We all want to have the ‘good’ feelings – happy, upbeat, and confident. We resist feeling sadness, anger, and other ‘bad’ feelings. And I believe that our natural, clear state of consciousness is peace, bliss, and gratitude – some very ‘good’ feelings. But I encourage you to feel all your feelings as a strategy for being happy. Suppressing feelings is like “trying to be happy” and it just doesn’t work. When we refuse to feel emotions that come up then we are not free in life. And freedom is an important component of happiness so let’s see what arguments the mind might be giving us to persuade us not to feel our emotions:
1. If I let the emotion in, it will hurt
Yep it does. But it also hurts to walk around all day clenching. You don’t avoid hurt by stuffing feelings down; it’s just a different pain.
2. If I let the emotion in, it will grow
We have all experienced letting in a feeling and then it brings in its younger brother and cousin and so on. We can be afraid the line won’t end and there won’t be room for us! That won’t happen. It is true that as you change your approach to feelings from “go away” to “okay, I am listening” there will be a lot more showing up. But you won’t be consumed by it and at any point you can call a time out and come back to it later.
Isn’t that what we are already doing every day of our life? We feel emotions to some extent and then suppress them (i.e., call a timeout), and then later, sometimes in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, we revisit them. We might as well make this process conscious rather than random.
3. If I let the emotion in, I won’t be able to handle it
And where did you get that information? What horrible thing could happen if you allow these feelings in? Tears. Oh my. Ever feel relieved after crying? Me too. Let’s move on.
4. Suppressing emotions is working great!
The ego or “I Know Mind” wants to keep its job so it reminds of us of how well it is protecting us. We may have hired it back in first grade but it is time for an honest performance evaluation. This suppression strategy has its demerits.
When I resist an emotion it takes energy. Sadness, fear, anger and upset are going to come up in life and when I resist them I am resisting “what is.” The effort I expend fighting what is, is energy that I don’t have for living life. Our ability to relax, breathe and be present in the moment is diminished by that part of myself that is holding the lid down so that pesky feeling won’t get out.
Missing out on life is a big price to pay to avoid a feeling. In the next part we will look at how feelings can be our friend. Until then, practice noticing when you resist a feeling and how it feels as you try to show up in the world in a way different from how you are feeling.