Okay I had a few folks ask me if I was trying to take a shot at Brene Brown in my last post. I want to clarify. I love her work. So I am not out to poke, other than it is the nature of my style, which some call contrarian or Myers Briggs refers to as my need to question, that may present as challenging. Truthfully, I find I only rise to the challenge when I have total and complete respect for the idea or more clearly stated, the person presenting it.
That said, I do struggle when a feeling is getting a bad rap. Feelings to me are like the breath and blood of being human. Babies are the best example of this fluid relationship that we should be having with our emotions. Babies can be crying and screaming one minute and laughing seconds later. Their little bodies shake and vibrate freely with each surge of emotion – energy-in-motion. Most of us as adults are are not nearly so fluid or expressive, actually we are quite the opposite. Somewhere along the way we dampened our emotional range. Mostly to conform or fit in to the expected path of maturing by using the mind more than the heart.
I believe feelings, all feelings are vital to a healthy heart and aliveness. We breath, we feel. Why are feelings so often something we wish to get rid of. I believe people spend more time trying to rid themselves of uncomfortable feelings, like anger, jealousy or shame – than time spent working on shifting mental patterns of self-hate to self-compassion. I will say again – the feeling isn’t the problem. Feelings pass. Feelings are in the moment. Yes, unpredictable and less stable. Still, in the moment, timeless and immediate. Our thinking, can be quite stable, predictable and in all honestly – deadly. However, we don’t seem quite so quick to get rid of a negative thought – instead we believe it , fondle it and prove it, giving it a permanent track for messing with our immediate experience.
As humans we are quite proud of our neocortex, that thinking part of the brain. It is amazing that we are a species that can imagine, innovate and tell a story forward. It is a gift. Yet without the breath and blood of feelings our story-telling and innovation comes without empathy or connection.
Think of our great minds like the land that we walk on, solid and relatively easy to navigate. Now think of the oceans, the waters that take up even more of this wonderful planet, the mystery and flow they offer. To me that is the difference between my feelings and my stories. The stories are the islands that I can at times get trapped living on, solid, predictable but not always interconnected. Feelings like the water will move me, shape me and provide the incredible depth that connects those islands and ensures oneness, not a separate state.
I seriously doubt Brene Brown, meant to get rid of a feeling. I think she was really trying to find a path for re-connecting. Shame for me is the water, the ocean. The island, that at times I allow my shame to create is one of self-hate and that is an island I wish not to stay trapped on. Oddly it is only when I embrace the shame, the water and ride those waves, that I find my path back to connection.
You may be thinking I am someone who is comfortable and at ease with my feelings. No, not at all. I have lived on many islands, and stayed safe in the stories firmly crafted in my mind. However, much like Brene Brown talks about her wrestling with vulnerability, I wrestle with my feelings. I fight for them. I have stayed stuck and isolated too long without allowing them. Of course there are those I particularly wish to stay away from, fear, rage, helplessness and shame – and yet, when I have let those feelings wash through me, I have discovered new territory, new connections and much greater depth and empathy for everything around me.