Permission to FEEL our Feelings

<June 25/09>

We human beings are certainly odd critters in an awful lot of ways, aren’t we?

I’ve written elsewhere, just recently, about the way we learn to “stuff” our feelings (in the essay ‘Telling the Truth or Too Many Elephants in the Room?’), & I’m realizing that even though I kind of understand about this stuffing business – & am maybe on the whole better than lots of people at feeling the feelings I’m experiencing currently, rather than denying them – it appears there may be some old ones from the past that I may not have fully processed.

It was in conversation with a couple of good friends yesterday that a pretty big thing along these lines coughed itself up in me. I think the realization about this has been coming over me for a while now. Maybe it’s like the grief “elephant” when a loved one dies – we process that big elephant a piece at a time; it doesn’t happen all at once, overnight. It’s just too darn big to do it all at once.

And it’s funny that I’m thinking of elephants again – having written so recently another essay about elephants in the room.

This big wound of mine that I appear to be wrestling with currently is rather like an elephant in the room of my life, I suppose. It’s always been there – right at the centre of my life – & I’ve spent an awful lot of my life skirting around it. It’s a pretty big elephant.

I don’t for a moment think I’m alone in all this – that’s why I write about it, hmm?

I’ve been observing for a while now that one of the things we do for one another – as friends & partners & spouses & parents – is give one another permission to feel our feelings. (Often in families, of course, we don’t give this permission. As parents, presumably, we ought to give our children permission not just to feel their feelings, but to be who they really are. We are so often wildly not good at this, hmm? Slight understatement here…).

Well. I’m terribly grateful that I’m a woman – & a mother, & that I have friends & children with whom truths about “elephants in the room” can be acknowledged, & aired – & if not exorcised exactly, at least exercised.

I once read a very neat book (that I highly recommend) called The Opposite of Everything is True – Reflections on Denial in Alcoholic Families (1), & in it the author made the comment “…for (like everyone else) I define myself by bouncing against others.”

I think there are probably still lots & lots of people who don’t really get how much & how profoundly we all really need one another.

We can’t even fully articulate & thus understand our own feelings without each other!

There is so much pathology that has been & continues to be caused by our incomplete understanding of how tied to one another we are – how deeply we need one another…speaking of major understatements!?

Well. I so often speak the obvious, don’t I??

As people who know me well know, I’m always recommending awesome books/writers, & I am not about to stop recommending all the ones I’ve mentioned in various essays up until now. For the moment, though, I have to say that the one that’s right up at the top of the list currently (& yes, I’m always reading 3 or 4 or 5 books at once) is Broken Open How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow, by Elizabeth Lesser, Villard, 2004.

She is so articulate about feelings – & being human – & birth & death & pretty much everything else in between, that she makes me look like a piker. I’ve bought 6 copies of her book in the past month & have given away 4 of them (copy # 5 has become a “loaner”). She is a major treasure!!

Antoine de St. Exupéry said in The Little Prince “What is most essential is invisible to the eye.”

It is so, it is most assuredly so…


(1) by William H. Crisman, M.Div., S.T.M., Quill William Morrow, 1991. I believe it is currently out of print, but even out-of-print books can usually be located through second-hand book stores &/or