One of the most freeing things I ever learned was that my emotions will not consume me. I think we’re so scared to feel what we feel, because what we feel can be so intense or overwhelming or out of control. We think, “If I start crying about my father leaving us when I was three, I’ll never stop.” Or, “If I let myself feel angry about my brother getting taken away to prison I’ll never feel anything else.”
Emotions are powerful, 100% — I don’t want to minimize that. They come over us like waves, and depending on the inciting event, they can move through us like the shorebreaks on the beach or smother us like the choppy waters of a mid-Atlantic tempest.
In either case the key is to dive in. The more we run from our emotions, the more power they gain. They become strongholds, rooms in our minds where we dare not go, inhibiting our ability to live freely. I know we like to think that if you ignore something long enough it goes away but I’ll tell you right now that shit is false. You ever seen an elderly person get lost in thought about “the one that got away” decades ago? Or choke up because of a tragedy that happened years before? Emotions are not beholden to time. Just because you refuse to acknowledge a feeling doesn’t mean it’s not still in you. That your body isn’t still holding onto it. That shit’ll be right there waiting for you when you return. Or worse, it may get expressed in perhaps destructive or damaging ways as a result of the repression.
But when you face your feelings, when you dive into the wave, move with it, experience every inch of its touch on your body, you find that it ends. Eventually it subsides and your head pops through the surface and you know that you survived it. And not only that, with this new experiential knowledge in your back pocket, you now know you can survive again. Each time big emotions come, you’ll be less and less afraid to approach them because you know you can handle it, you know that you’ll live through it. And with that comes freedom.
So if you’re sitting there thinking “Okay yeah all that sounds great Fem but how would I even start?” My suggestion would be to get quiet, turn off the tv, maybe set a timer on your phone and then put it away, close your eyes, be still, and focus on your breath. Just sit with yourself and see what comes up. You’ll probably feel it in your body first before your mind knows how to name it. You might cry without knowing exactly why in the beginning. That’s okay, this is an exercise in feeling, not understanding. Let yourself experience the wave, and remind yourself when it gets scary or overwhelming that you will live through it, and eventually it will end.