As the think-skinned human beings we are, we spend a large part of our lives trying to avoid THE FEELS. Understandably so. Emotions are scary sons of bitches. Even the good ones can feel overwhelming and foreign. But attempts at evading the very thing that makes us human lead to subconscious destructiveness on a tsunami-esque scale.
Here’s the rub: avoiding feelings doesn’t make them go the way of your well-intentioned new year’s resolutions, never to be heard from again. Instead, they fester; they linger; they morph from nagging little fruit flies into insidious monsters that worm their way into our minds, leading to addictive behaviors, bad decisions and self-loathing. Stuff them away, and they will not go quietly into that good night.
I never knew how much avoidance I was into until recently. My issues with food, alcohol and various other unhealthy distractions were all attempts at making the feels go away. Unsuccessfully, duh. But I think the concept of mindfulness has finally beaten its way into my brain. And if I’m to be fully present in every moment, that means accepting anything and everything it brings, bad feelings included.
Here’s a snippet to illustrate my point: one recent morning, I was sad. My reasoning for being sad was “irrational”, IE, I didn’t really have a legit reason. But instead of trying to talk myself out of the mood, escape it or distract myself from said sadness, I went with it. I said, “I’m sad” and (drumroll please) felt the feelings. And sure, I cried for awhile. But then, almost miraculously, I was ok again.
The sadness had come and gone.
The sadness wasn’t stuffed down only to resurface in an uglier incarnation. It was gone. It disappeared because I accepted it, allowed it and owned it.
I think that’s the secret to feelings, really. It’s also the secret to avoiding suffering. Suffering is when we cling to negative emotions long after their expiration date. If you feel ’em, really FEEL ’em without judging or bargaining or avoiding, they come and go rather quickly. They still hurt, sure, but it’s so much less painful than the alternative: long-term anguish, denial and stunted self-growth. That’s where the major ouchies come in.
Try an experiment. Next time you’re feeling uncomfortable — when you start looking to distract yourself or consume something or run away — identify the feeling that’s bubbling up. Then own it. Sit with it. Let it wash over you. Chances are, it won’t be nearly as bad as you think. <3