Feelings Just Are

By | February 16, 2012

It is commonly believed that feelings are either expressed, which is healthy, or repressed, which is unhealthy. As a child in a family where the expression of feelings was sometimes traumatic, even violent, I couldn’t buy into the belief. It was a matter of survival—I found safety in stuffing my feelings and insulating myself from the moods of others.

Yet I suffered. My introvertedness isolated me from friends and I dreamed of being part of a family where I could feel relaxed and be myself.

Several nights ago I had a dream that told me feelings are always spontaneously expressed. You can’t argue with dream, so I explored the possibility. Is the stereotypical stoic Indian or unflinching martyr showing feeling? Does one person have to perceive another’s feelings in order for them to qualify as being expressed? And what about the often-expressionless wolves in the pack I lived with, or me the hunter masking all intent and feeling when stalking my prey? I couldn’t imagine all of these people destined to lives plagued with ulcers or repression-fueled violent outbursts.

An image came to me of emotional energy being water that flows freely down a stream. A beaver dam impedes the flow and the water pools behind the dam. Lily pads float on its surface, water birds and fish find it a welcome home, and the beaver find it a safe haven by building their lodge out in the middle.
Only if I held on to the belief that water needs to flow in order to be expressive could I see the water behind the dam as stifled. My prey couldn’t read my emotional state, but another hunter could. The same with the stone-faced wolves: when I had an intuitive connection with them, their feelings came through loud and clear. For a few days now, I’ve been experimenting with the awareness that feelings are always spontaneously expressed. Already I notice my increased sensitivity to people’s moods, even though they give me no overt clues. I’m now open to the possibility I have created a monster by believing in stuffed feelings.


2 Comments

Abigail on April 3, 2012 at 9:36 pm.

I have been reading this book called “A Path with Heart” by Jack Kornfield. He explains that emotions that are either suppressed or expressed are unhealthy. Expressed without conscious thought, I should say. I can understand that because I have seen how traumatic the expression of emotions can be, expressed because there is deep fear and because they don’t have strong truthspeak, they don’t know how or when to express their true feelings about things, so they have rageful outbursts at something seemingly insignificant. I also have always been one to suppress my emotions. I am trying to awaken myself up my feelings, but they are hard to reach. Jack explains the buddhist approach, that in order to release all that is negative, it is not about suppressing or reacting, but instead by letting go. Undealt with emotions will stay in the body, as negative energy or even physically, until you allow yourself to fully feel the emotion that was never dealt with. The approach he talks about is just sitting with it, allowing it to arise without reacting, allowing yourself to feel it fully, and then letting it go. For me personally, I think I am still afraid of the darkness inside of me, afraid that I am only a good person out of fear and suppression. I want to release it, but I am afraid of feeling, for example, the suppression of a lifetime (20 years) worth of anger.

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Nan on February 17, 2012 at 3:48 pm.

To me, the monster you created was internal pain. I was taught that repressed feelings are those that one chooses to express inwardly, with fear, where they can cause harm (like eating holes in your bucket). It’s really a matter of how you choose to express, as opposed to whether or not you express.

One of the things my teacher used to say is, “perspective is everything”. You can’t always change your situation, but you can change the way you perceive it. It sounds like you’ve had a shift in perspective that increases your awareness and connection.

As someone who is extraordinarily partial to water analogies, I love your insight that water does not need to flow in order to be expressive. Thank you so much for sharing this.

Nan

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