December 20 - Listen Carefully! Your Emotions Are Speaking!

Anger, sadness, and disappointment…they all seem to get a bad rap. So often, these emotions are considered to be “negative” emotions, while happiness, joy, and contentment are all considered “positive” emotions. How did this come to be? Where along the line did we decide that part of our internal wisdom was to be celebrated and the other part disregarded or numbed?

I don’t know the answer to these questions for certain, but I have my suspicions. As children, many of us were often told to “put on our happy faces” or to be grateful for what we had, rather than be allowed to express our desire for something different than what we had or to feel any degree of sadness or anger. As a result, whenever we felt those “forbidden” emotions we began to think that we had to find a way to hide what we were experiencing.

We may have started to exercise repetitively or to use sugar to change how we were feeling; we may have even blamed others for “making” us feel what we were feeling. None of these choices served anyone well…in fact, while we walked around with bottled-up emotions, others may have felt blamed or criticized unfairly.

What if we were to really own our feelings instead of trying to ignore them? What if we could find some quiet time to explore with curiosity their meaning until we discovered our direction within them? Here are a few examples of what I have in mind.

The other day in the grocery store I overheard a mother telling her child that he was stupid and inconsiderate because he asked her to buy him a toy. I felt fury rise up inside of me as a response. There was a part of me that could have gone up and shouted at her, “Don’t you know what ideas you are planting in his young mind? Isn’t there another way you can explain why he can’t have the toy rather than creating declarations of stupidity and inconsideration in his young brain?” If I had done that, however, I would have felt terrible all day. I would have done to her what I saw her doing to him. I would have done to her what was done to me.

  I remember well being called stupid, over and over again…and as a result I still fight that perception today. Today I could have bought a chocolate bar and numbed my feelings. Today I could have acted in a way that does not reflect my heart. Instead, I gave it considerable thought and came to an understanding of where my own feelings of inadequacy may have originated. I remember being punished and humiliated for acting like a child typically acts.

I vowed to share this story with young parents so they could be more mindful of their words, so they might take a little extra time and explain to their child how it is normal to want a toy; it is just not always possible to receive one. And perhaps they might even add that it is even okay to feel disappointed when you find out you cannot have what you want!

Today in another situation, I found myself frustrated trying to communicate something. I felt unheard and like my viewpoint didn’t matter. I felt the rage rising, so I requested a time out! “When did I feel this way before?” I asked myself. “Who wouldn’t listen to me, and what was the consequence? What did I do then?”

I remembered trying to let my father know how sad I felt about his drinking, how it impacted our family. And yet he continued to drink. Why was I to feel that frustration today, right before I was to write this hors-d’oeuvre? Perhaps it was to share it with you, so you could know the long-lasting effects of your habits on your children and your family. Perhaps it was so I could understand the anger inside of me that I was never allowed to express as a child.

What is truly important is that I didn’t have to lash out like I did as a child; I also did not need to pretend like my emotions did not exist. Instead, I made an attempt to use this moment to serve others. I searched for what I needed to express from long ago, and I have shared that which I learned as a result from my emotions with you today. This is where I believe the true healing of our hearts and our families and our nations takes place.

Do you honor your emotions and listen for what they are trying to communicate to you? Do you separate what you are feeling in this moment from what you were not allowed to feel a long time ago? Will you listen carefully to your emotions and begin to use the messages within them in a way that serves others? And will you start today?

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