Emotion is like a river. When it’s allowed to flow, it stays clean and clear; but when it’s dammed up, it grows dank and dark. In my experience, there are two ways to let feelings flow without the consequences that come from communicating directly: expressing them within our own mind, expressing them symbolically, and in a listening partnership.
The safest place I feel expressing emotion is to myself. First, I name the feeling. (OK, I’m getting really irritated here with Grace’s whining, I’m thinking it’s hopeless, I wish she would just be quiet, and a part of me wants to slap her, I feel bad about that, I’m getting into that whole thing about how I’m a bad mom, it makes me feel really anxious.) In other words rather than BEING my experience, I HAVE it. When I detach from it, it’s immediately less stressful.
Paradoxically, feeling my emotions fully helps me to let them go. (This is my anger and frustration. I acknowledge that this has been a very long day and I have been caring for two children. I feel overwhelmed and Grace is behaving in a way that makes it hard for me to make dinner. I’m frustrated right now, but I know it won’t last forever.) In essence, I let myself feel bad for a moment in order to feel good for a long time.
Sometimes I suffer because I am suffering- I get frustrated with my experience or I feel guilty about it. (I just want to feel happy towards Grace, not irritated. I’m upset about being so upset!) Instead, I try to remind myself to have compassion for my feelings. They occur for real reasons and are triggered by hard situations. I imagine being as kind to my inner self as I would to someone else who’s upset. There is nothing shameful about the feelings themselves.
Another way I like to let my emotions flow is by expressing them symbolically. I have a huge box of journals beginning from the age of about 7 in my house so the most obvious way for me to let my feelings out is to write them down without editing on censoring myself. Sometimes I like to write letters to people (that I don’t send!) or to myself or to parts of myself in which I focus on different feelings such as hurt or anger or, in the case of this letter, love.
And of course, another way of expressing my feelings is to someone else, a listening partner. I pick a person with whom I feel safe and tell him or her that I need sometime to vent and that I don’t need them to respond, just listen. I’m not looking for advice, but need them to hear me out so I can move on; nor do I want them to fan the flames of my feelings since my purpose is to release. As I speak I try to get the sense that the emotions are leaving me, that my listening partner is drawing them out of me. You can learn more about listening partnerships
How do you let your feelings go? Please share in the comments below.