Often we're programmed, or taught by our parents, families and society to 'toughen up', to 'be strong' to 'accept things and get on with life'. To 'not cry over spilt milk' or told 'don't be a sissy', or to just 'unwind in front of the TV with a beer or 6'. Many of us are not encouraged to fully experience our emotions, we're not nurtured to feel into our bodies and into the sensations of the emotions.
After I left home I decided I had to be strong. I was on my own now and I needed to look after me and work hard to prove myself. Prove myself to those who expected me to fail and prove myself to myself. For me this meant getting on with life, it meant doing things I was 'supposed' to or 'expected' to do, it meant being strong, being positive and optimistic and pushing forward. What happened in the past had happened. Don't dwell, don't ruminate, don't feel, just push it down and soldier on.
For a long time I thought that worked fine. I thought after 20 years all that stuff I'd pushed down had naturally dissolved itself. Then it was suggested to me - you are resisting. Resisting what? was my first thought. Resisting feeling - resisting feeling my emotions - from the past and the present. I realised it was true. For the past 20 years I'd had a lump of discomfort in the middle of my back, a ball of tightness, an ache. I'd always put it down to, thats just 'my back', I mean, I'd always had back issues, for more than 20 years, funny that.
When I began to release my emotions, began to really feel into them, it was the beginning of an amazing transformation. It wasn't pretty. There was the ugly cry (you know - ugly face, really crying, sounds only dogs can hear), there was irrationality despite logic and intellect, and from there I transitioned to true vulnerability. I let out my real feelings, spoke my real truth and shared parts of myself that had been buried deep inside. I shared parts of my life, my story, and my thoughts and feelings that I felt ashamed of, that made me feel weak.
Interestingly though, sharing these things, feeling these things and opening myself up to raw emotion and truth brought me real strength. It was my ability to be with my vulnerability that allowed me to release all the buried emotions and feel them in my body - really feel. It was being with my emotions and my felt sense that moved the giant rock of tension from behind my heart (middle of the back!).
Embracing mindfulness of emotions and my felt senses of the body has been transformational. Now when I feel emotion rising I feel into it, really feel, be with it, let it flow and express itself through sensations, rather than suppressing or repressing. Embracing vulnerability has brought me strength, more strength than 'being tough' or numbing my feelings and emotions ever did.
So, how can we move into feeling? How can we be with the felt sense?
The answer is space. Creating space by making time for you. Using that time to get still or more importantly, to get mindful. It is 'dolce far niece' - time for doing nothing, the sweetness of doing nothing, which is, in fact doing something transformational!
How can you get space?
2. Movement - qigong, yoga, tai chi, running, swimming (practice mindfully :) )
4. Schedule 'you time' - maybe its just 5 mins a day!
5. Be present
During the period between Christmas and New Year I spent some time with my mum and dad; separately, but in one chunk of time, 7 days including Christmas Day. 7 days is too long. 7 days with gastro included is definitely too long.
In the lead up to the festive season I had been delving into my past and wanting to clear away some emotional baggage that was holding me back. I really wanted to connect with my parents, and I guess influence them, in my mind to help them. Help them to be more open with their feelings and emotions, help them to open up and have conversations with me that were about more than the weather or what we were eating for our next meal. I wanted to open up and talk to them about my adolescence, about what happened when I left home as a 16 year old one morning at 3am never to return, but we don't talk about stuff like that. We pretend things didn't happen or aren't happening and turn on the tv, talk about sport or not talk at all.
By New Years Eve I was emotionally wasted, I could barely hold back the tears and the flurry of negativity from my mind. It wasn't all about my failure to connect with my mum and dad, a big part of it was that after 5 years as a single person I felt like I failed to connect to anyone. And ultimately that's not true, I do have great people in my life that feel very connected to, but the fact that I don't have a man in my life who really cares for me and connects to me, that I don't have an intimate relationship with someone really special felt like carrying around a big heavy bag of full of failure.
When I arrived home I felt immediately relieved. I could let the tears rage and be sad. No pretending. It was as if I could finally put down the heavy bag and leave it in the corner while I wallowed in my feelings of sadness, really be in it.
As New Years Eve unfolded, a couple of ciders in, I decided it was time to unpack. I dragged that big heavy bag from the corner and I sat down and wrote out a list of all the great, awful, good and crap things that happened in 2013. Then I wrote a list of all of the things I was leaving in 2013, all the things I don't need and don't want anymore, the feelings, the judgements, the beliefs, behaviours and people that don't make my life better.
The clock neared closer to midnight and I sat down in stillness, connected to my heart and cleared away the debris. Sitting there I felt calm and at peace in the stillness, from there I turned my focus to all the wonderful things I wanted to bring in for 2014. As the fire works started popping and cracking outside and the new year dawned it was those thoughts that I carried into the first moments of the new year.
I got up, went out onto my balcony and watched the fireworks. I felt better already. Nothing had changed but I had. I had unpacked the past, let it be what it was, realised I can't change it, accepted my parents are who they are and thats okay and left my empty bag at the gates of Struggletown.
My three tips for getting out of Struggletown and dumping that bag of crap:
1. Let people be who they are, just don't be around them for 7 days straight.
2. Better out than in - cry, be sad, feel sorry for yourself.
3. Accept things the way they are then decide what you want to change or bring into your life.
Nicole L Betts
Nicole Betts is an internationally accredited Qigong & Meditation Teacher, Fitness Instructor and Holistic Health Coach.