Not to Feel is to Stop the Heart from Breathing
This culture emphasizes thinking over feeling. Consequently, many people are much more comfortable staying in the "rational" or "logical" realms. where there may be more of a sense (or illusion) of control. Often people feel afraid of the "irrational" world of feelings. In fact to call something "irrational" in our culture is to devalue or dismiss it.
By nature feelings ARE irrational, ie not of the thinking mind. We are born with feelings and later learn how to think, and how to think about feeling as we grow and develop. Feelings are an essential part of our Being, though they are often treated as a wild beast that needs to be subdued, controlled or ignored.
Often there is a fear of our feelings as they are out of our conscious control. Feelings are often felt to be the problem rather than how they are expressed or judged. They can cause a great deal of pain, and reactivity and at the same time they can give us a great sense of well-being, joy and happiness.
As the poet Mark Nepo says so beautifully in the quote, feeling is essential to the heart. Without feeling, our heart stops breathing, we become less human and more machine-like, more like the ultra-rational Vulcan Mr. Spock from Star Trek. This may seem appealing at times, but ultimately there is a high price to be paid for ignoring such an essential part of who we are.
Feeling is the lifeblood and inspiration of poets, artists, dancers and people who fully live their lives ( and those of us who attempt to do so as a daily, imperfect practice!)
The heart needs to breathe for us to be fully human. And for the heart to breathe, feeling must be allowed and invited, given an equal place at the table with thought and logic. What do you need to feel today for your heart to breathe fully and openly?
a wildly underrated medication.
~ Anna Deavere Smith
Though a bit tongue in cheek, the quote highlights the healing nature of friendship. There is nothing like being with a friend, connecting with someone we love and trust to get us through times of sadness, grief, sorrow, uncertainty, pain, depression.... the list can go on. And there is nothing like friendship to share moments of joy and happiness, accomplishments, success, excitement and anticipation.
I often say we are more like dogs than cats. We are social beings who need to connect and to share with others. We don't do well in isolation. We thrive by sharing with others ( and neuroscience has proven this through the idea of "mirror neurons."), by encouraging each other and sharing in our joys and sorrows. Our brains release endorphins, the feel-good hormones, when we are connecting with others.
We are interdependent by nature; often people think they are "codependent" when they are simply depending on others in a healthy, normal way. Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, you still need friends: People to celebrate with, commiserate with, people you can count on, relationships that let you know in a deep, even visceral way, that you are not alone.
I have always been delighted
at the prospect of a new day,
a fresh try,
one more start,
with perhaps a bit of magic
waiting somewhere behind the morning.
Monday morning, or any morning of the week: Do you face it with anticipation of what the day may bring or with dread of what lays ahead? Do you have a default attitude upon waking up? Is the way you feel upon waking up related to the dreams you may have had? Or the movie/video/news you watched, the internet site, the book or the email you read before going to sleep? Do you wake up in a rush or do you allow yourself time to stretch, contemplate, write your dreams, meditate?
Even when the day is stressful or a routine day, it is still a new day, full of new possibilities; Possibilities to feel all kinds of different feelings, to experience things anew, to notice things with fresh eyes. Even when you are not feeling good, or are in emotional or physical pain, can you at the same time, notice the feel of the sun ( or the fog!) on your skin, hear the song of a bird, hear someone laughing, share a smile with someone, taste something delicious, hear a song that moves you? In other words, can you be present to all that is going on, can you allow some magic in along with the expected, the known, the usual? Can you allow life to surprise and delight you; can you let some of the magic in?
Peggy Handler, MFT, is a psychotherapist in San Francisco's Noe Valley