The past 6 months have been extremely transformative for me. There has been heartache, anger, regret, joy, gratitude, and relief. That’s a lot of emotions for a person to feel (sometimes all within a couple of days of each other!), but growth only happens when we allow ourselves to feel and learn about these feelings. During this time, I’ve had to go inward and figure out from where these feelings came, why, and how to manage them, or hold space for them. If we face a feeling that is unpleasant, like regret, most of us want to run away from the feeling immediately, never face it, and forget that feeling came to us in the first place. But, as we all know from experience, when we stifle feelings they don’t go away, they fester, they bubble, and eventually explode. This can cause self-harm emotionally, it can hurt others if we take these feelings out on those we love, and we don’t really learn from them and manage the trauma from whence the feelings came.
So why go inward? Why feel? Well, when we sit with the feelings and are mindful of what is going on within our bodies we can start to figure out why we are having these feelings and how to work with them rather than run from them. Mindfulness is really about being present with your surroundings, your body, your feelings. It’s not a state of being but being in the state in which you find yourself. So, back to my example of regret. You feel that regret. Allow it to overtake you. What happens within your body as you feel this emotion? Breathe into those physical manifestations of that emotion. Don’t judge it, be with it. Take a breath and ask yourself from where this feeling came. Once you know, be with that memory. Don’t judge yourself or the situation, simply be and continue to feel. You will notice the physical manifestations of that emotion will start to subside as you land on the “why is it here?” Feeling it won’t kill you, it may be uncomfortable, but you won’t be harmed by feeling it and being present with it in a non-judgmental way. The harm comes (mentally) when you start to judge your feeling. For example, “you deserve to feel this way,” “you are a bad person,” “good people don’t feel regret.” But really, as Marshall Rosenberg says, “Self-judgments, like all judgments, are tragic expressions of unmet needs.” So when you judge yourself, or others, there are needs there that were not considered and so you lash out at yourself or others to try and justify why you feel negatively. When you feel regret there was more than likely something you desperately wanted or needed, but couldn’t get, so you did something “selfish” to try to get that need met and when it turned out badly the emotion of regret set in. Self-compassion is crucial when going inward with your feelings, but it can be so difficult to do (trust me, I know from personal experience and I am a champion at making myself feel awful). This is where holding space for your feelings and your experiences is necessary because then you can feel, be present and mindful, but not judge and go into the downward spiral of self-loathing.
Of course feelings will pop up when you are not able to sit for a few minutes and explore the trauma. So, when that happens it’s still necessary to honor those feelings and think to yourself, “Yes, this feeling is here, I’m triggered in this situation” and notice what is triggering you, hold space (if it is a person triggering you) and understand they have unmet needs as well, and speak in a nonviolent way with the person about their feelings and yours knowing that both matter. This is not easy, it takes practice but it can absolutely be done. I would highly, highly recommend Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Nonviolent Communication, to help you have compassion for yourself and others and communicate in a kind way to yourself and others. Doing this and going inward will help you navigate all of your feelings in a skillful way. I’m still learning. I’m by no means perfect, at all! I hope this helps you and as always, offer yourself self-care and self-love so you can be at your best for yourself and those you love.