We learned everything as we grew and developed. How to walk, talk, tie our shoes, ride a bike, read a book … you name it. We watched the people around us and learned from what we saw and what we were told, which was then reinforced by our environment and our interaction with it.
Feelings and their expression were part of this learning too.
I’m wondering if you’ve ever considered what you learned about emotions in your growing up. What they are, how to feel them, if they were okay to have and express. And if so, have you thought about how all of that has impacted you in your life today? What did you see around you growing up? How did that affect what you understood feelings to be?
In my growing up, there were only certain feelings that were okay to have and express, like happiness and gratitude and exhaustion from hard work (which was only allowed part of the time!). Other feelings were off limits, like disappointment, anger, frustration, judgement – you couldn’t feel them personally or create them in other people.
Important side note: my thinking was very skewed about emotions for a very long time. I want to make sure to be clear … we are each responsible for our own feelings. No one is responsible for me, and I am not responsible for anyone else. This applies to you too (and we can discuss if that doesn’t make sense or you disagree – feel free to comment).
I learned to work hard to avoid certain feelings, to try to create specific ones in others, and to just ditch the rest.
When I went to college and started to live more independently, I got to know new people and have different experiences. I began to see that everyone has a different relationship with emotion. Some were very intense and expressive (which honestly scared me; feelings were BAD! WRONG!), some were deeply sensitive and took time to gently come to a place of sharing. Others were just straightforward and analytical.
It amazed me. All of it.
I was a people pleaser, remember? I knew how to read other people’s feelings, predict them, and pre-empt them for peace and harmony. But my own feelings? I hadn’t paid attention to those!
As I began to realize this, I started to feel a lot, all the time. I think it was because I hadn’t done that in so long, and my emotions were all piling up in that time. I was in a perpetual feeling state. Couldn’t think straight. Couldn’t concentrate. Couldn’t eat or sleep. It was exhausting.
I realized that just having feelings wasn’t the end goal. What I really needed was to learn what my feelings were, and what they were trying to tell me. I also needed to value and accept them. And then, I needed to decide how, if, and when to express them to others.
That, my friends, was a LOT of work, and took a long time to learn.
Where are you on all of this? Do you:
- know your feelings?
- what they are trying to tell you?
- value their information?
- accept it for its truth?
- know if, when, and how to express them?
I invite you to sit with these questions and to consider if you’re where you want to be on this issue. How do your feelings have a place in your life, in your relationships, in your Self? What would change if they were more known, valued, and expressed? What do you stand to gain, and what do you fear you may lose?
No judgement required here, just curiosity. It’s all valid. It’s all allowed. It’s all changeable too.