Bringing Up Feeling
Personally, I have noticed sadness sticks to me. As I go about my day, I bump into a myriad of sad stories. We find ourselves on the receiving end of some micro-aggression. A friend has lost her mother. A news story tells of the reality of teenage girls pressured into sex through social media. A prayer request at church shares about a mother-in-law diagnosed with cancer. While we aren’t looking, these stories build up inside us, and the sadness attached to them takes a toll. Perhaps we become callous or cynical and develop what some call “compassion fatigue.” Maybe we catalogue these pains in a secret room in our hearts that we hide from even ourselves, but the stories stack up and build until one day we lash out at our dearest friend over an offense that hurt; but if we are honest, our explosive reaction does not make complete sense even to us. Perhaps we did not explode over one offense, but over a million little, sad stories collecting dust in the storehouses of our hearts?
Maybe we need a space to take stock of the sadness that sticks to us like lint pills on so many cheap sweaters. Try this: Find a half hour when you won’t be disturbed. Waking up early before those around you is best. Feelings are most accessible before we interact with others (especially for twos) or before you read the news (I’m talking to you, fives). The words and feelings of others ring in our ears like a loud noise that plays over the sound of our true feelings. Consider using a mediation app for at least five minutes and follow some breathing exercises that reconnect your attention with your body. You will know you have strengthened your connection with your body when parts of your body that felt light now feel warm and heavy. Feelings are located in the body. When we are disconnected from our bodies, we are estranged from our own feelings. Once you have reestablished or strengthened your connection, come out of the meditation, and maintaining your connection with your body, allow your mind to drift to your thoughts. Dwell on any that seem significant. What thoughts kept emerging while you were trying to focus on your body? What feelings are connected to those thoughts? What words would you use to describe those feelings? Frustration? Disappointment? Confusion? What feelings might be more primary than those? Frustration is just anger’s more socially acceptable cousin. It is not a primary feeling. We reach for pseudo-feeling words like frustration so we can fool ourselves and others into thinking that we are feeling, when in reality we are still estranged from our feelings. Do not settle for dim reflections of your feelings. Tease them out and convert them from catalogued feelings to processed feelings. This is crucial because, as Richard Rohr said, pain that is not transformed will be transferred.
Whatever feelings arise, soften to them. Sadness or some tender feeling often emerges when we soften to anger. Stick with this quest until you can name anger, shame and fear inside. Are you crying? Stay with that until the tears pass. No feeling is final. Repeat this process as needed. I recommend doing it about once a week. Feelings come to shore and sweep over us like waves, then leave us and wash back out to sea, leaving us with a peace that surpasses understanding and a clarity that allows us to think productively, without the distortion of unresolved feelings clouding our cognition. Your feelings are a part of you, and they connect you to others; embrace their power.