Putting Our Feelings Aside

We all have emotions. It’s healthy  to  express them. Yet, there are times  when putting too much emphasis on our feelings can be detrimental. To avoid outbursts or unnecessary confrontations, it is better to express our emotions carefully. In order to avoid unhealthy confrontation, we can knowingly choose to “compartmentalize” or “put our feelings aside.”

We can identify and fully sense the inner turbulence of feelings in a situation without having to get swept away in them. By paying attention to the situation and wanting to stand our ground, we then can consciously choose to put our feelings aside for the moment. We are not denying our feelings, we are merely postponing the expression of them. As astronaut Mark Kelly stated in the Associated Press, “Ignore stuff going on in your personal life and just focus on your mission. The key word there is being able to compartmentalize things.”  Putting problems and personal feelings aside in little boxes and zeroing in on the task at hand is what astronauts, military personnel, firefighters, business professionals, nurses and surgeons do all the time. No one needs to know what’s happening inside our minds unless we really want them to.

We certainly have the right to be angry, hurt, etc., but how we handle these feelings is what counts. It is okay to hold back in order to keep peace for the moment or to get something accomplished. Having staying power in the face of adversity, or exercising great self restraint in expressing emotion takes courage. Consider a performer hearing bad news or having had an argument with their spouse right before a performance. They take a deep breath and “put their feelings on the back burner” until the performance is over.

Postponing our emotional upsets is easier than attempting to turn them off completely. In order to avoid becoming totally stressed and anxious, though, we must revisit and process our feelings when it seems safe and appropriate.

Knowing when and how to express our-selves takes honesty and courage. Keeping a stiff upper lip for a certain amount of time is okay, but it’s also very important to give our-self space to honor and express our feelings. When the time is right, journal, pray, meditate, create, talk to a friend and cry if need be. As Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

OUR DEFAULT SETTINGS

Your personal default setting is based on past experiences and conditioning.  As a child, you may go through a harmful experience, or even a series of experiences that set your emotional frame of reference. You may have wanted something, and instead you ended up receiving the opposite.  For example, if you wanted attention, and instead, you were neglected or criticized. You may end up with feeling as though no one really cares, and your limiting beliefs could be that you are not important enough or smart enough. Or, you may have apprehension or self doubt as your default mode.

You don’t have to be at the mercy of your default setting. You can shift it, just as you do any other habit. Bertrand Russell has a point in stating, “It is only the intellect that keeps me sane; perhaps this makes me overvalue intellect against feeling”.  I believe that you need to honor your feelings. But when your negative feelings become a common uncomfortable occurrence, then you need to override them with your thinking and intellect.

In order to reset and create a new pattern of feeling, you have to make a conscious effort to pay attention.  Next time you are in your default mode, pause and take a deep breath. Simply by choosing to pause you bring awareness to yourself in the moment.

Notice your feelings and reactions to what you are thinking.  Remember, though, do this as an observer, not as a judge!  

“Once your awareness becomes a flame, it burns up the whole slavery that the mind has created.”  ~Osho~

Self-inquiry is useful in breaking the energy-drain.  While you can’t always control the feelings that pop up, you can manage them and redirect them. This naturally disrupts the rush of personal judgment and doubt.

Each time you consciously recognize your thinking and how it affects you, you will begin to be reminded of the magnificence of your inner mind. The fact is, we have the ability as human beings to balance our intuitive-feeling mind with our rational mind.

As you use the power of choice to lead you toward positive thoughts, your default mode will begin to show up less frequently and with less intensity. And as time goes on, your reactive thinking and negative feelings will last five minutes instead of five hours.  So take pleasure in the subtlest of changes.

The New Year reminds us…

The New Year reminds us to assess our actions  so we can improve on getting what we truly want in our lives.  This  is the perfect time to be honest with ourselves. We  draw up a list of work to be done and things to be improved.  

In order to balance the list, though,  it is crucial to not just look at our imperfections and shortcomings, but to also look  at what we have  accomplished.  

What we want to build upon are our gifts, talents and abilities. They are the seeds we want to grow. Connecting with our  abilities and  strengths will help us to weather the ups and downs of our days.

Remember, the things that we say to our self are essential to how we act. Therefore, we can add a source of pleasure to our days by simply taking responsibility for the quality of our thoughts.  

Allow room for error.  The English poet Alexander Pope said, “To err is human, to forgive is divine.”  We make mistakes, we stumble, and we may wallow a bit.  When we acknowledge our error with compassion and forgiveness, we can pick ourselves back up and find our way on a path that feels good.

Let’s begin each day with a resolution to give positive meaning and direction to our actions. 

 

Varying Shades

Have you ever watched a sunset and noticed how the colors of the sky gradually change as the sun slowly goes down?

Carl Rogers said it perfectly: “One of the most satisfying experiences I know is fully to appreciate an individual in the same way I  appreciate a sunset.  When I look at a sunset … I don’t find myself saying, ‘Soften the orange a little more on the right hand corner, and put a bit more purple along the base, and use a little more pink in the cloud color … ‘ I don’t try to control a sunset. I watch it with awe as it unfolds.”

Give yourself a kindhearted break, and discover the beauty of your varying shades and the shades of those around you.

Each shade has its own unique quality. So remember, that your stumbles are as complete as your successes.  Each step, each breath, each action is complete as it is.  As you accept this completeness, it encourages you to learn and to develop appreciation for your life as it is.

Pause to Pay Attention

When you know you are off-balance or when you are feeling distressed…. pause a bit, and be willing to acknowledge your responsibility in all of it; your thoughts, your feelings, your actions/your reactions, the sensations  in your body. We pause to pay attention. With attention and acceptance for all that is happening, it becomes much easier to find a solution that feels right.

Pause
Breathe
Pay Attention
Assess
Adjust
                                      Allow                                      

The Power of a Smile

Whenever you feel that you are missing that feel-good feeling,  just pause for a moment, breathe to connect to your heart and allow yourself to embrace feelings of gratitude and you will notice a subtle smile blossoming.

As Thich Nhat Hanh explains, “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”   Next time you’re feeling down, look out your window and have gratitude for the beauty of nature, whether it’s the sun shining or dark clouds passing above or a gentle breeze. The more you become aware of and are able to ignite internal good feelings and appreciation for what is, the more you can call upon these things when you need them to neutralize or balance you. Things you’re most thankful for can help you restore calm and well-being.  You may even be reminded that simple is grand.  By taking the time to consider the good in life, you nurture the good and the good will grow.

Have Less Stress: Learn to Pause

Pausing  is a way of coming back into a centered clear state.

The sacred art of pausing.”  Intentionally stop your actions, then breathe three or four full breaths,  soften your hands and  face.  Relax.  With a very slight smile and attention on your breath you tell your body to slow down.

Mindful presence”. Listen to yourself and ask, ‘What’s happening inside me right now?’ Then experience whatever is inside—maybe a feeling of anxiety or loneliness or restlessness or sorrow. It’s a way of getting intimate with your inner life. When people are stressed, they lose that contact.

Kindness”. Befriend yourself.  Send a message to yourself of kindness, of being worthy. Sometimes people say, ‘I accept myself just as I am.’ When we’re stressed we forget what really matters.”

Taken from an article by Tara Brach. This article first appeared in the December 2010 issue of The Washingtonian.