I hope this doesn’t get too messy – because I’m planning to talk about feelings. I know it’s easier not to but I want to remind us that the recipe for day to day living is made up of the following ingredients – feeling, thinking and doing. The quantities of each will vary depending on the particular day, however too much dominance of one over the rest will eventually result in a very flat cake.
When I meet with clients I sometimes draw a pie-chart which looks like this:
Then I’ll ask them where they mostly find themselves right now.
I might ask them to redraw the diagram to reflect their life and we might get something like these:
Feelings are drowned out with huge amounts of doing or thinking and this gives us a clue as to how we can start to reacquaint ourselves with our feelings.
Keep a check on your ‘thinking : feeling : doing’ ratios and recalibrate if necessary
Sometimes we ignore feelings and emotions because they seem too frightening or too painful; sometimes we are not even aware of their existence. We get busy doing things or we stew over a situation constantly trying to rationalise it and solve the problem. But when we do this we deny emotion the expression it so greatly needs. It gets stuck inside and causes us discomfort one way or another.
As Rumi says these are old friends who we have met before at some point in our lives. However, we have learnt from our experiences and from others how to ‘deal with’ these emotions and we have formed judgements about what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’. We crave the ‘good’ and avoid the ‘bad’ at all costs.
There is no such thing as good or bad emotions – all emotions are there to give us a message, to tell us something important about who we are, what is important to us and how to live our best lives.
To hear this message emotion needs to flow, it needs movement and to be given life so that it can make way for the next emotion and the next, and the next. When we continually stamp a particular emotion down it quietly builds up enough energy to erupt all over the place in ways that can be horrifying to us. Far better to listen and start the conversation before anyone has to shout.
Having an emotion is not the problem, it is what we choose to do with that emotion that can cause difficulties
As Karla McLaren says in The Language of Emotions, we need to find the middle path between repression and improper expression.
Two stepping stones to working with your emotions – Time and Words
Sometimes we need help from professionals with this, but I think there are a couple of stepping stones that can help us – the first is time and the second is words.
Maybe it’s time to slow down the doing or reduce the thinking and make time to reacquaint yourself with your feelings and emotions
Three steps to open up some space and tune into what you are feeling as you get on with life
1. Use your senses to focus outside of yourself on what you are doing
2. Notice and become aware of how what you are feeling (inside of yourself)
3. Then see if you can name the emotion you are experiencing
When we can find the words for what we are feeling, we can then start to ask ourselves what emotion lies behind these feelings – joy, anger, sadness, fear, excitement and so on. Knowing that all of these are OK, we can begin an enquiry into what this is really about. We can start to figure out how to transform something difficult into an understanding that we can work with, one that gives us vital energy and motivates us towards our goals and dreams.
I recently heard Cathy Rentzenbrink speak at a book festival about her book ‘A Manual for Heartache’.
A gently written, honest account of the process of heartache, combined with stories, ideas and information to help us move with our emotions and to reconnect with a sense of hope, creativity and caring (for ourselves and others).
She defines Heartache as emotional pain or distress, sorrow, grief and anguish and she goes on to say:
“Once we accept that heartache is part of being human, we can acknowledge our pain, feel our feelings and stop running away. Then we can look for ways to be of service, enjoy the currents in the cake and think, What a thing it is to be alive in this beautiful world.”
Cathy Rentzenbrink in A Manual for Heartache