This article was written by Caroline Nettle.
Feelings seem to be becoming more fashionable than they were in earlier this century. Those of us who were born in the sixties and seventies still remember for the most part that children were to be seen and not heard. Little girls were not supposed to get angry, and little boys were not supposed to cry.
Today, we see feelings in a completely different light. We live in a society that is beginning to understand that repressed feelings can cause issues of their own and that it is becoming more acceptable to be honest about how we feel.
We also have to unlearn behaviour that we have learned. Approximately 80% of the tears shed by women are said to be in fact anger, as we were told that it was not pretty to be angry. By the same token, a large percentage of the anger expressed by men is said to be in fact fear- it was not manly to be frightened. You therefore have both sexes regularly displaying false emotions because they were taught to conform to society’s expectations of what is acceptable behaviour for a man and a woman.
As we really start to delve into how we feel, it is important to understand where our feelings come from. According to Pia Mellody (a specialist and author in the fields of addictions and co-dependency), carrying our own feelings is fairly comfortable. Carrying someone else’s feelings can be overwhelming:
My own anger gives me a sense of energy, motivation, and strength. If I am carrying someone else’s anger, I feel helpless, and rageful.
My own fear makes me alert and creative. If I am carrying someone else’s fear, I am immobilized, panicked or paranoid.
My own pain allows me to grow, and to solve problems. If I am carrying someone else’s pain, I feel overwhelmed, depressed, hopeless, and perhaps suicidal.
My own shame makes me aware of my fallibility, gives me humility and accountability. If I am carrying someone else’s shame, I feel less than, inadequate, worthless and stupid.*
Whenever there are strong feelings of any nature that are not being processed by the adult, the children in the family seem to absorb those feelings and act them out for the adult. Therefore a child who grew up with a really angry parent, often grows up either to be rageful themselves, or the opposite, which is helpless, or both. The same is true of the pain that was not processed healthily by the parent, the children grow up to be overwhelmed, depressed, hopeless and sometimes suicidal. If any of those feelings are ones that you can identify in yourself, then it may be advisable to find a safe way to go back into your history and see where they came from.
Healing from severe anxiety and anger and depression can often start with learning whose feelings you are carrying and giving it back to its rightful owner. There are many excellent treatment centres in the US and Europe which provide a safe haven for exactly this kind of work. It is unadvisable to try to do this kind of work on your own.
For those fortunate enough to be relatively fluent in the language of feelings, life is a lot smoother. Healthy expression of your emotions is not only more honest, but it is also good for your health and well-being to process your emotions as they arise. Many people suffer from illnesses that arise from constant stress to the body due to excessive fear, anger or grief. Or they suffer from the habits that we develop to deal with our excessive feelings- smoking, drinking, drug taking, too much caffeine, too much sugar, compulsive behaviours and so on.
There are many methods available to us which can assist us to manage our emotions more healthily - EFT, energy work, counselling, exercise, good diet, giving up our bad habits, holistic bodywork, hypnosis, learning to laugh, yoga, spiritual growth, and many more. As we slowly learn to own our feelings and to understand our extreme reactions and how to temper them, life improves.
We learn that it is healthy for us to say when we are angry in a calm way, or accept that we are frightened. It is a journey, and each persons’ journey takes as long as it takes. Feelings are such an important part of the make- up of human beings that it seems essential that we learn to express them in a healthy way. This in turn may help our health to improve, and our general sense of well-being would improve as a direct result of that.
So how do you feel about your feelings?
* Source: Pia Mellody