Have you ever felt a certain way, and then had the thought, “I shouldn’t be feeling that”? Maybe you’re angry at your friend for cancelling plans last-minute (yet again) or envious of the confident-looking woman stepping out of the Porsche? Maybe you’re childhood pal is telling you a story about his latest heartbreak and you feel judgmental instead of compassionate. What tends to happen with many of us is this: Instead of looking for the meaning in the feelings, we instead feel guilty for having them or we listen to that inner critic we all know so well who tells us, “See? You must be a bad person for feeling that way. You should be supporting your friend, not judging him…” etc., etc., etc.
Irrational feelings are never irrational — we just THINK them so. Feelings are natural, bodily reactions that arise in us to indicate something going on; to teach us something if we are open to listening! The usual problem I run into with both myself and my clients is that we allow our minds to dominate our natural feelings and push them away. In other words, we don’t like what we are feeling, so we suppress what we are feeling. Unfortunately, suppression is never a technique that works, because the feelings need to be released or they will continue to come up in us again and again. And, again and again, we will become annoyed and frustrated with ourselves until we both acknowledge the (generally yucky) feelings and make an attempt to understand them.
Let’s take the first example of being angry at a friend for cancelling last-minute. What is the anger telling us and how can we allow it expression? First of all, the anger makes sense. Who wants to be cancelled on last-minute all the time? However, when we brush the anger aside, we never address the problem and often-times it comes up in passive- aggressive ways, such as finding yourself making a rude remark to that very friend next time you hang out “for no reason.” Perhaps the real anger you are feeling is merely asking you to set better boundaries with this friend? Telling the person, “I feel unvalued when you break plans with me last-minute. If it happens again, I may need to re-think our friendship. Do you have a sense of why this keeps happening?” Perhaps the anger is saying, “You know, this is truly a deal-breaker for me, and I want out of the friendship.” In other words, the anger is a beautiful sign, trying to get you in touch with YOU! Try listening to it.
In the second example, the envy may indicate to you your own goals that you have not yet achieved. What is it, specifically, that you envy? The way the woman looks? (Perhaps you’ve been meaning to kick up the work-outs but haven’t committed to it yet). The money it takes to buy a Porsche? (Maybe you need to look at ways to manage your money more responsibly? Or, even simpler, perhaps your envy just indicates a desire to treat yourself a bit more lavishly — and let’s be real — an awesome bubble bath with a glass of wine or tea and some nice music is a great way to be lavish on a budget!). So here again, envy and jealousy are not “bad,” they are indicators that get you in touch with your own desires.
In the last example, there are feelings of judgment instead of compassion. Could it be that you have allowed yourself to listen to your friend victimize himself in relationships to the point where it feels like you are being “false” with your friend by not letting him (gently) know what you see happening? Could it be he is triggering your own relationship issues that you dislike acknowledging? Perhaps you are judgmental with him because you are also judgmental with yourself. Is the judgment perhaps asking you to find ways to be kinder and more compassionate? Or is it asking you to share your voice? I encourage my clients to ask themselves what the feeling may be trying to tell them.
Remember, feelings are not good or bad. They just are.
In the feeling, there is Wisdom. We must seek to understand it in order to gain that wisdom; otherwise, we just keep taking those feelings we’d rather not have and like a beach ball being pushed under the water, they pop out again — smacking us in the face. Until we listen. Until we listen. Then, we can move forward.
Katie, CEO Aria Phoenix Life Coaching