The Only Way Out is Through (your feelings)
What if I told you you are supposed to feel this way?
I know it’s not what you want to hear. You want me to tell you how to feel better.
That’s what you’re paying me for, right?
Well, what if I told you you’ll feel better by feeling more?
People come to therapy after experiencing intense emotions and discomfort. They want to find a way out, and fast. In therapy now it is so common that people know what they are going to learn before they even start.
“I really just need some coping skills to help me get over this...”
Feeling angry? Use a stress ball. Scared? Play “Eye spy” with yourself. A bit too distracted? Use your worry box or journal.
These things are great at doing what they are meant for; they can remove the "negative" feelings from the present situation. Cognitive reframing techniques that encourage positivity.. Wholistic approaches to life. Work out, eat healthy, drink water, get sun light, socialize. These things help your mind and body stay “healthy” and “normalized.” Behavioral interventions to increase wellbeing. Therapists track you effort and progress in doing these things more. The idea being that your body will have an easier time doing things “right.” Regulating brain chemistry to help you feel happy more often. You keep running because it feels good.
But what happens when we lean on these too hard or too long?
When does doing so much yoga or meditation become its own form of avoidance? Where does the emotion go? Could it be that you are running from something rather than just running?
Then it happens.
You feel burn out, fear, panic, grief, anger. You have focused so hard on not feeling this way. You’ve done so much! You’re not supposed to feel this! How could this have happened? What did you do wrong?
What seems both too simple and too radical to be the answer is nothing.
What you’re feeling is your system responding appropriately...
What is the appropriate response to a death? Grief.
What is the appropriate response to injustice? Anger
What is the appropriate response to seeing someone you love with someone else? Jealousy
Sometimes your system may be misfiring or brain chemistry may be out of whack. But sometimes, it’s working just fine. Often times, these feelings end up getting demonized as “negative emotions,” but there truly is no such thing.
What if you don’t resist these feelings? Of course, the answer is discomfort. You will not like it but you will keep breathing. Breathe as you experience the discomfort. That is the way through. Follow the breath and your body to its foundation.
Remind yourself you are here and you are now. Breathe to soothe, not ignore. Let your physical body do what it knows to do. Do not run from discomfort... go through it. If you continue to resist these emotions known as negative, they will come back unannounced and with surprising strength.
Resisting often has a positive spin to it through the label of self care, but you end up not only resisting discomfort, you resist progress and healing.
What else should you feel in response to negative life events? Would it feel easier to not cry on your way to work after a break up? Absolutely. But if you don’t feel it fully now, you’ll feel it in some way eventually by keeping it pent up and festering, popping up through your core.
So let me potentially be the first to tell you that you should feel sadness, anger, rage, jealousy, and contempt in your life because you truly don’t heal until you allow yourself to feel.
B'well therapist Nick Etheridge believes in healing through feeling and uses a mindfulness-based approach to help his clients rewire their systems from a state of reactivity to responsiveness.
And his green-thumb-mind is also the main reason all of the plants at B'well Counseling are still alive and well.
To schedule an appointment with Nick, contact him here.