|The surest way
to self-knowledge is through your feelings. They are your guides to knowing how you are
doing. Allow your feelings to emerge and broadcast their message. Learning to "sit
with your feelings" must become an activity that you embrace rather than fear.
When you experience shame, anxiety, sadness,
fear, and self-doubt, your immediate reaction may be to run. Like a hand yanked back from
a burning log, your body —with the help of your defenses—will want to yank you
away from painful feelings. This will stunt your growth and keep you an emotional child.
However, the process of learning to sit with your feelings will help you reach beyond
fearful flight, into the self-knowledge that feelings can bring.
This growth came for me by
slowing down when feelings pricked at me painfully. Since I was already good at
identifying my feelings and their message, I rushed to a solution. If I felt fear, I
checked to see what was happening and what I needed to do. In rushing, I missed a lot of
deeper self-growth, and remained stuck at a level of life management that, while good,
wasn't as rich, liberating, and joyful as I now feel. I gradually changed from getting a
quick idea of what was going on, to forming an in-depth and compassionate relationship
with my inner guides. It was as different as greeting a friend in the supermarket with a
quick "Hello, how ya doin'," to sitting down with him over a cup of coffee and
really catching up with each other.
What changed? I allowed myself to be depressed without
frantically trying to get over it. I allowed myself to experience loss and sadness. I
suffered with confusion and feeling incompetent without defending myself or brushing these
feelings off as misdirected intruders. I let the feelings of being a failure and being bad
sit with me for a while and tell me what they wanted me to hear. During this period of my
life, I became hospitable to all the feelings of my psyche. When I felt like hiding and
moping, I resisted the urge to get active and drive those "downers" away. When I
was hurt by comments toward my ideas at a meeting, I went home and braved how bad it felt
to be criticized. My feelings knew they could come and stay a while and be heard. I
learned the meaning of the expression, "There are no bad feelings." Before, I
specialized in anger, hurt, and excitement. Now, I have learned to welcome the full
orchestra of my feelings.
When I let fear enter my abode and converse with me, I learned
about the value of being safe in a relationship, rather than putting myself into heroic
and foolhardy situations that always blew up and left me feeling stupid or used. When I
allowed depression in for a chat, I learned about my own needs to be approved of and to be
successful. When I didn't banish my sadness so quickly, I came to understand the need to
ask for help and to rejoice in being cared for. This open and integrated hospitality
didn't come all at once or even in a year. It came in fits and starts. I was like a card
that opened at a fold; each time I opened a little more easily. Gradually, the crease was
more like a hinge. Slowly, I had created a new habit that remains the way I treat my
feelings. However, now the process is easier and more natural.
The end result at this point in my life is that I can live with
the fact that I am, at times, depressed, and at times, sad and lonely. I am also, at
times, angry, hurt, and afraid. But much of the time, I am joyful, fulfilled, and at
peace. Like most people I can be a jerk and a prince. I accept my drawbacks as part of the
human condition, and I allow my feelings—both the easy and difficult ones—to
help me find my way.
This takes time. Be patient, pay attention, and persevere!