Facing Our Feelings: Tough But Liberating

In this blog (and in my book), I devote considerable space to writing about mental/emotional and spiritual wellbeing. There’s a reason for that. Inner peace is the foundational building block of world peace. It also affects ecosystem health: Mental suffering creates inner conflict and interpersonal conflicts, all of which consume huge amounts of resources as well as causing great pain in the world.

One of the keystones of inner wellbeing is the willingness and ability to face our own feelings and be present with those feelings. We might choose to talk about them with another person or we might not — depends on the circumstances — but at the very least we have to be willing to face them in ourselves.

Here are some good links I’ve stumbled on over the past week. Hope you find them helpful!

“Dealing with powerful emotions can be challenging, especially when we are going through chaotic, sad, or cruel experiences in our lives. Often, it can seem like we have only two options for dealing with our feelings so they don’t become too overwhelming. We may let our feelings out in an immediate and visceral way, or we may bottle them up by suppressing our emotions inside our bodies. Most people make the second choice, repressing their feelings in an attempt to deny them. The truth is that there are many positive ways to deal with emotions, and experiencing your negative feelings doesn’t have to constitute a negative experience. Denying your feelings is not only unhealthy for the mind and the body, but it may also rob you of valuable information you could be learning about yourself and your life. Suppressing your emotions can even impede your short-term memory. Acknowledging your feelings can help you better understand them and help you recover naturally from change, stress, and grief.” (From “Denying Your Feelings,” by Madisyn Taylor, DailyOM.com)

“As many of us have found out, silence can be violence when it is used in an effort to wound. It is one of the most potent ways to cause deep suffering. And its very effective, particularly when utilized on highly relational beings. Because highly relational beings are built for dialogue. They are ready, willing and able to process the material that comes up between them and those they are connected with. They don’t know any other way. When they are denied that opportunity, they suffer. Because all those unsaid words and unprocessed feelings congeal inside, risking their physical well-being. If you are someone who is still carrying the remnants of unresolved material that was denied expression by silent treatment, do your best to move that material through you. If you can’t do it with the silencing aggressor, do it with a therapist, or with another friend. Don’t allow someone else’s silence to imprison you in a museum of old pain. Express it fully, move it on through. It’s not yours for the keeping…” (From Soulshaping book by Jeff Brown, Soulshaping Institute)

“Befriending Confusion,” a reading from Soulshaping by Jeff Brown. In my personal experience, being willing to simply be present with an unknown, rather than instantly try to “fix it,” “figure it out,” is an incredibly powerful tool for navigating reality and for enjoying life in a deep constant way. I like how Brown talks about shifting from a survivalist way of spending your life to a more authentic one; witnessing what’s true in yourself. The path of disengaging from what he calls our “survivalist culture” (that pooh-poohs inner work as an indulgence), is an uncomfortable path but essential to discovering the bones of who we truly are, and leading our most authentic lives. Great stuff and so relevant to the permaculture concept of “right livelihood.”

(Important note on “silence”: Sometimes it’s appropriate to refuse to talk about an issue with someone (or talk about it at all). That falls under the heading of setting healthy boundaries. The “silence” Jeff Brown refers to above, is silence used as a weapon. Silence as attack, oppression, suppression, gaslighting. If you’ve experienced the latter, you can feel the difference.)