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?
Peggy Handler, MFT, is a psychotherapist in San Francisco's Noe Valley