My entire life I believed one emotion was acceptable to feel. Happy. I wanted to feel happy. To feel any other emotion, like, fear, doubt, anger or sadness was in some way bad and couldn’t be trusted.
Now in a major crisis these emotions are ok, but in mere day to day events, I should feel happy, right? Anything else was wrong and I needed to get over my pride or pray more.
I spent so much of my energy trying to deny and hide how I felt. Any bad emotion I’d immediately begin to “get over it” and strive to feel happy, but instead of getting over it I became hostage to my dammed up emotions. The smallest upset would send me into a darkness for days, turning me into a ticking time bomb.
I tried so hard to numb the bad, but when it comes to emotions, one emotion can’t be numbed without numbing them all.
Everything changed when I discovered emotions are neither bad nor good, they’re the window to my spirit, they separate me from all other creatures, and they are what allow me to truly live. The Creator of all things freely expresses his emotions, and if I am created in his image, then emotions are part of me and I’m worthy of expressing them.
It took me a long time, but I began to process my emotions step by step.
1. I have become aware of my emotions. I think about what I am feeling in just about every moment of my life. I practice giving my present emotion a name. I say out loud to myself or someone, “I’m very angry right now” or “That hurt me”. I no longer say, “Nothing”, when Matt asks me, “What’s wrong”.
2. I own my emotions. I separate myself from the emotion of others and take ownership of my own.
3. I accept what I am feeling. I am worthy, and I have a right to what I feel and I don’t need to apologize for it, no matter what I think or others say.
4. I force myself to stay present and feel it fully. Whatever emotion I am aware of, I give myself permission to feel it and express every part of it.
When I first began practicing this, I’d close my eyes and breathe slowly and deeply and focus only on my emotion.
If I enter one of my images into a photography contest, I allow myself to be vulnerable and get excited and hopeful. Then when I don’t win, I am honest and feel sadness. I don’t allow myself to blow it off and act like it’s no big deal.
5. I figure out why. Once I voice my feelings, I take the journey inside to discover what triggered the emotion.
For some reason, my emotions have been one of the hardest parts of my personal journey. At first, my emotional experiences were so intense and so overwhelming that I was sure I was turning into an emotional basket case and I began to think I was never going to stop crying at any emotion. I still cry a lot, but I’m no longer overwhelmed by what I feel.
Since developing my emotional awareness, I’ve experienced more sadness, anger and joy in my life, but for the first time, I cross from anger to happiness or from excitement to sadness to peace so freely. It’s almost in a fluid movement, and I rarely become hostage to the emotions I used to avoid. It’s like I’ve experienced chocolate ice cream after eating cardboard my whole life.
Now, I don’t want to feel happy.
I want to feel.