Paying attention to our feelings, whether we like them or not, is a massive step towards creating positive mental health in ourselves and in our ‘communities’.
I’m still surprised how little is promoted and talked about ‘out there’ about feelings and emotions. I mean, last week was about as powerful as we have seen in a while in the UK parliament – and on the world stage generally – when it comes to feelings and emotions being expressed.
So, it’s not as if everyone’s outgrown ‘all that feeling-nonsense’.
Feelings and emotions are alive and well.
And the fact that they are starting to ‘come out’ more really is a good thing.
But what’s not so good is watching the way feelings are often unconsciously ‘acted-out’ in negative ways instead of used to personally reflect and understand ourselves, our relationships and each other better, to understand why we might be feeling a certain way, before we communicate with each other or with the wider world in general.
We do unto others
What do I mean?
Well, as so many of us already know, someone who exhibits bullying behaviour has more than likely been bullied, humiliated or had their own boundaries or needs violated, ignored or diminished themselves in the past. The way they have decided to deal with those painful experiences (either consciously or unconsciously) is to negate their own pain and instead, repeat the pattern by inflicting that very same behaviour onto other people.
But, I think it’s important to understand that they are doing this because they are trying to feel better themselves.
Someone else though, may decide (again, consciously or unconsciously) to become withdrawn or depressed following similar experiences of bullying behaviour, thus turning the pain they felt from those initial bullying experiences in on themselves, rather than act it out onto others or the world in general.
Those are just two simplistic examples of the different responses some people might choose to deal with similar painful feelings, but of course, there are many more and the ‘drama’ is often deeper and more complex for each and every one of us.
However, when someone starts to truly work on firstly acknowledging what feelings they are experiencing in the here-and-now, then understanding those feelings and what may have contributed to them arising, they can then begin to choose to feel better.
Yes, it can sometimes take time (but not always) – and often involve the experiencing many other feelings along the way – including grief and sadness and more pain! But I have seen both my own and other people’s lives transform when we no longer choose to remain dead to our feelings or deny them to ourselves or others, thus continuing to live life unconsciously.
Working on – and with – our feelings can be like being given a roadmap (or if I’m being modern – a satnav!) for our journey. We all know that once we have a map for our journey, we have guidance, directions, signs that we’re on the right road – and that can make the journey so much easier – and even more enjoyable. Without a map we can feel lost, not knowing where we are now, where we are heading or the slightest clue how to get there.
Tapping into how we feel right now and what is contributing – as well as to what has contributed so far – is the start of our journey of recovery.
This journey though can involve feeling more feelings! We often need to go through grief and sadness once we understand how and why some of these initial feelings have come about.
But, as the poet Robert Frost once said ‘the only way round something is through’. And ‘this too shall pass’ is also true (I couldn’t establish who wrote this; except that it was probably a Persian Sufi poet). And that’s also true. Feelings do pass. If we let them have the space they deserve. But the key is to feel them.
Because when we don’t, what we resist also persists – and will grow in size – like the wonderful Swiss Psychiatrist and Psychoanalyst, Carl Jung once said.
When we all start feeling (our feelings) better, we start to feel better. And when we feel better we naturally engage more positively with ourselves and each other.
And that makes for a better world.
Mental illness and some diagnoses are often complex, but as many people now experience general anxiety, fear, anger, depression – often without knowing why they feel this way or how they got there – what I believe we need now is to be reflective practitioners of our own lives. This is how we take full responsibility for ourselves and this is how real change happens – not just inside of us – but all around us when our inner-change meets other people’s inner-change.
When I acknowledge, make sense of and honour my own feelings, I am much more likely to be able to honour, make sense of and respect yours.
And when we are able to honour each other, we are much more likely to be kind to each other. We are less likely to do harm.
I have a dream
My dream is that one day, we will all have the capacity – and an everyday language – to express our feelings. An ordinary way to share how we feel with each other in authentic ways, without mocking each other, trying to fix each other, ignoring or denying ourselves or one another or being afraid to show our true selves.
I have a dream that one day we will not be afraid to say ‘I’m feeling angry right now’ or ‘I’m feeling really sad at the moment’ or lonely or frightened or so full of joy I could burst.
I think we have a fair way to go, as even sharing really positive feelings with each other can provoke envy or irritation in others (especially if we are going through something which isn’t joyful ourselves). But I am really starting to see a change happening in the world now. And I am loving it.
It still feels like a long road ahead, but I do now believe it’s possible. And I am pleased to be part of that conversation. And part of that change.
Knowing what we really feel and why we feel the way we do, is the first step towards articulating who we are and what we want.
Many clients I meet are just beginning to uncover how they feel. Many do not know why they are living the way they live – or why they have been putting up with the things they have been putting up with.
Yet, when they start to unravel the repeating patterns that have governed and dominated their lives to date, they realise many things about how they have been stuck or denied some feelings; they wake up. They begin to understand why they feel the way they feel. They have compassion – for themselves and for others – for the choices they have made and the losses they have experienced. And that’s when they start their journey of recovery. They start feeling better.
Feel Better at Work
We have all encountered dysfunctional workplaces or communities, right? Even in our B2B communities! Places where negativity, bullying or ‘bad behaviour’ is rife, perhaps even overtly or covertly expected, rewarded or valued.
This leaves an air of toxicity that many can feel but only the strongest survive. And who do I mean when I say the strongest? Well, the strongest are those who are willing and able to ‘play along’, to deliver the expected behaviours in order to survive – or to ‘get something’ they believe they need or want.
But even these people do not always ‘survive’ without some ‘cost’ to themselves – even if that’s not immediately apparent or visible. It can easily remain hidden for some time. That ‘cost’ can manifest as deep regret, poor personal relationships, underlying sadness, shame, lack of integrity, poor physical health or literally overall dis-ease, which is felt on a conscious or subconscious level – if only during quiet moments, alone.
Those that feel their feelings more deeply, who notice and disagree with the negativity, with any expected toxic behaviour and do not join in, often bail-out early if there is no space to speak up or cultivate change. They can be scapegoated, endure long-term absence perhaps or ‘suffer’ in silence, putting on a routinely fake face or mask to just get through or cope every day. That too can be debilitating.
But there are others who speak up, change their lives, help to change the lives of others through the work that they do, which can be liberating and healing for everyone involved.
When we all have a greater understanding of our own emotional world, as well as insightful ways of taking responsibility for how we feel and how we engage or communicate with each other, I believe times of great change – both inside and outside of organisations are easier for everyone and less fraught for us all.
We will not need to be violent or aggressive to be heard. We will hear and understand our differences. We will be able to see each other as part of the great whole of humanity, rather than seeing each other as a hole in humanity or a ‘problem’ to be eradicated.