Feel It to Heal It

To truly heal your past, you need to be able to fully feel and embody your emotions.

Art by Aldous Massie

We often deny or repress our emotions for a wide variety of reasons. By far the most common is that painful feelings are uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s easier for us to pretend that everything is “fine” and nothing is bothering us.

Other, more complex factors can play into our unwillingness to honor our pain. As a child, we may have been punished for showing our anger or sadness. “Boys don’t cry,” we were told. “You’re just being dramatic.” “You’re too sensitive.” Phrases like these could have led us to deny our own feelings, even to ourselves.

In order to heal, we must learn to trust ourselves. This first requires that we feel and embody our emotions. It is only then that we can release the pain of our past and embark on a new future, free to be the selves we wish to create.

I have identify three core steps that have been useful for me when it comes to feeling and healing my feelings.

  1. AWARENESS

It is often difficult for many of us to know what we are feeling. Meditation is the most important tool we can use to develop our awareness not only of our thoughts but also our feelings.

Here are some resources that have been helpful for me in the process of developing my self-awareness:

Real Happiness by Susan Salzberg

Headspace App

2. COMPASSION

The second crucial component in this healing process is developing our compassion, especially when it comes to self. We will be much more resistant to recognize our pain and our possible errors in judgement if we have a habit of being judgemental and unforgiving of ourselves.

When we are able to see our faults and our pain from a place of awareness, understanding and love, we are then more willing to change our behavior and move our lives forward.

Loving-kindness meditation is an excellent way of developing compassionate habits of mind that will help us. This will usually involve sitting in meditation and generating positive feelings towards others and yourself. UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center has an excellent Loving-Kindness Meditation for those who are interested in developing their own practice at home.

Self-care routines can also be helpful. When we begin to prioritize ourselves and our needs, we start to understand that we are worthy and deserving of care.

3. EMBODIMENT & EXPRESSION

The final step is the most important. This is that actual practice of noticing, feeling, and moving through our bodies all of the emotions we have been holding inside.

There are many ways to embody our emotions. We can simply allow ourselves to feel as thoughts and memories come up. We can hold space for ourselves in a safe place to laugh, cry, scream, etc. We can engage in somatic spiritual practices like yoga.

My favorite way to express long held emotions is to dance. In Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts, I learned a practice called “Swamping”.

Swamping involves moving through three stages of embodying & releasing emotions.

We start with a song dedicated to our rage. We dance, we punch pillows, we growl, we scream, we let out all of the anger we have felt we needed to stuff inside of ourselves.

Next we dance through our grief. We hold ourselves as we sway to our song, we wail, we cry over all that we have lost.

And finally, we dance into our turn-on. We can put on a sexy fun song that brings us back in touch with our excitement for life and the core of our power.

Whatever way you choose to embody and express your feelings, you will doubtless come through at the end with a weight off your shoulders and with a renewed sense of health and wholeness.

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