Finding Meaning in Feeling
Addicted. Anxious. Balanced. Beautiful. Fair. Family-Friendly. Grounded. Happy. Healthy. Inclusive. Intelligent. Left-Wing. Lucky. Open-Minded. Real. Right-Wing. Shameful. Spiritual. Stylish. Successful. Talented. Trustworthy. Ugly. Valuable. Whole…..
We all have a pretty clear idea of what each of these words means to us, personally, but how often do we take the time to recognize how differently the guy next to us might perceive them, or why? These concepts are so commonly used that we probably don’t put much thought into the ways we casually throw them around without context… or how often we think the people around us are in full agreement with our own (obviously well-considered) connotations. When we actively listen with all of our senses, we come to understand that this is rarely the case.
The amount of things that we assume for other people is astronomically disproportionate to their truth and their reality. Even when we know someone really well, we miss a lot of insightful cues because we are looking in other directions. It’s not that we wouldn’t want to, there are simply too many things in the world for that to be an actual possibility. Somehow, that point has become lost in many of our expectations. That’s a concept I wish we were all taught as the mental backbone of our formal education. I believe it would resolve a lot of our school-related anxieties, and allow a lot more personal expression in learning.
Naturally, our brains make quick decisions and judgments based on what we have previously seen, making it easy to lock ourselves - and others - into certain patterns and categories without ever consciously realizing we’ve done it. It’s been part of our evolution as a species. The whole of how our brains work to support and protect us is one of the most fascinating things about human beings, but we have spent a lot of time ignoring its protective influences. The more we become able to relate the structural development of our own belief systems to the past and current conditions of our lives without impunity, the more we are able to trust our emotions to guide us throughout life.
Yes, I said that. And I believe it, 100%. That doesn’t mean I’m able to do it all the time, but I try to give myself the grace to be honest, with myself and others, about how I really feel, because I know that process can/will actually heal me. As someone who spent my childhood learning how to react in opposition to how I felt, this isn’t easy for me–at all. 'Truth', however, keeps showing me how much better my life becomes when I am actively breathing through the things that I feel. I’ve spent the last few years revisiting many old, uncomfortable feelings - intentionally - and I am now able to see them from a more whole perspective. ORM gives us the ability to dip into the the things we thought we’d always have to leave ‘under the rug’.
Leaning into the many ways that we feel creates (1) a willingness, then (2) an ability, to make lasting peace with our own ignorance–again and again, because there’s just so much less we feel the need to defend or protect! This is quite a deviation from what we have been conditioned to expect when we follow our feelings. Until recently, we’ve been taught that our emotions should have a specific time and place–far away from the scrutiny of others. We are highly brainwashed into emotional muffling beginning when we are toddlers. Think about little kids for a minute, and how they will literally drop to the floor in reactions, good or bad. Their glee and disappointment is unhidden until they are taught to hold it all inside, and instead, only use their words.
I’m not suggesting that we should remain toddler-raw in our expression, but the rawness of the feeling itself could be acknowledged. Our comfort level tells us something about our inner environment, and when we aren’t mining our feelings for meaning, we often miss it, or cast the blame on someone or something who doesn’t deserve it. Some of us learn to pull it all together in Wholeness and kindly articulate what we are feeling, but most of us learn to shut that part off, or at least tamp it down, so that what comes through is a filtered rendition of how we really feel.
There are exceptions, of course. They exist among people who have been willing to share their vulnerabilities and express how they feel to each other, over long periods of time. If you haven’t ‘seen’ how a person deals with their personal highs and lows, it is very difficult to glean much insight into their individual ability to handle things. Hypotheticals don’t often account for the waves of energy that our emotions produce. When we have time to consider how we might solve a problem, we are able to take the time to find a solid solution. When we are forced to do so “in the moment”, all bets are off and it becomes a scramble to find a quick fix. This state of being can be stressful, and the more time we spend there, the more disconnected we become from how we feel. Feeling becomes more of a luxury than a necessity. When we let our feelings have value, we are able to remember that we are all essentially connected: emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically.
It used to bother me a lot when people would describe me in a way that I didn’t see myself. It felt like a deeply personal betrayal, as if they hadn’t taken the time to know me after all. I was also guilty of thinking that if someone really knew me they would and should understand exactly where I was coming from without me having to explain much. What an albatross of an idea to be carrying around! Still, I lugged that one everywhere for the first 25 years of my life, without ever questioning its lack of consideration for the thoughts and opinions of the people who I had tried to hold to that standard.
I don’t remember the specific moment where I let it go, but I am grateful that I was able to change my tune, and that I continue to expand those expectations by recognizing how little I actually know about why people see things the way that they do. The less time I spend deciding things for other people, the more space I create for listening to what the universe is showing me about my own life. Most importantly, that my own judgment is often the only thing standing in my way.
I have a best friend from early childhood who came back into my life when I was about to turn 50. She had made a brief re-appearance in 1992 (when we were 25), which was a lot of fun, but short-lived. We have always loved each other, but we both have deep-rooted abandonment issues, so we have probably not always known how to best support each other. We often laugh that we are still trying to figure out how to support ourselves, and that has never been more true than right now–for both of us. Independent of each other, we have both stepped out of our regular workdays and into our own efforts. Without ever discussing it, we have both recently pursued a career shift. Being intentional about what we do, chasing the work we love and trusting that the journey will be lucrative enough to sustain us was what we each, independently, based our decisions around. She knows my heart and she has a pretty good sense of how I think and feel about a lot of things–especially how I did when I was younger. Her perspective means a lot to me, and I genuinely value her opinions.
Recently, I was talking to her about playing in a disc golf tournament and she made a comment that I felt a strong need to defend, even though I’m still not sure why. She told me “you’ve always been very competitive”, and I’m sure on some level she is right. She doesn’t know about my myopic relationship with competition disc golf, however, and I was instantly defensive. I was a competitive kid, yes, and I definitely did my share of manipulating situations to my favor while we were friends. She left the area when we were 12, so she missed all the years that made me a lot more humble and a lot less concerned about my own public gains. So many things have happened to affect that side of me that the thought of acting competitively makes me feel a little ill, physically, and I still wonder where that symptom comes from.
What I know for sure is that if I go looking for answers with curiosity over judgment, I will find them -- and they will make sense to both my ego and my soul. Right now, it seems like a good subject for self study, and I am enjoying the practice. Why did I go from being a very competitive kid to being an adult who tries to be passive, intentionally? I’m still working through my feelings so that I can understand the roots of that one. It’s deep. When those feelings get triggered, I can see that I become less objective. My breathing gets shallow and my mind scrambles to protect…..something. It used to happen without my awareness, but now that I seek it, the roots of all of my unacknowledged feelings seem a lot easier to care for, and I am grateful to remember, again and again, that I am Whole, and I always have been.