"You're not feeling your emotions."
Six years ago my Reiki teacher casually mentioned that I wasn't feeling my emotions. I didn't even know that was an option.
I've been in therapy since I was 8, that's right, 8 years old, I've seen countless shrinks and therapists, so... I was pretty sure I was feeling my emotions, okurrr?
Turns out, I wasn't, what I was actually doing was naming my emotions. The queen of naming my emotions, my exes, parents and long suffering besties have heard it all, so when Erica gently and directly suggested that I wasn't feeling my emotions, I was puzzled. Instead of feeling and dealing with the emotion that came along with her observation (fear) or asking even one curious question ("what do you mean?" comes to mind), I named it (annoyed) and moved on.
I was fresh out of a relationship with an addict, our relationship was a roller coaster ride of deep love, deep mistrust and codependence. I had disconnected with my emotional self almost completely, an unconscious action likely taken to protect myself from the intense emotional pain we were both in. Since I had an intellectual understanding of emotions (see stat on therapy above), I knew I was supposed to be in pain so I sought the help of a Registered Clinical Counsellor, a wonderful woman named Candace Plattor who helped me understand codependency and discover more about my own addictions. At the same time, a dear friend urged me to see her Reiki healer and I went to see Erica Otto, who's now my teacher.
While Candace helped me name and understand my emotions, Erica and the incredible power of Reiki helped me feel my emotions. Now is probably a good time to clarify, when I say feel my emotions, I mean actually feel them physically, in my body, and emotionally, in my soul.
You might be asking, how does someone just not feel their emotions? The answer is simple, practice. And if we want to start feeling again, we practice doing that too.
The practice of running from our emotions usually (read: always) begins in childhood. A little boy cries because he's sad and someone yells at him to man up, he's probably not going to cry the next time he feels sad. A child squeals with delight and excitedly jumps up and down when she sees someone she loves and is told to be quiet and stop acting so crazy, she's probably not going to show much excitement the next time she sees someone she is really fond of.
And so it was for me. From a young age I systematically shut off painful emotions because I didn't have the tools to deal with them and when my capacity to do so by will alone was diminished by sheer volume of pain I turned to drugs, alcohol, men and fitness to numb my pain and this went on for 2 decades (ish). My childhood was not one rife with abuse or neglect, the opposite in fact, I was raised by two loving parents who had the very best of intentions when it came to raising my brother and I. And still I felt pain, as we all do, and my childhood self just decided not to feel it and that set into action a pattern that I would fall back on for many, many years.
Until I met Erica.
When my work with Candace was complete I continued to see Erica and each time I saw her I felt more open to feeling my emotions. Tiny cracks were forming on the armour around my heart and I was making space for my emotions to surface. This was a long process for me because I had a lot to heal and at times it was very painful. (There is a lot more to say here, about Reiki and how it works with your chakra system to move towards health using your own energy and about how even just acknowledging pain allows your energetic body to start to heal itself, but for now let's just say that the Reiki was always working, whether I was an active participant or not.)
"Where do you feel that in your body?"
"Let those tears come."
"I feel like you need to scream, do you need to scream?"
(I needed to scream.)
So now I ask you, are you feeling your emotions? You may feel some of your emotions. You may feel the so-called good emotions but leave out the bad. Or you may have done all your gd work and feel everything, all the time. Good for you.
Here are a few clues that you may be avoiding a / a few / all your emotions:
You use drugs or alcohol as a way to blow off steam.
You spend hours (like a whole day) in front of your TV on a regular basis.
You exercise even when you are really sick or injured.
You look to other people to make you feel good.
You act out angrily (yelling, punching walls, silent treatment)
You can't remember the last time you cried, in joy or sorrow.
You spiritually bypass the so-called negative vibes under the guise of forgiveness, compassion or a deep understanding that we are all dealing with our own shit but really you want to run someone over with your car. You know?
Here's the deal, nearly everyone is guilty of running from their feelings, truly, so if this cuts a bit close, please know that you are not alone. And know that you have the choice, right now, to do something about it. I practice Reiki in my coaching work, we can start there. Erica's site is linked above, you can start there. And if you're not quite ready to dive in, you'd rather just dip a toe, try this.
Next time you are thinking about calling your guy or getting wasted or booking your 10th spin class for the week, do these things first and then decide what's next.
1. With your eyes closed and feet on ground, take a deep breath in through your nose and out through your nose - repeat until you feel calmer and more present.
2. Ask yourself, out loud if possible, how am I feeling right now? Let the answer come, you'll know when it does.
3. Notice where you might feel tight or uneasy in your body and turn your attention to that place.
4. Now sit with that feeling.
5. It might be helpful to write down what you felt or share it with someone you trust.
You don't have to stay with your pain for long and you don't have to dive all the way in the first time you try this, you may touch the edge of the painful emotion and decide that's enough for right now, that's totally fine.
You also don't have to deal with what comes up in that moment, it's okay to simply notice your emotions and let them be, because just bringing your attention to them will allow the healing process to begin on an energetic level.
Here's the bottom line, what we feel, we heal and when we heal we can focus all the energy we were using to hide from that emotion onto healing the world. Very important work.