Let Yourself Feel

Judging our  feelings

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this epidemic of anxiety. So many of my friends feel perpetually stressed, are always striving, can’t quite relax, aren’t sleeping. I too am pretty susceptible to this. We read so much more about it nowadays – how it’s the fault of our iPhones, or the pressure of social media, or of increasingly high standards at work. And I think these are all definitely factors. But more and more I think anxiety comes from hiding from your feelings. Or at least it does for me.

I think I judge emotions like sadness and anger as being ‘the bad ones.’ I don’t like being there and so when I do catch myself on the edge of them, my instinct is to distract myself. I run as fast as I can into being busy, checking facebook, talking about anything else, doing anything that I can to avoid those hard feelings. But that distraction just leads to more anxiousness. It’s like somehow, somewhere I know that they’re chasing me so I am trying to make sure they don’t catch up.

I know I’ve found myself with a wall to wall full diary and when I do make time for myself I am so wired, I can’t even think about meditating or doing yoga or anything like that. Instead I find personal admin to do, or watch telly to numb my brain. I keep on the track running (but not actually running because that would risk my emotions coming up), because I worry what will happen if I stop.

It’s pretty common I think. Whether we’re aware that’s what we’re doing is another matter. But somewhere underneath all of our surfaces lie the real emotions that drive us. And for some of us it’s been so long since we let them out that the idea of seeing them can be terrifying.

Letting go and experiencing

But when I do allow those feelings; when I embrace sadness and have a good cry, or I allow myself to be angry (still working on that one) and have a shout or a scream or punch a pillow the release I feel is proper and full. It allows me to actually relax rather than just staying on top of something. When I allow myself to experience it, I am no longer running away from the feeling. Instead I look it in the face and I say ‘hi, I see you, I get it, I feel it.’ And really it’s not so bad. I often feel a sense of release, and then a sense of shame or shock that I actually did it, but then it passes. And I can get on with my life.

Sadness, anger, loneliness, worry are all ok feelings. It’s when we judge them or try and push them away that we give them power to grow bigger and stronger and have a hold over to us. For a really long time I gave them absolute control over my life. Now I feel like I can at least be aware of that, and sometimes I can act to stop myself in my tracks.

This isn’t always easy. And it can be really annoying when you know that facing it is the ‘right thing to do’ but you just really don’t want to. You can’t manage it, or you feel it might overwhelm you. Sometimes I have this fantasy that if I really allow myself to be so sad, it will eat me up and I’ll just sit in a room crying forever. Of course this isn’t true, when I actually face my feelings it tends to last for a really short time and then I am over it… rather than when I let it fester and my anxiety hangs around for days.

Lifelong process

All of this stuff is stuff I will be learning for the rest of my life. There is no magic cure. But doing Insight I and having the support of my Insight I buddies and our community massively helped me with this. I am better able to communicate my worries to my partner without feeling totally overwhelmed. I can ask for what I need. I can (shock! horror!) get angry sometimes, and when I do I actually feel quite powerful. I’m a work in progress, we all are, but I am happier with myself and I feel freer than I ever have. And I am thankful to Insight for that.

Woman sitting on a chair laughingJo Hunter is the Co-Founder and CEO of 64 Million Artists. She believes in unlocking the power of creativity in everyone to help them live fuller and happier lives. She lives in London with her partner Ben and they are both a part of the big Insight family.

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