For over a year now, I have been participating in a Monday night zoom call called “Monday Mamas.” It is facilitated by the lovely Dawn Geschiere of Yes To Life Coaching. This month, we are having weekly, facilitated discussions around the topic of courage.
About two months ago, Dawn was diagnosed with breast cancer. Being the amazing, badass, and graceful woman she is, she immediately wrote 10 cancer commandments for herself so that they would guide her through each day of her cancer journey. Dawn’s cancer commandments are inspiring as they are not only ways to navigate cancer, but every day life as well.
Last night in “Monday Mamas”, we talked about these values in relation to courage– which one takes the most courage for each person?
As Dawn read through the list, I was able to easily identify ones that come to me naturally and didn’t feel like they took much courage to incorporate into my days. The one that stood out for me was “Be present and feel all the feels.” I have been working on that a lot this last year, it has been focal point of 2020 and 20201 actually. It wasn’t until this past year that I realized how much resistance I have to feeling certain feelings (or feels). Had you asked me 2 years ago if I am expressive, emotive, and accepting of all of my emotions I would have said, “Yes, absolutely!”
That is halfway true. I was naturally expressive, emotive, and accepting of the positive emotions I experienced, but the negative ones? The terrifying ones? The rational and irrational fears? The feelings that I felt ashamed of, or confused by? I was a black belt at pushing those bad boys straight back down into the pits of wherever they came from. It felt protective, like I wasn’t going to allow that negative energy enter my conscious world.
As it turns out, that’s not protective. It’s avoidance and
unfortunately fortunately, we can’t trick our brains that easily. I can’t simply say “I’m going to pretend these hard feelings don’t exist” and expect them to float away like dandelions in the wind. They may hide for a while, but in my experience, they hide and grow stronger. They become not only hard feelings, but raging and resentful because I didn’t let them out. They become Crossfit feelings, exercising daily in the pits of my subconscious. They know that when they come back to the forefront of my mind, they will do it with a vengeance. Months and years later, this can turn into anxiety, depression, hopelessness, physical symptoms, and more.
I did some journaling last night before bed, diving more into courage & feeling all the feels. Much of the following is transcribed directly from my journal and may be a little chaotic to read and follow. I find the best work happens in my journal when I’m word-vomiting onto the page, so that’s essentially what happened here. Buckle up.
Scribbled on the top of my page:
What is the thing inside of me (and many of us) that gives pause and whispers, “Maybe you should ignore this part of you. Maybe you should push it back down and pretend it’s different than it is, or even better, not there at all.” Childhood sometimes conditions this into us. Sometimes adverse experiences in adulthood. An endless number of things can occur to create this pushing-away-the-feelings scenario.
Throughout my journaling, I kept trying to answer the question above, “Why does it take so much courage for me to experience myself exactly as I am?”
Is it because I’m afraid of who I actually am? Or what sitting with those hard feelings will feel like or lead to? What am I afraid will happen if I dive down the hole of the most terrifying fears and feelings that I have? I think I worry that the hole is endless. That it will swallow me entirely and I’ll still be existing as myself, but a shell of myself because in my mind, I’ll still be descending further and further into the feeling-all-my-feelings hole. I can visualize it easily– each of my feelings that I knee-jerk repress has its own hole. Most are health and safety related– Baker’s safety, Isaac’s, my own safety, all of my parents and sisters and friends family members.
I feel terrified to “feel the feels” of what could be, and what will be, someday. I don’t trust how I will handle the hard, terrifying, gut-wrenching tragic situations, so I resist feeling the fear, terror, and sadness that comes along with them. Naming them is helpful. It feels hard to even write about them right now, which is how I know I’m on the right path.
Am I afraid that they will come true if I name them? Maybe so. Hah, that sure is assigning a lot of power to my thoughts and abilities. I should stop worrying about feeling all the feels and should start planning out my superhero existence if I think that my thoughts and words can immediately come true just by acknowledging them and speaking them into existence.
I’m a constantly evolving person so it’s fair to say that the person I am now will not be the same person that handles future successes, milestones, failures, and tragedies. That alone feels reassuring. I don’t have to plan for how future Courtney will handle situations because…I am not yet future Courtney. We like to imagine ourselves in the future, handling situations, but really we are just imaging our current selves in a future tense, which is inaccurate. It would be like 10-year old Courtney imaging her 10-year old self having a job, a spouse, a child to take care of someday. Of course that is terrifying and stressful! It’s no different even though I’m an adult now. 34-year old Courtney is in this current moment, and 34-year old Courtney won’t handle things the way 45, 50, and 70-year old Courtney will. Whew, sigh of relief with that acknowledgement.
Regarding the hole I worry will swallow me whole if I feel all the feels…hmm. Have I experienced this hole-swallowed feeling before? Have I spent my days walking around as a shell of myself? Yes, I realize. I have. When I wasn’t allowing myself to emote, to be my truest self. When I was repressing feelings, when I wasn’t speaking my truth and was in constant people-pleasing mode. So the hole is already there and exists when I don’t feel what I’m feeling and express what I want and need to. What shines the light down the hole and brings me out of it is being my true, honest, feeling-all-the-feels self. The hole is only there in absence of truly feeling my feelings.
What would happen if I go deep into feeling all the (difficult) feels? Will I get stuck in the loop of worry, fear, terror, and sadness? I think that is at the base of why I sometimes repress certain feelings. I worry that allowing them to rise to the surface will be overwhelming and consuming and it will be impossible for me to untangle myself and wiggle free from them. However, I can’t think of a time that I showed up authentically and got stuck in my feelings. In fact, what moves us along is transparency with ourselves and others. We can’t grow without transparency. So actually, the only way I will get stuck in the hard, overwhelming feelings is if I don’t allow them out and bring them to the light. There is no growth and moving through them without bringing them to the light.
Feel. All. The. Feels.