A client and friend of mine recently asked me how she could manage her feelings better. She was a self identified “flat-lined feeler” until very recently. She’d reached a place in her life some years prior where it seemed easier to close it all down – to not feel anything – and she was trying to recover.
The problem was that once floodgates opened, they open all the way! The tears were on all the time – sappy commercials and tragic news stories led to equal levels of tears, no matter how hard she tried to keep it under wraps.
Nature shows? Forget about it.
Mild confrontation at work? Sobs.
Cute dog at the grocery store? Yep, waterworks.
The taps were on, and there seemed to be no turning them off.
It’s not the first time I’ve heard from a client with this situation. It’s a problem for us all – I just contributed to an Oprah piece on how to manage our emotions, especially sadness. And for many who work with me in various stages of coming back to themselves, it seems like feeling anything means feeling EVERYTHING, and very intensely. And they wonder how they can tamp it down and control it, to get through the day without crying.
And my answer?
Don’t. Feel it.
Let. It. Out.
Humans are emotional creatures. We’re meant to feel and express; it’s part of how we communicate and relate. And we live in a world that triggers a lot of emotion. More than ever before, we’re being bombarded by bad news happening, not just in our little corner of the earth, but all over the world. At the same time, we’re surrounded by a culture that values cool precision and detachment. During most of our waking hours, we’re at work where we’re not supposed to show emotion. Crying is considered a sign of weakness and immaturity – or worse, manipulative.
I’d argue this system and culture of emotional constraint isn’t working very well for us. What’s more, when we repress or ignore our emotions, they don’t just go away. There’s no deep, deep place to shove them where they’re magically transformed into awakening. Instead they transform into anxiety or rage, and sometimes physical pain, illness or other maladies.
It’s such a huge problem, I answered a similar question on Oprah.com about how to deal with feelings of sadness.
Instead of either closing down and behaving like a detached robot, or responding with tears to every conversation, what if we could be with our emotions; feel them fully; and then, move on? What if we could create space for ourselves and others to have emotions without being run by them? What if we could invite our emotions to be information for our growth and evolution?
Wouldn’t that be great??!
Here’s something to try. See if it brings you some peace and balance:
- When something brings you to tears or elicits a strong emotion, tune into it. Close your eyes and connect with what you’re feeling in your body – the actual sensations. Try to keep your attention on it without labeling it, controlling it, or trying to name a cause.
- Allow yourself to feel it fully. Imagine blowing it up even bigger. Then imagine shrinking it down as far as it can go. Continue to enlarge and shrink as many times as you want.
- Notice how you feel now that you’ve tuned in and allowed the sensations. Has it lessened or even disappeared entirely? Has it shifted into something else? If the sensation is just as strong, stick with it a few minutes more – playing with the size, color, shape, and texture of the feeling.
The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed with emotion or tears, I encourage you to try this. After a bit of practice, it should begin to feel easy and quick, and you’ll be able to tap into, feel, and release your emotions much more quickly so you can feel free and get even more in touch with the true you that is doing the HAVING.
This process is so helpful, Peter and I even created a book – Freedom: A Simple Ritual for Letting Go – to help you practice!
I’d love to hear how it goes for you.
So much love,