I grew up in a family where there was rampant judgement about feelings. My family wasn’t alone. It was a part of a culture that encouraged a separation of your thinking self from your feeling self. Life decisions were to be made only from the thinking self. Logic was supreme! Feelings were viewed as irrational. My dad gave me an IBM desk plaque with THINK emboldened on the front to instill the belief.
Although I still have that desk plaque packed away somewhere, I no longer carry the belief that thinking is more valuable than feeling. As much as I tried to separate the two and to operate only from my thinking self, my feeling self was still there, whispering, “Listen! This is important!” Releasing the belief also included releasing my judgement about feelings. That liberates the heart and head to work together, and they are a powerful team. I love what my friend and colleague, Dan Sivils, said about feeling and thinking. He said that he has found that incorporating his heart has made him even smarter!
Along with the judgement about feelings, there was also a cultural message that expressing your feelings released them. Remember “therapy bats,” which people used to express their pent up anger? Swinging the bats or hitting a pillow didn’t resolve the issue or even extinguish the inner feelings. It actually fueled them!
There is a difference between feeling feelings and expressing feelings, as Pam Dunn explains so clearly in her book, It’s Time to Look Inside: To See Yourself and Everyone through the Lens of Magnificence. The most important concept is that “feelings are meant to be felt, not necessarily expressed.” It isn’t the expression of your feelings that assists you in working through what is going on. It is the feeling of your feelings. The expression of feelings before they are fully felt can get you in trouble in relationships. That is especially true of expressing the feeling of mad. Have you ever experienced the results of reacting from anger? They have never been good for me!
Pam also wrote, “The way you feel shows you who you truly are – the way you act shows others who you are.” Your feelings are for you!
Pam suggests, “You must stop being cautious and careful in your life in an effort to avoid certain experiences that may have you feeling something you don’t like. Get comfortable with feeling feelings, and discover how they strengthen you.” This means all of your feelings, because there are no “good” or “bad” feelings, and there are no “positive” or “negative” feelings. Feelings just are. That involves letting go of judgement and saying “yes” to sometimes feeling uncomfortable. It is an embracing and acceptance of all of you.
The benefits of opening your heart and feeling your feelings are many. Your relationships will be enhanced. You will love yourself and others more. You will understand yourself more deeply and gain solid confidence. Your life will feel enriched. You will live whole heartedly!
I invite you to watch this video that my husband, Bill, and I did recently as facilitators for Your Infinite Life Training & Coaching Company on The Difference Between Feeling Your Feelings and Expressing Your Feelings. Enjoy!