Last week, I started to delve into how I am seeing an issue within our society that might be a root cause of many of today’s problems.
Many people avoid their emotions or numb them in order to not feel the pain they hold inside themselves. Abuse of drugs, alcohol, food, sex, and even being a work-a-holic are behaviors that when taken to the extreme are addictive, and can become the drug of choice to avoid what’s really going on.
I’m not going to lie. Feeling your feelings, facing them head on, and actually dealing with the fallout is a lot harder than distracting yourself.
Plus, today’s world is built on distraction rather than connection. This is unfortunate, as I think this only compounds the problem by giving people an easy way to stay in a distracted state. I am guilty of mindless scrolling on my phone that is not productive. We all are to some degree.
Have you ever taken a look at the usage timer that pops up on your phone each day? WOW! Be prepared for the shock if you have not looked at this already. Everyone I know is beyond shocked at the number of hours we spend on our phones.
Another factor is that we often seek everyone else’s opinion for approval rather than trusting ourselves. Especially when we are young, it can be easier to ignore our instincts and trust the opinions of the authority figures in our life.
About halfway through my freshman year of college I wanted to change majors. My liberal arts education had me taking classes like philosophy, Italian, and English literature. At the time, I found them more interesting and engaging than my required business classes. I daydreamed about changing my major to International Studies and minoring in Italian. I didn’t have a reason to change except that this felt more aligned for me and it excited me!
However, when I decided to bring up the potential change up with my advisor he warned against it. He lectured me on how the purpose of college was to get a job and told me that I needed to be practical.
After the warning, it felt like too much effort to change majors. I didn’t do it. I knew I was bright and would be successful at whatever I did for a job, but I was already feeling disconnected in my pursuits.
Today, I can recognize that my liberal arts coursework lit me up inside. I was finding passion in them, which I now know fuels one’s purpose.
Despite my growing passion and the nudges to make a change, I didn’t trust my feelings and instincts.
I stayed in my major and had a job before graduation, which seemed to be the determining success factor for college.
I ended up being everyone’s best friend by working for Hershey’s chocolate as a sales representative. Don’t get me wrong, this role was a lot of fun and I was successful!
However, after a year and a half of working I was questioning if a sales track was really what I should be doing with my life. I didn’t find the work meaningful and I knew I wanted to help people. Deep down, I knew inside that it wasn’t quite right for me, but I didn’t listen.
I listened to someone besides myself.
This combination of not listening to my feelings, not trusting myself, and valuing others opinions over my own brought me pain down the line. It took me off course, and developed this pattern of behavior.
What can you do if you are in pain, recognize unhealthy behaviors, or are starting to feel the nudges for change?
The first step is to say YES to your feelings and stop ignoring them. Start listening!!
Acknowledge them. Pay attention to them. Stop brushing everything under the rug. I know this sounds so basic, but it is true.
Give yourself permission to feel exactly how you feel. Healing starts when you allow yourself to feel your feelings. When something happens, take the time to reflect on what happened and why you feel the way you do.
Perhaps someone makes a comment and you react. You feel hurt, but is it really hurt? You might actually feel heartbroken, alienated, or humiliated. When you figure out the feeling, you can then figure out why you feel that way. Perhaps the feeling is connected to your childhood when a teacher reprimanded you in front of the class.
You can analyze mentally, but taking the time to journal about it often makes things more clear. Putting pen to paper can bring clarity as it forces you to organize your thoughts in order to communicate them in written form. Emotions can flow out of you that you did not realize were there.
And if journaling doesn’t work, pick up the phone and call one of the “listeners” from the tribe list you made a few weeks ago.
Starting to become aware, accept, and understand your feelings is the best place to begin to heal yourself and trust your emotions.
What feelings are you saying YES to this week?
Let me know in the comments below.