In my feelings
To borrow from Drake, I’ve recently found myself ‘in my feelings.’ Whilst I haven’t yet resorted to dancing by the side of a moving car I’ve started to think more about the unwritten rules of self-expression. British culture dictates that our feelings are a private matter to be dealt with quietly and preferably behind closed doors. There’s also the lingering influence of a previous generation who believed that our emotions could be eradicated with strong tea and a biscuit. Failing to feel, publicly at least, was worn as a badge of honour. Consequently being ‘civilised’ became a pseudonym for being silent. In contrast recent generations, particularly millennials, now face the charge of being ‘over emotional.’ To use a less favourable term, we’re ‘snowflakes,’ too sensitive and psychologically fragile. In the prevailing climate of ‘grin and bear it’ we’re often quick to dismiss our feelings because admitting to them can be uncomfortable and expressing them may provoke a negative response in others. How many times have you heard that you’re ‘too much’ or that you’re being overly dramatic? Yet it’s both necessary and healthy for our emotions to take centre stage as they’re the most accurate gauge of our internal world. When we’re told to tone it down by a parent/partner/friend or colleague, often what the other person is really saying is that they can’t tolerate the discomfort of their own feelings. Unfortunately we tend to take on this discomfort and make it our own which can leave us feeling silenced and ashamed. Historically, because feelings have taken a backseat to intellect and rationality, those brave enough to own their emotions have faced narrow minded, (and often gendered), stereotypes. Women are branded ‘hysterical’ and men are told to ‘grow a pair’ and ‘stop acting like a girl.’ It’s no wonder that we put our feelings on ice and only revisit them under duress, or under the influence.
Once our feelings are exiled it can be hard to make sense of whats happening as we slowly disconnect from both ourself and others. The first step towards recovering your emotional world is to listen to what your feelings are telling you. The second step is to uncover what’s happening beneath the surface so that you can begin to reconnect. Here’s a quick guide to a few that we tend to avoid.
Anxiety - Are you living in fear of the future? Do ‘what if’ scenarios play on your mind like a bad record on repeat? How can you ground yourself and be more fully present in the here and now?
Anger - Have your boundaries been violated? Have you said yes when what you really meant was no? Where do you need to find your voice and what needs to change in order for that to happen?
Depression - Do you feel numb? Maybe you’ve learnt to suppress your feelings out of necessity or fear. Where are you living in the past and what do you need to let go of in order to move forward?
Guilt - Are you surrounded by other peoples expectations of what you should do and who you should be? Trying to be all things to all people is impossible. How can you begin to put your own needs first?
Shame - Have you unconsciously internalised other peoples negative beliefs? It’s time to focus on your self-worth and address the critical voice that keeps you small and afraid.
Above all, it’s important to remember that no feeling state is permanent. Feelings are like seasons, they come and go. If you find yourself stuck in a particular season, don’t be afraid to speak up. Being silent will only prolong the winter and I for one would definitely prefer to be dancing by the side of my car in the sun.*
*please don’t actually dance by the side of your car unless you’re somewhere safe like your driveway or Sainsbury’s car park. In which case turn up the volume and let loose.