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Weekly Wellness Word: Feel

Monthly Theme: FEELING This week’s word is Feel

A few years ago a children's movie was released that is still referenced today, even by adults, as an excellent illustration of the tension of our emotions. Inside Out showed the conflict of joy with sadness, anger and fear in the life of a girl named Riley. Her life is turned upside down when her family moves across the country and everything changes. By the end of the movie, the emotions had learned that they could operate the controls of Riley's emotional responses simultaneously, side by side, and that mixed emotions can bring a deeper level of life experience than when they tried to suppress some emotions in preference of others. The islands of personality, life meaning and values began to collapse when the emotions were at war with each other and they were rebuilt when the emotions learn how to collaborate and give each other the right of expression.

The hard reality is that most of us feel like most of our life is outside of our control. We do not perceive ourselves as the ones who hold the authority to change our circumstances, but are the victims of the decisions of others, like Riley being forced to move cross country against her will. This feeling of helplessness stirs up emotions that we don't like or perceive to be negative. At times we may try to hold them back, suppress them, and when we let them out it may cause us to feel guilty, ungrateful, or a downer to those around us.

There is a different way, however. The path of living Inside Out. Even in the midst of circumstances that seem difficult, we can choose to let ourselves be fully alive emotionally. We can choose to be honest, open and real in our response to those circumstances. We can make the decision to step out from behind the mask that we hide behind and let our true self be seen. Is it risky? Possibly. Will others accept us if we give expression to that which we are experiencing? Maybe. There are no guarantees in anything, particularly when it comes to the tenuous and fragile world of emotions.

As you experience the week, try to notice how you express your emotions outwardly in comparison to how you experience them inwardly. Are you in the habit of grabbing the controls away from emotions like sadness, anger and fear when they step forward? Pay attention to the contexts in which you hide behind a mask that says everything is okay when it really isn't. Consider how you might show up more fully, allowing yourself to experience all of your emotions as they twist and twine together in any given moment. Experiment with ways to express them rather than hide them. Be brave and put your true self out there for others to see just a little bit more. You might be surprised by the results. You might even find a fresh sense of lightness and freedom in your life.

Quote of the Week

"From our earliest years most of us have been trained that some emotions were ‘good’ while others were ‘bad.’ It was OK to feel happy. That meant that our needs were being met, and made Mommy and Daddy feel good too. But sadness, fear, and anger made people uncomfortable, so they told us, ‘It's not nice to be angry,’ or ‘Don't be sad,’ or ‘It won't hurt; there is no reason to be afraid.’ At school we often saw smiling, passive behavior rewarded, and high emotion punished. It didn't take us long to learn that some feelings were approved of and should be sought after, and others were disapproved of, and should be avoided or denied. The ‘bad’ feelings continued, however, and now had fewer and fewer acceptable ways to be expressed.

To help in coping with this confusion, many people have dulled their awareness to emotions in general, accepted the idea that feelings are bad, developed indirect ways of handling them, and lost trust in their own experience. Then they wonder why their lives aren't richer and more satisfying!

Emotions are not good or bad, they simply are. How a person chooses to act in the presence of these feelings may be subject to praise or censure, but the important thing to remember is that the emotions themselves are amoral. It is the judgments we learn to connect with feelings--this one is good, this one is bad--that lead to the problem. It is running away from them, or holding them inside that can make us sick.

Children in all cultures evidence at least four basic emotions. These are anger, grief, fear, and joy. These basic emotions blend into the whole spectrum of human feelings. Emotions may be considered separately, but it is important to understand that they are each only part of the whole. The fully alive human being is capable of feeling all the emotions. Increasing our aliveness, our wellness, means becoming aware of our feelings, accepting them as OK, and developing healthy ways of expressing them. Life would be awfully boring without the creative tension of sadness and joy that any moment might hold."

- Wellness Workbook by John W. Travis, MD, & Regina Sara Ryan

Next Step

Emotional Awareness and Expectation Trackdown

"Often our emotions are a result of some unfulfilled expectation (in the form of an internal or external desire or demand). Asking yourself the next few questions may help clarify the connection between feeling states and expectations. Using these questions several times in the course of a day, or whenever you're feeling unhappy, may increase your emotional awareness quotient.

1. What am I feeling?

Am I mad/sad/scared?

What is happening in my body?

How, if at all, is this feeling affecting my thinking now?

How, if at all, is this feeling affecting my overall mood right now?

2. When did this feeling start?

What was happening at the time or what occasioned it?

3. Was there a desire/demand I had that was unmet, thus giving rise to this feeling?

What expectation was unfulfilled? (For example: I expected / demanded that Frank would shower me with compliments for my cooking, and I felt angry when he didn't. Or, I secretly hoped for a problem-free workday; when frustrations arose, I became depressed, thinking there was something wrong with me.)

4. How realistic is/was this expectation?

5. Are you able or willing to relax this expectation/demand/desire, even a little?

What happens when you ease up a bit on the expectation, allowing things to be as they are?

Congratulations! Investigating these questions may lead you into some challenging or even uncomfortable places - but taking the risk is generally worth it."

- Wellness Workbook, John W. Travis, MD, & Regina Sara Ryan

Further Information

Many people experience difficulty identifying the emotions they are experiencing. If this sounds like you, check out the link below for a deeper dive on sensations and location in the body that we tend to feel the effects of specific emotions.

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