When a client comes to me complaining of a lack of direction in their life, the first place I look is to find out what they are trying NOT to feel.
I believe the most reliable source of information we have, about our life and the direction of our lives towards our highest good, comes through our bodies – in the form of our feelings. For most of us, and I’m guessing 90% of the population, we have learned to NOT feel our feelings. (or at best to ignore or discount them)
The reason for this is when we were little there were a lot of things happening around us (and to us) that were too painful for us to handle. Our parents usually weren’t much help because they often didn’t know how to deal with their own feelings and sometimes they were actually the cause of our painful feelings. Even the most nurturing parents couldn’t be there for us 100% of the time.
Being human isn’t for babies! These core existential feelings of helplessness, loneliness, separation, loss, heartbreak… and the feelings resulting from not having anyone there to help us make sense of what was happening (and/or to teach us how to manage those painful feelings) are the root cause of us learning to dissociate and/or disconnect from our feelings, often at a very young age. Although this may have been an extremely helpful strategy back then, when this strategy is carried into adulthood it creates a tremendous amount of suffering.
Even in the most well lived life there are times of loss and despair. If we haven’t learned how to turn towards our feelings with tenderness and compassion and allow them to inform us and move through us, each subsequent loss or painful experience just adds to the already toxic mix.
As with my client, Clarissa… in her case, throw in a bad breakup with a beloved partner two years previous, the death of a parent and a chronic illness and you have a well of anguish that would scare off the bravest of souls.
If we can become willing to open ourselves up to learning from our feelings instead of protecting ourselves from the pain of them we can gain access to an incredibly powerful internal navigation system.
I believe our bodies are in direct communication with our higher selves and the wisdom of the universe. They are chock block full of information about what’s going on in the world around us, what’s going on in our relationships with others, and whether or not what we are doing is moving us in the direction of our best life.
A helpful way to think about this is to imagine that our bodies are a giant compass and the needle is our feelings. Our feelings are always trying to point us towards true north (our highest good). If we learn to tune into them we have a very reliable way of making choices about what is best for us. And conversely when we are trying not to feel our (painful) feelings we lose our way.
Here are some of the feelings associated with moving in the direction of our highest good or right life: a feeling of lightness; delight; sense of ease; calmness; peace; relaxed; centered; contentment; invigorated; energy; warmth; spaciousness and harmony.
And, here are some feelings associated with moving away from our highest good: apprehension; fatigue; anxiety; unsettled; listlessness; unease; off balance; heavy; confused; drained, exhausted, contracted and tense.
Lastly, here are some of the most common ways we try to not feel our feelings.
- we numb them out with various addictions like food, alcohol, drugs, TV and sex
- we keep ourselves distracted and busy we don’t have time to feel our feelings
- we stay completely in our heads
- we make other people responsible for how we feel
The bottom line is this… when we try to avoid the big painful feelings we effectively cut ourselves off from ALL of our feelings, including the more subtle ones that would help us make the best choices for our lives; such as who would make the most loving and supportive partner; which job will bring us the greatest fulfillment; which friends have our best interest at heart, etc.
Learning to feel your feelings is scary at first and it’s helpful to have someone to support you while you’re learning but the reward is a life of richness, depth, harmony, peace and Joy!
I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes.
“The best way to evaluate whether we are moving in the direction of greater wellbeing is by listening to our inner messages of comfort or distress. Our highest evolutionary path is the one that generates the least resistance and the greatest joy.” ~ David Simon, M.D.