solid wood closet door, I took out a safety pin, and slashed my ankle. I sparked a match first and burnt the tip before bringing it to my flesh. I thought that might be something people do.
I was thirteen.
Before I pulled out the pin I had been fighting with my mom, a common occurrence those days. I had stomped down the hall, slammed the door furiously, and locked myself in my room.
I cried as I felt the stories surfacing one by one:
No one understands me.
I don’t belong anywhere.
I’m too much.
I’m not enough.
No one can love me.
I didn’t know they were stories and wouldn’t for close to twenty more years. The feelings attached to these beliefs were strong, and so I believed them to be Truth.
The swirling cloud of loneliness, anger, frustration, disappointment, and sadness came in, came in fast and strong, and took over all rationality. I just wanted to escape.
The quick scrape, scrape, scrape of the pin against my flesh gave me relief. For a few moments, the tumbleweed of emotions fell to the background in the presence of burning, physical pain.
The truth is that I was terrified by my emotions.
Anger, in particular, is a challenging emotion to process, especially as a young person. The expression of anger is often greeted with admonishment. Anger is something you feel behind closed doors or shove deep into your belly where you can try to forget it lives.
My anger would turn on quickly and intensely, often erupting through my throat. Usually, it came through debates with my parents around injustices, for my teenage self and for the world that felt far from reach.
One time, in complete desperation to be understood, I felt the helpless anger building so intensely that my mind went blank, and from the middle of a dark hallway outside my bedroom I screamed, “FUCK YOUUUUUUU,” at my mother.
For a while we both stood there, at opposite ends of the hallway, staring at each other in shock. In that moment she began to understand that the emotions were taking over and that I wasn’t choosing to be a difficult child. (I should note, swearing in my household was not permitted, and I had never spoken to anyone like that before.) I ran out the door, into the woods, and cried in a tree until the sun began to set.
Throughout my life my emotions have felt uncontrollable, and things that feel uncontrollable feel unsafe. They would burst out at inopportune times. They ruined Thanksgiving dinner. They made me feel like an outcast in my own family. They got me grounded more times than I can count.
My anger fueled rebellion and contributed to my depression. My deep sadness left me feeling lonely and like there was something wrong with me. Even still, I have come to love all of my emotions.
Because while the anger and sadness may have caused me emotional pain, they have also been great gifts.
My anger has served me with passion and drive. My sadness has given me compassion and empathy. And the pain around these feelings has guided me to a better understanding of myself and the false beliefs I have allowed to keep me small.
We are a culture that rejects our own humanity. In search of a pill that will eradicate the emotions we’ve labeled “bad,” we are disconnected from the wisdom our feelings point to. Not only are all of our feelings necessary, but the ones we’ve deemed unworthy are guideposts to our healing.
Instead of trusting that it’s safe to feel what’s arising within us, we spend our energy hiding from our emotions. Some of us use drugs (prescription or illegal), some television, others sex, dating, and even talking. We’re a skilled species at avoiding pain.
Somewhere in my twenties, I learned how to repress my emotions. It wasn’t until I was 27, watching my mother carry her mother’s casket down a church aisle, that I realized I was numb. My brothers, guys who I haven’t seen cry since they scrapped their knees, each wiped away tears.
I felt nothing.
After years of feeling “too much” it stunned me, “How could I not be feeling anything about this?”
It was time for me to face my pain, and so the Universe began to show me the way. I found Breathwork and discovered this safe container in which to pull out the dark emotions I’d been hiding from.
In the past four years since I’ve been Breathing, I’ve released a lot of pain I had been carrying around with me. The emotions that overwhelmed me enough to mutilate my own body, suddenly became something I could bear.
Through facing the terror of my own pain, I learned that it’s safe for me to feel my feelings.
It wasn’t comfortable. It wasn’t pleasant. But with each feeling I allowed myself to feel, I could trace it to a belief that was untrue and give it permission to release.
The emotions that we feel shame around, the ones our society has deemed unacceptable, are the ones that are going to teach us the most about ourselves.
The feelings we shame and hide away are still a part of us. They become a driving force in our decisions to harm ourselves, to keep us small, and to hold us back from intimacy. The more we avoid facing them the more control they have over us.
Each time we choose to turn from our feelings, we are turning our backs on the truth they are pointing to. If we want to transform our lives we have to be willing to collect the truth, brave our feelings, and learn to love every aspect of ourselves along the way.