“Everyone else has figured out how life works, and I am the slow one.” This is one of the life message lies I bump up against with unwanted frequency. Nowhere have I encountered that belief more often than in the area of my emotions.
Feeling my feelings has always been a challenge to me. During the first half of my life, I didn’t even know I was choosing to ignore my feelings. If someone cut me off while I was driving or made what I judged to be a dumb driving decision, I would react in anger. “Why are you so angry?” my wife would sometimes ask. “I’m not angry!” I replied—angrily. I couldn't even see it.
I’ve often wondered how much of my ability to feel my feelings was blocked as I was growing into adulthood. Was it a cultural thing? A gender issue? My general observation has been that me
n do not usually express their emotions as readily as women. One thing is clear to me: I never understood that feeling my feelings was something I could choose.
At this time in my life, I am engaging with my feelings. It helps that I am working in an organization that values feelings as important and necessary parts of who we are. More To Life believes that emotions can act as doorways into a deeper understanding of ourselves. The quote above by Brad Brown, one of our founders, makes it pretty clear that we have choices in this area of our life.
But still, there are moments when it seems to me that my feelings are hiding just out of my emotional eyesight! A little over a year ago, I was discussing with someone the challenge of naming my feelings in any given point in time. “You mean people have feelings all the time?!” I remember saying, incredulously. It was a startling thought to me.
Even though I have committed myself to staying awake to my feelings, I experience a sense of panic when the question “How are you feeling right now?” is posed. I’ve noticed that the more I can stay out of my head and test what is being felt in the rest of my body, I will often be more relaxed in considering that question. For those times when I want to think about how to describe my feelings, I now have a very colorful Feelings Wheel on my desk created by Geoffrey Roberts!
I have also discovered there is true freedom in being able to choose. Freedom of choice means leaving open the possibility that, at times, I will choose to not feel my feelings. Just knowing I have a choice makes the rebel in me more willing to stay present to my feelings. That’s where the growth exists. That makes me feel… thankful.