I’m re-reading Jane Fonda’s memoir My Life So Far. (I read it years ago, & enjoyed it very much indeed. Fonda is one interesting & insightful woman! She has done some very fine work in her life.)
One of the things she talks about is how she spent decades of her life pushing down her feelings. Not really feeling her feelings. She had learned from a master, as she points out. Her Dad, the famous actor, Henry Fonda. Jane’s Mom committed suicide when Jane was 12. A complicated childhood!
So, now I’m musing on how we lie about our feelings. To ourselves, to other people. Lie? Maybe just conceal. Are less than upfront about.
The “messy” ones, particularly. Although as it turns out, when we squash down the tricky ones, we inhibit the “positive” ones as well.
- Abandonment … etc.
Someone I know did a neat thing the other night. She expressed to me her complicated feelings about a tricky emotional matter that most people, I think, would have kept quiet about. Not “owned up to.” Details not important.
Point being: what I’ve learned myself (as a person who spends a fair bit of time in solitude & silence, being reflective & puzzling things out) is that if I am simply honest with myself about what I’m feeling (e.g. admitting that I feel lonely, say, or ashamed about something), the feeling seems to pass pretty quickly, rather than lingering like a bad smell.
Now, I do understand that not all of us are actually able to understand – let alone articulate – these messy emotions. This is precisely because we’ve got so much practice at not allowing ourselves to feel them! (People joke that men recognize only 3 states: hungry, horny or mad. I’ve heard male comedians joke about this. Clearly, there’s an awful lot more to our emotions than that!)
What do I advocate?
Rather than constantly keeping ourselves so goldarn busy we can barely form a coherent thought, or recognize an insight when one is knocking loudly on the door – about ourselves, our relationships, our world (& I do believe this extreme busy-ness is pretty much epidemic in our troubled world)
I recommend that people spend some time quietly (regularly!). Without noise or distraction. (Walking, maybe. Or in meditation, perhaps?)
& learn to spot the emotions as they come up.
Name them for what they are.
“Ah! I’m lonely!”
“Ah! I’m feeling ashamed about …” whatever it may happen to be.
(Several years ago I had a big Aha! moment about something I was ashamed about, & remember being so stunned to realize I’d had this big shame thing going for decades, & had simply not been consciously aware of it. It was a pretty big deal, too. I really needed to dredge that up, so I could have a good look at it in the light of day … as it were.)
Grief is a biggie for many of us, I reckon.
Well … all of us, surely?
What with the stuff going on in our personal lives
& all the craziness going on all around us??
(Slight understatement here, no?)
Your feelings won’t kill you, you know.
If you let them…
They only cling like glue if we insist on denying them – pushing them down & squashing them into a big nasty ball of concrete inside us.
Like everyone, I think, I feel all those “messy” emotional states at different times.
- Despair etc.
I recognize them for what they are. I won’t say I “enjoy” them all, exactly. I just try to do my best not to stay stuck in them.
Well, at least mostly. Admittedly sometimes I wallow a little. Heck, I’m merely human!
p.s. I’ve been kind of mired in a bit of a dark place of late, I’m willing to admit. Some of the antidotes I’m aware of?
- Taking action (e.g. activism, seeing a therapist or counsellor)
- Walking (walking is an almost sure-fire cure for me. It really, really, really is. So much so that I have a whole section where I list walking-related stuff. It’s here!)
- Listening to music (& singing along!)
- Being with people I love/like/admire/care about
- Being friendly to strangers
- Telling the truth
- Getting out of the “concrete jungle” once in a while (i.e., getting out of the city)
- Helping other people in practical ways
- Doing work that feels worthwhile
p.p.s. so, I was away on a camping trip with friends after I drafted this, & talked with them about this & that, & wound up having the thought that there is, I think, so much grief in some of us (many of us?) that it’s really very terrifically sad. & I know too many people with too much anger, too, & under their anger (I strongly suspect) is grief. Likely unacknowledged, & unexpressed. So much grief that I wish there was a magical pin one could take & lightly poke (most of) us, & let the grief whoosh out of us like air coming out of a balloon. You know?? Wouldn’t that be awesome? & heck, it isn’t just grief, either. Toxic sludge piles of shame. & guilt. I would so dearly love to be able to prick those balloons, too. Wouldn’t you?
p.p.p.s. ran across this old posting. Bear Bells (& human nature). Somehow, it seems relevant to this topic too.
p.s. # 4: So. A friend of mine recently posted this on Facebook. I’d heard the quotation before (I’m something of a nut about great quotations! )
& his personal comment with it was this: “Most of the awful stuff that people do is due to a simple inability or unwillingness to FEEL. Let us allow ourselves to feel the sadness so that we can actually see and hear and love one another.”
Amen to that, I say!!!!
Some Possibly Relevant/Useful Things
Acceptance: a (very) moving short video (9 minutes; it’s on Facebook)
Thoughts and Feelings: a graphic
The Wild Edge of Sorrow, by Francis Weller
‘Quote of the day’ with this post:
The Serenity Prayer:
God (or, well, you know, Great Spirit, or …whatever. A word/Being of your choosing) grant me the serenity to
- accept what I cannot change
- courage to change what I can
- and wisdom to know the difference.
Runner-up ‘Quote of the day’: “The cure for states is feelings. As I discovered that day in the shower, unlike states, which tend to congeal, feelings will run their own course in due time. Despite the often expressed male fear that if one were to let oneself cry, one would never stop, tears, in fact, eventually taper off if one lets them. Feelings are not endless, but our numbing attempts to avoid them can last a lifetime.” – Terrence Real in I Don’t Want to Talk About It – Overcoming The Secret Legacy of Male Depression (you do not have to be male to find this book super-insightful!)