Lesson #48: Being with the ‘feel bads’
So much people pleasing and acting unconsciously comes from what The Holistic Psychologist, Nicole Lepera, calls the ‘feel bads’. Things like not saying no because the other person might then feel bad, which in turn makes us feel bad .. so isn’t it easier to just say yes?
For many of us, we weren’t modeled how to be with bad feelings. So often our caregivers couldn’t handle us feeling sad or ‘bad’ and so would try to divert us from those feelings so that THEY wouldn’t feel bad. And as a result, many of us aren’t practiced at how to BE with simply feeling ‘bad’.
The biggest problem with not allowing another person to feel bad and wanting to cheer them up (which then becomes a pattern that we do to ourself) is that it invalidates that feeling .. it dismisses the message that the feeling is giving you, and it disconnects you from the deep parts of yourself.
If we aren’t able to be with our ‘bad’ feelings, we also become disconnected from our happy and joyful feelings. After spending over 40 years in this state of numbness to my feelings or desires, I think of it as a sort of ‘living death’ .. because in disconnecting from our feelings we are also disconnecting from life.
Being with difficult feelings isn’t easy for anyone, but with practice it certainly becomes easier. With a reframe the pain of difficult feelings can even be transmuted. For example, one reframe I currently use is the idea that ‘we came to earth to experience it all’ .. and in this way I can see my pain as part of my life experience as a human. In this way it is not ‘personal’ ie “Why me?!”.
You’ve got to learn to love the ropes
The idea that ‘you’ve got to learn to love the ropes’ is an analogy that really resonates with me. The image I have when I think of this statement is of being tied to a chair, trapped, and as I struggle the ropes rub and the sense of feeling trapped is heightened. The idea, as I understand it, is that, in learning to love the ropes, the ropes disappear. It’s much like the idea that what you resist persists. In terms of the ‘bad feelings’, if we can learn to love them, to see them as an integral part to being human, and as part of a spectrum of feelings, then the hold that these feelings have over us dissipates and we can celebrate the full spectrum of feelings as part of life, knowing that these bad feelings won’t last forever. By being with, even loving the struggles, we get to appreciate and enjoy the ‘good’ feeling when they arrive all the more.
Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional
No life is without challenges and pain. It is part of being human. But our suffering is amplified when we attach to our pain and personalise it, resist it, reject it or fear it.
The freedom of accepting our feelings
There is a liberation that comes when we can be with and be accepting of our feelings — and the feelings of others. When we can stop acting in ways that avoid feeling pain, and we stand in what is true for us regardless of what others may think or feel, we are being a stand for true healing, for allowing others to also be with what they feel. In liberating ourself we are also liberating others.
For me, one of the biggest gifts of getting more comfortable with the ‘feel bads’ (after spending a lifetime avoiding them) is getting to experience the ‘good feelings’ that eventually arrive. There was a time when I was so cut off from all feelings that ‘good feelings’ didn’t exist for me either. In feeling the feelings that come up for me I get to feel like I’m living life rather than avoiding it.
Feeling bad is not fun. It ‘feels bad’. But if we can practice being with bad feelings, rather than running from them, we can live a bolder, richer and more fulfilling life. And even as I write this I’m aware of some ill-defined discomfort and the desire to escape. And rather than turn to my overflowing to-do list to help myself feel better, I will practice what I am preaching and set my alarm for 11:11 minutes .. and sit and breathe and be with myself, with these feelings. After all, there is only the present moment. Thanks for being here!