I am sure you have experienced moments in your life where you thought you should feel a certain way, but in fact, felt something completely different! We have placed such a priority on our minds and controlling what happens, we like to think we know better than what is true in our hearts. From childhood we have developed strong ideas and opinions about how we should feel. We have convictions about what is the “right” emotion to feel regarding almost everything that happens to us.
You should feel sad when that is appropriate, happy when life is good, feel content and grateful with what you have and so on. But the reality is that this doesn’t always play out this way. And every time you feel differently to what you think you should, you create a tiny internal war inside yourself; you start to argue with whatever it is you are feeling and end up confused about and judgmental towards your feelings.
The reality is that we don’t always feel as we should. We tend to think that admitting this makes us bad people; people that really don’t deserve love or appreciation. And so, we punish ourselves inside our own heads for feeling a certain way. This kind of thinking creates the voice of our “Inner Critic”. You know, that voice that is always demonizing you for feeling or thinking anything that is not appropriate.
For example, you could have been expected to be happy for a friend’s promotion, but instead, you felt jealous. You could have wanted to be in love with this special person (and really “should” have been in love because all your friends said this person was so wonderful and you fit so well together) and felt absolutely nothing for this lover. You (aka your Inner Critic) scold yourself for being a “bad” person because you feel the “wrong emotion”.
This bickering with your own feelings and emotions is problematic. At the surface it may seem like the “right thing” to direct and try to control your feelings. After all, expressing that you are jealous of your friend’s new fabulous job, is not very gracious. And so you fake a smile and congratulate them. You stuff those uncomfortable feelings a little deeper inside and cover them up so you don’t have to feel them.
In the short term, nothing seems to be a problem. But your feelings are an indicator of something that is very much alive in you that you are denying yourself. And now you are punishing yourself on top of the initial pain of the negative emotion too!
To come out of this loop of feeling something and then criticizing yourself, and to learn to fully accept what you feel, try this simple but effective practice: allow your feelings, emotions and even thoughts to arise and simply notice them.
When your Inner Critic also shows up and states her opinion, simply tell yourself “Oh that is interesting” and leave it at that. Over time, the voice of your Inner Critic will wither and die, leaving you to simply be curious and open to all your emotions without the judgement.
Allowing your feelings to come up and really feeling them without judgment will bring you to a deeper insight and clarity about what is lacking in your own life.
Allowing your feelings to come up and really feeling them without judgment will bring you to a deeper insight and clarity about what is lacking in your own life. And knowing what you don’t want or what is lacking, will also show you what you do want! Maybe you are not as happy in your job as you could be; maybe your feelings are telling you it may be time to make a change?
Feelings are never wrong. They are never bad. They are messengers of what lives deeply inside yourself. Invite all your feelings in, learn to accept and love them, no matter what they are. They are the messengers of something wonderful and good coming your way. The great Sufi poet Rumi compared feelings with guests in the “guesthouse” of being human:
“(..) treat each guest honourably,
He may be clearing you out for some new delight”
Step by step, welcoming all your feelings and learning to trust them all will bring you closer to your authentic and real self. You will feel more empowered in your life by unapologetically honouring your complete, whole self.
Practice in class with Sandra
Feelings are messengers. One of the most empowering things you can do for yourself is to accept and love all feelings, emotions and sensations that come up in your body and awareness. In this class you will be guided through some breath work to help you separate your attention from your thinking. This opens up the space to see the self-critical and judging thoughts that may be playing in your mind. The asana practice will guide you through movements and poses where you can practice conscious acceptance of everything that comes up. We will end with a mudra and a restorative relaxation.
- Part one of Sandra’s Empowerment Series Learning to feel
- Part three: Knowing your boundaries – respecting your limits