Half the time, I’m not sure what I’m feeling. It’s not that I’m numb; it just takes time for me to connect what I’m feeling in my body with an accurate description. I often have strong feelings and get distracted by my routines. I have learned to depend on routines and habits so that I can pack more into my day…not a great idea actually, since it fills up my thought-capacity to overflowing. But forgetting to do something really bothers me and adds to my cascade of feelings in that moment.
When I take the time to breathe and identify what my body is telling me I’m much better off. It’s the best way of facing my sense that I’m not adequate to the task of life, a big lie I tell myself to push me into the realm of “victim.” It’s then when become anxious, which takes away the joy of living.
Sometimes my body tries to tell me something that I don’t want to hear, such as getting out for some fresh air, eating more slowly, or recognizing mental stresses that lead to fatigue and more anxiety. When I don’t listen to my body, my emotions have free reign. Then I end up just feeling depressed, lonely, abandoned, or bored.
Our culture abuses and manipulates our feelings constantly. We can’t watch television without exaggerated and quick-fire “breaking new” that bombards the airwaves and the internet. Many entrepreneurs, even life and business coaches, use the “panic” technique to push their products or programs. It seems everyone’s got “THE ANSWER” for which we are expected to pay big bucks (and which is usually available for free elsewhere with a little research). I find this ratcheting up of emotions for no reason other than to sell something is taking up a lot of psychic space that can be put to better use.
Feelings seem more important than good, sound brain work. It seems no one “thinks” anymore, but only “feels.” My friend who has taught high school for 40 years consistently complains to me how his students usually have little desire to think and learn and spend a great deal of class time emoting over their personal angst and relationships.
All of this manipulation of feelings dulls my ability to hear my heart. I have trouble enough facing what my heart is saying to me. I often have to sort through feelings of embarrassment, shame, judgment, anger or fear to listen to the root emotion or sensation that is struggling to rise to the surface.
Those I love can also trigger difficult feelings in me that I wish didn’t appear. These prompt me to wish I could change that person so that they’re not triggering me in that way anymore. How codependent!! I recall many times when my late mother’s tone of voice prompted deep-seated anger or shame and again situated me in the victim-story I’d been telling myself for years.
I particularly wish more men would deepen their capacity to identify their feelings before they speak or act or just remain silent as a stone. Why must we wait for first responders’ tragic deaths to get a glimpse into the tender hearts of male colleagues who are wracked with grief? My feelings as a man play a practical role. They help me identify the thoughts that are defeating me more than the people around me. They tell me of the inner critics that are breaking me down and that may have found their origin in my upbringing, not in my boss. They also clarify the activities and people that bring me joy. But first I have to hear them, listen to what they are trying to say, and finally make a good-conscience decision as to how to address them. It’s a dialogue I need to have with myself in order to clear the potential mine-field of feelings that keep me from moving forward in my life.
When you stop for a moment and listen to your heart, what are you feeling? What are you afraid to feel? What is your heart telling you to do in this moment? What’s keeping you from doing what is best for you and the ones you love?
Artwork is copyrighted by the artist, Michael Parise