Integrating Painful Feelings

What are you doing with your feelings?

Chances are, not enough!

We’re all trained by our culture and family of origin to become “thinking” and “doing” machines and to forget about our feelings as much as possible.

It starts early. As young children, we’re told that we don’t need to feel afraid, that it’s not ok to feel angry, and to pleeeease stop crying when we feel sad. And that’s before we’re even asked how we’re feeling!

It’s like it’s only okay to express happiness. Anything else is either not valid or cumbersome to others.

We learn to reject our painful feelings and, in the process, we reinforce the notion within ourselves and in others that only positive feelings are worth being expressed. If we do allow ourselves to express difficult feelings, we take the risk to see our feelings called invalid or getting “fixed” by others who believe it is their duty to “make us feel better.”

It’s an addiction to pleasure and a complete rejection of pain.

 Painful feelings are useful

There is a reason why we feel emotions and feelings, including painful feelings. When we feel a feeling, we’re getting information about ourselves and the environment. If we don’t use that emotional information, we lose the crucial insight of one of our major intelligence centers and we jeopardize our ability to take good care of ourselves and our capacity for emotional connection with others.

Feelings are indeed energy that needs to be processed wisely, then cleared from our organism. Repressed feelings fester in our bodies until they become extra weight, physical pain and illnesses, and/or linger in our minds to turn into resentment, chronic anxiety and/or depression. Unconscious rejection of painful feelings is also what leads to all kinds of physical and behavioral addictions.

The way we connect

When we are not aware of our feelings and the feelings of others, the first interpersonal skill that becomes compromised is our communication. Authentic and effective communication is more about taking into account and addressing underlying feelings than understanding and eloquently expressing pure facts. Not taking the emotional dimension into account when communicating affects our relationships with our intimate partner, as well as with people to whom we are less close.

Therefore, the most important inner work that we can do for our self-care and relationship care is reclaiming our ability to be present to each of our feelings. It’s about becoming aware in real time of what we are feeling, deepening our understanding of what triggers our feelings, learning how to express our feelings authentically and respectfully, and finally clearing the energy of our feelings out of our organism to make room for fresh, new feeling experiences.

Journaling Questions:

  • How do I relate to my inner world of emotions and feelings?
  • Do I allow myself to feel fully or do I tend to distract myself from feeling?
  • What feelings am I most willing to express? What feelings do I tend to ignore or resist?
  • How do I process my feelings? What could help me become more intentional in processing my feelings?
  • Who can listen to me expressing my feelings without trying to change them?

Ariane is an Integral Coach specializing in relationships. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can read more of her writing about self-care and relationship care on her blog.

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