I speak to people everyday about the importance of emotions and feelings in our daily life. Most of them are completely numbed and all they can do is nod their head while reading my words or simply sigh when I’m finished speaking. They’re knee deep in symptoms of mental illness; depression or an anxiety disorder, or both. They have poor eating habits, never relax and never exercise. Most of them hate their jobs, are struggling to make ends meet and have a distant marriage relationship. Over half are victims of some type of abuse, trauma or disaster. Most are sleep deprived.
Almost 85% of these people are baby boomers. Most were parented the same way I was; “If you don’t stop crying I will give you a reason to cry.” “Stop being angry, sad, miserable, depressed, disappointed or whatever emotion or feeling you’re experiencing – because everything’s fine.” And when you just didn’t pull yourself together quick enough, you were ordered to pull down your pants for a bare butt spanking over your father’s knee.
As a child I spent many hours entertaining myself outside or in my bedroom. We weren’t allowed to watch television but for an hour after dinner and my chores and homework were done. Children were to be seen and not heard. We sat down for dinner together and if you didn’t clear your plate you had to sit there alone until it was gone. We ate together but no one dared to say a word because it wasn’t worth aggravating the parents.
In my house, on the kitchen wall, right next to the kitchen table was a small wooden plaque. It had a doghouse on the right hand side of it with a hook inside the doghouse. On the left hand side were five hooks lined up next to each other. Each hook had a light brown cocker spaniel dog hanging on it. Each of the dogs had a name of a family member on it. When my mother or father got mad at us, they would take our dog off its hook and place it on the hook in the doghouse. This is how we knew we were in trouble.
We didn’t even have the advantage of voice intensity or inflection.
I think that people believe that since they never had to think about processing emotions and feelings before that it’s a moot issue now. Having emotions and feelings was considered “bad behavior” as a child. Expressing your likes or dislikes wasn’t a choice. I didn’t know that people had choices until I was in my late 20’s when I’d already made all the wrong choices.
Another consideration for the baby boomers was that if someone in your family died, you’d be excluded from the visiting hours and the funeral because it was no place for a child to be. I was the oldest of my generation and I felt personally violated when my parents wouldn’t let me attend my great grandfather’s funeral when I was in the 4th grade. I was told to stay with the cousins and they would save me some finger sandwiches.
If you think back to all the experiences that really stuck out boldly in your lifetime, can you remember how you felt or what emotions were brought forth in response to the experiences? Do you remember being continually humiliated by adults when you were a child? Did food fix everything for you? Can you remember getting hurt badly, but were afraid to tell your parents because they would see you crying and you’d get in trouble?
Do you remember wanting to be held and rocked and soothed as a child, but you had to be outside because children that had nothing to do had to go outside or get more chores to do inside?
All the emotions and feelings you’ve experienced since the day you were born didn’t magically disappear into thin air. They’ve been housed inside you, deep inside you. There are layers and layers of unresolved emotions and feelings inside of you that want to get out. They want their due time to be processed. They want you to feel them, sit with them a while and finally be recognized.
Bringing back old memories is a full time project. When you are experiencing a personal growth journey or recovery journey it’s essential to go back as far as you can remember with an empty notebook and a pencil to record as much of your history as you can remember. Just like a resume you can start a time line and then once you’ve got it straight in your mind and on the computer, you can write it in your journal leaving lots of space to work on emotions and feelings that need to be pulled out from within.
This is slow and honest work. There’s no fooling yourself. The first promise you must make to yourself is that you will be honest, true to yourself and take all the time you need for the exercise. If you’re already in counseling, it’s a great time to discuss the feelings and emotions you are beginning to recognize.
After you remember the experience, i.e., my great grandfather’s death; I ask myself what I feel about it. Can I remember how I felt? How do I feel about it now? Sitting alone and in quiet where no one can disturb this very delicate process is important. Don’t frustrate yourself by trying to do this exercise while your kids or husband or other responsibilities need your attention.
Sit and think about it. Do some relaxation breathing. Close your eyes. The next step is to identify what you were feeling or what you are feeling in the present moment. What emotion or feeling is it? Do you know? Once you think you do know, write it in your journal with the corresponding experience. Then just sit with it. Let the feeling surround you, flow through you, breathe it in and exhale it out. Let it dance – celebrating its release from within you. You may want to keep this emotion or feeling with you for a while and that’s okay!
When you’ve thought about it, felt it and feel done with it; just let it go. That’s processing and resolving an emotion or feeling. While you’re working with the emotions and feelings, you can take notes in your journal. This is what I did. I researched articles about that emotion or feeling and similar situations that caused me to feel that emotion. As I learned more about the emotion or feeling, I kept notes on them all. Sometimes a certain emotion or feeling would trigger another emotion or feeling. I noted this as well.
Oh! This will take you forever to complete! I can see your faces now! Woe is me, I’ll just forget about it! Well, that is your choice. You can continue to be miserable if you want to. If you want to discover who you really are and grow as a person, recover from whatever is hurting you… you’ll do it. You’ll not only do it, you’ll love doing it. You’ll be happy to do it. You’ll get happier with each emotion and feeling you resolve. You’ll feel lighter and you’ll remember more things that you’ve forgotten.
Think about this very carefully before you dismiss it. Visit my network of sites and re-consider taking a personal growth journey starting with resolving those emotions and feelings that are stuck inside of you causing you pain.
Kathleen Howe has been working with those searching on the Internet and in the community for help in recovering from life dysfunctions, mental health issues, eating disorders, emotion & feeling work and past abuse resolution. She has developed a network of 28+ websites: the emotional feelings network of sites for those interested in a self help journey in personal growth and recovery.
Visit the home site for the network: http://emotionalfeelings.tripod.com/emotional_feelings/index.html