After my parents’ divorce, my mom brought me to a child psychologist who apparently diagnosed me with “Silent Rage.” Even though it’s nowhere to be found in the diagnostic manual of mental health disorders (or a simple Google search), it makes some intuitive sense knowing how I processed (or didn’t process) my feelings back then.
Basically, I held it ALL IN. Everything I was thinking and feeling, fearing and hoping, wondering and worrying over. It all got locked away inside.
When something triggered me, I would shut down completely. So much was going on inside that my body physically couldn’t process it all and I would freeze. I literally couldn’t talk. I would sit there in silence, my mind spinning a million miles a minute, and nothing would come out.
I was trapped in my own head.
I was trapped not only because I didn’t know how to express my feelings but because I wouldn’t allow myself to feel them. I was critical of my most vulnerable parts and I treated my sensitivities with disdain.
Thankfully, with therapy and coaching and a whole lot of practice, I broke free from the prison of my mind and learned how to both accept and feel my feelings. Here’s what helps these days:
1. I give myself permission
No, I don’t write myself a permission slip (although that’s not that bad of an idea), I simply tell myself that it’s OK to feel the way I’m feeling. It looks something like this:
I wake up feeling really icky and sluggish. I don’t know yet what’s going on but I just can’t shake my mood. Instead of pushing myself to do something productive - which tends to look like giving my inner critic free reign over the megaphone (“You’re being ridiculous,” “Get over it already,” “You have no reason to feel this way,” “You’re such a waste of time.”), I simply say,
“I’m allowed to feel what I”m feeling.”
“It’s OK to feel this way.”
“My feelings are always OK.”
“I give myself permission to feel.”
2. I give myself space to feel it
With everything in life, there’s a spectrum when it comes to feeling our feelings. On one extreme, we ignore them and stuff them down, pretending they’re not there. On the other, we allow our emotions to take over and become paralyzed by them.
The sweet spot is in the middle where we allow ourselves time and space to feel our feelings without wallowing in them. We let them move through us, learn what they’ve come to teach us, and then release them. We know we are not our emotions - they are simply our messengers.
Giving myself space to feel may look like taking it easy for the day and engaging in some self-care. It may mean carving out some quiet time or making time to write. It may mean going for a walk or sitting by the water. Plain and simple, it means that I consciously create space in my schedule to be still.
3. I get it out
After giving myself permission to feel and creating the space to do so, I then have to allow the feelings to be released. Some ways that help me elicit my feelings and bring them to the surface are through:
-Music (listening, singing, dancing)
-Drawing or painting
-Tapping (or EFT)
Once I’m able to dislodge my emotions from their hiding place, I can then look at them objectively, learn what they are and where they came from (i.e., how they got triggered), and better understand what they came to teach me. I can treat them - and myself - with compassion and view myself and my emotions without judgment.
Allowing myself to feel my feelings isn’t easy. But the alternative isn’t an option any longer. I refuse to be imprisoned in my mind and deny the very essence of what it means to be human. Giving myself permission to feel, creating space to feel, and allowing my feelings to be released are the keys to unlocking the cell and embracing the wholeness of who I am.