By Laura Rowe
“Courage,” originally meant to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.
~ Brene Brown
Ever since childhood, I was accused of being “too sensitive.” For years, I bought into that idea. I felt bad about being sensitive. I felt shame about crying at the movies or when a friend was telling me about the bad time they were going through.
These days I am unapologetic when it comes to my sensitivity. I don’t always appreciate its timing. I sometimes find it inconvenient or frustrating, but I have come to value my vulnerability, my empathy, and my compassion. These are what help me be human. It has helped me help others through difficult times.
I have come to believe that emotional honesty is what I am here to teach others.
Life can be hard, it can appear unfair, and it can make you want to adopt cynicism and a hard shell. I understand, I have been there. Here is the truth, when we put on armor to stifle our emotions, we don’t just stifle pain and sadness, we stifle joy and happiness. In fact, did you know that the number one emotion that people stifle is joy? Crazy, right? Why? Because we are so afraid of joy ending and pain and sadness returning. Or we feel unworthy and if we experience some joy, it means that something awful will happen to balance the scales again. So we learn to stuff our emotions, both good and bad. Stuffing our emotions down is, at best, a stop-gap measure, and at its worst, a recipe for a myriad of disease both physical as well as mental; stress, depression, anxiety, heart disease, breast cancer and on and on.
Mapping Your Emotional Landscape
Learning how to feel your feelings after a lifetime of stuffing them down can take time and probably shouldn’t be rushed. However, I have developed a nightly ritual that can help you begin to bring down the walls around your heart so you can truly experience your life. Try this ritual for yourself. Let me know how it goes for you.
- Before bed, each night take a few minutes to review the day.
What stood out? Anything happen that made you mad, happy, nervous? Take a minute and review the emotions that want to be felt.Relive the situation that brought those emotions up. In the privacy of your bedroom, it is safe to feel those feeling and I encourage you to feel them fully. This can feel foreign at first and you may need to have some props to help you. A pillow to punch or scream into, some music, a journal, whatever will help you take the time to feel emotions we aren’t usually comfortable feeling. For many people there is a fear that the emotion will carry us away, it will consume us. I understand the fear, but from my experience, it is just that—a fear. Once the emotion has been released through tears or journaling (or punching a pillow), you will be released from its grip, free to move forward again with a better feeling emotion.
- After this release, stretch your whole body out like a big cat. Point your toes, lengthen your torso, arch your back and reach for the sky. Take three long, slow, deep breaths. In through the nose and out through the mouth. Stand up, reach for the sky and then reach for your toes. Hold for three more breaths. Then roll up slowly until standing upright.
- Finally, before going to sleep, think about how you felt today. Now think about how you want to feel tomorrow. Allow that feeling to fill you up beginning at your toes and traveling all the way up to the crown of your head. Visualize that feeling as a color stream erupting out of the top of your head like a fountain and showering down over you. Slow your breathing, close your eyes and rest.
The ability to feel and then choose our emotions is invaluable for achieving emotional balance. For some people, who feel their emotions very deeply, this can seem impossible.
I promise you, it isn’t impossible.
It just takes some practice and a desire to live a full spectrum life—a life of experiencing the full emotional spectrum. The highs of life really are worth learning how to experience the lows of life. If you are suffering from profound guilt, anger, shame, or other damaging emotions, I encourage to seek out assistance, both in processing those difficult emotions but also is learning how to set proper boundaries in your life and relationships.
Much love to you all, Laura