Thursday, January 6, 2011

Emotions



I have been dawdling in my reading lately. But one book that I like to read right before bed is Gill Edward's  Stepping Into the Magic. This book is so incredibly positive, it's the perfect thing to read right before going to sleep. One issue that she covers is emotions and the importance of allowing ourselves to feel whatever emotion that comes up. And while I've advocated learning to shut off the monkey chatter in our minds and learn to control our thinking - that doesn't mean shutting down our emotions. In fact, it can be very unhealthy not to allow ourselves to feel whatever it is that needs to be felt. We know that anger that is suppressed, for example, turns to depression and/or anxiety. From the book:

"First and foremost, most of us learn to suppress, deny and distort our emotions. Our emotions are the Basic Self's way of creating inner balance and harmony in response to everyday life. Sadness is a natural response to hurt, loss and grief. Anger is a healthy response to injustice, or lack of respect. Fear is a natural response to threat and danger. Emotions only become 'gremlins' when they are suppressed."

She goes on to say:

"Unfortunately, most of us learn at an early age that our emotions have to be hidden away. It isn't 'nice' to be angry. It is childish to cry. It is cowardly to feel afraid. It is a nuisance if we are joyful and exuberant. 'Be good!' is the constant cry. So we slowly learn to 'be good', rather than to be ourselves - because we want to be loved.

This really made an impact on me because much of what we read suggests that to be 'Zen' we need to not let things bother us. But she's absolutely right - we are human and our emotions are powerful tools when we express them in their proper context. When we are angry - we should feel it! That's how we create change, both personally and on a macro level. I, for one, feel great anger when I think of what has happened in Iraq - never again will I allow our nation to enter into another devastating war without personally marching on Washington. In this case my anger is not only justified, but needs to be expressed to my political leaders, which I do with letters and phone calls. 

When we are sad, we should cry and feel our pain. I remember letting my small daughters pitch fits, all the while reminding myself that no matter how annoying, they had a right to their emotions.  I even envied them the ability to just throw themselves down, screaming and kicking until they were spent. How wonderful would that feel?

Suppressed emotions can easily turn to depression, illness, addictions, self-pity, and paralysing fear.

So what does she suggest we do about them now? 

Well, since it would make this post too long, I'll post on that next time ... until then, go ahead, give that pillow a punch!

20 comments:

DJan said...

The emotion I have been feeling lately is gratitude, true happiness for the life I have today. Tomorrow I might awake feeling blue, but today all seems right with the world.

I have been having vivid and complicated dreams lately, and in them I have many emotions that don't seem connected to my everyday life. Maybe I AM suppressing something but I have no idea how to get ahold of it.

Natalie said...

Suppression leads to depression alright.
Also, I would like to back up that we all should be aware of not shutting down other's emotions because WE feel uncomfortable. You were wonderful to allow your girls their expression.It's a shame that adults don't often allow other adults the space to express themselves. I'm gonna send you a funny email that is so relevant. ♥

JeannetteLS said...

Perhaps we often get confused between allowing ourselves to feel the emotions and emoting them all over other people's shoes. It's finding the balance, as always, huh. I remember one yoga teacher talking to us about allowing whatever sensations we felt, whatever we heard, whatever thoughts sprouted to simply wash over us like lakeshore waves on the beach. Feel it, allow it to flow over us, and allow it to flow away. It's the allowing it to FLOW AWAY, sometimes, as well as the allowing ourselves to simply acknowledge and experience the emotion. I'll have to check tomorrow to read other comments--your New Year's blogging really is making me think. Marvelous

Nancy said...

DJan - I feel the same way, incredibly grateful for my life and everything in it. But, I, too, am having strange dreams. In one dream I am ambivalent about a friend's death - sort of an 'oh well' attitude, and in another I do something else contrary to my nature. Am I visiting my shadow side in my dreams?

Natalie - Good point - part of growing in wisdom is allowing others to express their emotions. I'm off to read the email ...

Jeannette - Yes, this book talks about that. How to express our emotions without hurting others - very good point!

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Another book for my shelf! Nurturing gratitude on a daily basis is one of my 2011 resolutions.

Butternut Squash said...

I have been wandering through a minefield of other people's emotions today. I think I would have to agree with Jeanette, having the emotion experiencing it and letting it go is one thing, allowing it free rein is completely another. (Today I tried to help solve bullying problems for some other parents, frustration and hurt lead to anger followed by violence resulting in anxiety, and despair.)

Leah J. Utas said...

I agree. We have emotions for a reason. Ignoring them to "be good" is poisonous.

Lily Robinson said...

Feeling our emotions is great as long as we don't let those emotions spiral us out of control. There should be constructive purpose to reflecting on our negative emotions.

I agree with you about the anger... it should propel you to do something positive!

Brian Miller said...

yes, i like this...i agree...we have many emotions and do suppress them...they are not bad as some teach...

GYPSYWOMAN said...

always always embrace your emotions - embrace your passion!!!

Marguerite said...

Sounds like a great book! I have always openly expressed my emotions and would love to read more. Thanks for sharing.

Pat said...

I take after my mother - avoid conflict at all costs. I can fight with my husband, but there is many a time that I hold it in. My twin sister, on the other hand, probably is too much the OTHER way - she is quick to fly off the handle! Too bad we couldn't find a happy medium between the two of us!

Whitney Lee said...

I think sometimes that I have spent so long not expressing my emotions that I'm not sure how to go about it anymore. I don't want my kids to have that confusion as they get older. I am big on letting my daughter feel what she feels and acknowledging those emotions. I envy the lack of restraint in her expression, even though at times it drives me nuts! It sounds like I need to add this book to my list.

Silver said...

It's absolutely true! Living life is allowing ourselves to feel life and live it out..

I love your thoughts!

Smiles,
Silver
Reflections

Hilary said...

It sounds like something which should be added to the must read list. Looking forward to the next post.

susan said...

Excellent subject for a post and you've had some fine comments. I like the idea that it's best to let the emotions flow on and outward without grasping and nurturing them.

The government deserves to know your opinion about cruelty, greed, and war. Anger and rationality are good partners.

Nancy said...

Trish & Rob - I'm not sure, but I think you suggested this book to me...

Butternut - Bullying is such a complex problem - often needing a professional family therapist. Children are often acting out something happening at home when it comes to bullying.

Leah - I agree.

Lily - I'll talk about that next time.

Brian - They are part of being human.

Gypsy - Embrace and sometimes let go.

Marguerite - I ordered one for my daughter, too.

Pat - Yes, a happy medium would be perfect.

Whitney - I remember those feelings when my children were small. Sometimes you feel as though you will explode. Hormones are an issue at your age.

Silver - Thank you and welcome!

Hilary - This is a good one.

Susan - My latest validation for having my Congressman on speed dial is the new bill banning shark finning in the US.

gayle said...

I can't wait for you to post more about this! I think when my mom died when I was 15 I suppressed a lot of emotions and now there is so much I can't remember about that time period and before!

The Good Cook said...

Nancy,
You are absolutely correct in pointing out that we need to feel our emotions. If there is one thing I have learned in my grief work it is that every emotion "counts". It needs to be felt, lived, experienced. Only then can we move on to a healthier plane. Great post!

Linda

Nancy said...

gayle - You and I have the same issue in common, I think. However, it may not manifest in the same way - looking at it from a lifespan perspective a six year old and a fifteen year old are in different places. I would love to know if you see any 'gremlins' in the ensuing posts.

Linda - Absolutely.