The only way out is through.
It’s not an easy feat to experience an uncomfortable emotion. This is why we’ve found many ways to avoid them, to name a few: procrastinating, judging others, distracting, numbing, acting out, and intellectualizing. Unfortunately, avoiding feelings doesn’t make them go away, it can actually keep them around for longer. It also takes more energy to continually push feelings away than it does to feel them.
Let’s take a moment to define what feelings are:
According to Dr. Nicole LePera (a holistic psychologist whose Instagram I’d recommend scrolling through), “Feelings are evolutionarily designed to help us identify what’s most important to safely navigate our current environment.” They are physiological, so they happen within the physical body, and they’re meant to give us an interpretation of our current situation. So how do we feel them?
Put simply, we allow the sensation to be there. Even if it’s painful, even if it’s scary... because feelings themselves can’t cause you harm.
Here are some tips on how to allow the feeling:
Be present with your body and notice the sensations. What emotion are you feeling? What does it feel like? Where do you feel it in your body? Describe your experience as much as you can from a place of curiosity, not judgment. You may feel the urge to speed through this part. Don’t stay with it.
Allow some kind of physical release. This could be a good cry or scream (or both!), a tense and release exercise, yoga, a run, shaking it out, etc. Find something that allows the energy to move through your body.
Be compassionate with yourself. Many of us have learned to suppress or shame ourselves when we’re experiencing intense emotion, so be aware of any self-criticism. Again, be curious about what comes up, and avoid labeling any aspect of your experience as good or bad.
Tip: Try visualizing yourself hugging your younger self or imagine that your older self is comforting you now. This can help you to self-nurture.
The process of feeling your feelings is not about ruminating on them. It’s about honoring how you feel without trying to change it. It’s about saying, “This is what I’m experiencing right now, so I will let myself experience it”. By allowing these sensations, you pave the path to move through them.
Remember: To feel is to heal!