As a child, I experienced every emotion under the sun, and regularly. When I look back, my early life was a tumultuous one of highs and lows. With that came times of deep, deep sadness, of shame, embarrassment, and of anger. Sadly, at that time, I don't remember a lot of joy, but I do know it was there, I just wasn't able to focus on it.
Fast forward to where I am in my life now at the age of 56, I have learned a great deal, but of course there is always so much more. Learning how to manage my feelings, which for me came much, much later, and how to express them in safely, has been key.
When I was young, I didn't know how to do that and the result was me blurting out something in anger or frustration, which of course always got me into trouble. I can certainly see why I was punished as much as I was. But what I also see, is that I just had this innate need to express myself, which I still have today.
The way I turned things around in my own mind back then meant that I made myself wrong, bad and terrible for even having those feelings. I turned that into self-hatred and self-loathing. Isn't that sad? This is the case for so many people. When we don't know what to do with thoughts and feelings we can turn them inwards, sometimes with devastating outcomes.
Luckily, by my mid 20s I started to realise there was something wrong. Yes, at that time, I was definitely blaming myself for how I felt, and I also thought that that was just the way life was. I had no idea that you could actually feel happy, and joyful or elated, and that one could even have tears of joy; I had no idea at all.
For me, working with a psychotherapist is what got me on the right path. It was the beginning of my journey of uncovering why I felt the way I did about myself. Slowly but surely, I started to see the real picture emerge and as I did, I began to learn that my feelings could not hurt me. The contrary was true, if I could embrace them, and feel them fully, I would come out the other side to a place of peace, joy and happiness. A new goal was set: one of simply being happy.
With every new situation that arose, both in my life at the time, and in those therapy session, I learned to navigate my feelings in a new way. I discovered that the more I paid attention to them, the more I was able to not only express them in safe ways, but also control them. I discovered that I didn't need to end up getting myself into trouble. I discovered that if I thought things through more, and if I processed my feelings myself first, I could negotiate life events more easily.
Every feeling helps us navigate life. Every feeling.
Sadness guides me through loss and the grief that always follows. It helps me to heal my soul, and it helps me to understand my sorrow. It also helps me to fully appreciate what I had, and to see the changing relationship with the lost person or object.
Anger gives me cause to reflect on situations that stir a fire inside of me. It enables me to look at something from as many angles as I can. This means I can hopefully see the other side and get a more balanced view.
Frustration allows me to feel the injustices of the world and to know that ultimately, I do not have control.
Depression shows me that some part of me needs to heal, and often that I still have grief to navigate.
Joy brings me alive and connects me with that deep, deep feeling that everything is not only okay, but that it is wonderful beyond words.
When we feel more, we navigate life differently. And when we navigate life differently, we get different results. We can reflect more deeply, that is, if we take the time to. This doesn't happen by itself, it takes hard work, but we all know that hard work pays off.
Question: How do your feelings help or hinder your navigation of life? Please let me know in the comments, I'd love to start a conversation.