It’s been a while since I had a good rant. This one feels appropriate for the current times.
Ah feelings. They’re a bitch right? One minute you’re minding your own business; coping, maybe even thriving and then BOOM! something hits you right in the feels. You react, your loved ones ask if you’re OK, are you OK? You don’t feel OK but what is this feeling, why are you getting all feely? What do you do with it? Where do you put it?
Growing up, society and our role models were meant give us the emotional tools we needed to get through this human experience. Thinking back, there was a lot of shame around having emotions and expressing them. Being told I was a drama queen simply for being upset or ‘mental’ for being outraged (and rightly so).
Male friends tell me how they were told not to cry. It was ‘weak’. Also, they weren’t allowed or given space to express anger (particularly the tall ones) because it was received as aggressive. No wonder its taken us so long to learn that our feelings are valid and we have a right to express them.
I’ve said it before: vulnerability is strength! It takes bravery to be vulnerable. If we could feel safe in expressing that and enable others to do so; I believe we could move past this repressed, unhealthy system of bottling up emotions only to have them leak or burst out in healthy ways.
With the stress of lockdown, many of us are feeling intense emotions. There’s fear about our financial futures, stress of conforming to social distancing, disappointment at how situations have been handled, loneliness and distance from our loved ones, grief for cancelled plans, irritations from being trapped with the same people everyday, boredom, health worries, frustrations with inadequate technology, increased pressure to be productive (don’t get me started on that one!) political stress, horror, shock the list goes on…
As an empath and all round highly sensitive person, I struggled before all this began. There are times when I am literally unable to function under the weight of my emotions. I used to feel melodramatic when this happened; mostly because of the hurtful comments from others. Saying things like “it’s not that bad” and “you’re over reacting” is not helpful but also, shaming someone just for having feelings because you don’t understand is cruel and I will make no space for you in my life (so there).
I used to say “I don’t have a choice” which is partially true: Feelings are messages from your spirit and body that something is wrong and you need address it. One cannot choose when emotions will arise, only how they react to them. If you would rather bottle up and hide your emotions or worse, shame a person for expressing their’s in whatever way they are capable of; you can take that repressed bullshit far away from me (waaaaaaaaaaay over there, further, there you go)
I’m not saying everyone needs to be as openly emotional as I am (honestly, I feel like an alien sometimes). It’s a very personal thing how we react to emotion, it depends on upbringing, trauma, relationships, self esteem, environment and many other factors. Each situation and the emotional reaction is different person to person and situation to situation. There is no write or wrong way to feel.
If you don’t understand why a person feels something and it makes you uncomfortable, fair. You can either be understanding and try to listen or Shut up and ship out. A good example of this is when a friend is about to cry: it’s natural to want say “oh please don’t cry” because it makes us uncomfortable (or if like me, you will cry too) is that fair on your dear, hurt friend? It says ‘please refrain from expressing your emotion for my benefit’. See how dickish that sounds now?
So, what do I mean ‘to honour’ our emotions? Surely that’s just feeling a feeling…
Well No. Feelings happen when something needs addressing. To honour a feeling is to allow yourself to feel it and take steps to understand the message and make necessary change.
First you need to accept that you feel that way. A good place to start is to name the emotion. Not just sad or upset but guilty, embarrassed, grieving, betrayed, disappointed, overwhelmed etc. Identify what the feeling is and name it. This will help you understand why you feel that way. Then own it. It’s yours, say it out loud without excuses or apologies. I promise putting your finger on it does help, it takes work but it gets easier. It’s fair to say you don’t know what the feeling is if you really don’t know, ask for time and space to work it out.
The next step is understanding what triggered this emotion. Sometimes this is obvious. However, if you’re like me, it may be an old wound that has opened. Old trauma that hasn’t been fully processed or a similar situation that brings up old reactions. For example:
If I don’t feel safe I close up and become distant. This comes from old trauma and an abusive past. If I feel someone is a threat to my safety for whatever reason (usually shouting, violence and reactivity) my fight or flight response is triggered and I retreat. This seems reasonable yes? Sometimes, due to a variety of factors I become triggered when it’s unnecessary. I find it helps to vocalise this. Something like: “I appreciate its not a threat but I’m feeling anxious here, it’s not your fault/ not really a threat but I’m struggling because of old trauma”
Once you have identified what you are feeling and why, it’s then time to ask what the feeling is asking you to do. Perhaps it’s putting firmer boundaries in place. Perhaps it’s ensuring your feelings are heard and validated or even removing yourself from a toxic situation or person.
The last part and this is the important part. Decide what you want to do (don’t just react). You have listened to your feelings. You probably feel inclined to react or behave in a certain way. Give yourself time and ask if this is an old response, what responses do you feel comfortable with? Will it make a situation worse or better for you? As someone who struggled with reactivity, this last part is a big one for me. It takes me a long time to go through it all before I come to a solution I am comfortable with. But it stops me from reacting purely from an emotional space and allows me to apply logic. This requires patience from others. I hope if someone were to ask you for time and space to understand and honour their emotions you would give it to them (as ever, don’t be a dick).
Intense feelings are important messengers. Listening to and honouring them leads to growth, changed behaviour and healthier coping mechanisms.
So, to sum up: step one, identify the feeling. Step two, identify why you are feeling this way. Step three, ask yourself what the feeling is pushing you to do. Step four, ask yourself if that is what you want to do; is it healthy? Is it necessary? What could you do to feel better. Seems simple enough but it actually takes practice and patience with yourself and others.
Be gentle with yourselves my Witchy Darlings. It’s strange times for all of us.
Rant over. Peace out.
Love Kate xxx