Why Feeling Feelings Is Important

Since quite some time I’m trying to write an article about taking responsibility for one’s feelings. About three months ago at a writing meetup I’m attending every so often I thought ‘Okay, this article is nearly done. Just the final touch and off we go.’

Well, things turned out differently. An honest self-confession brought me to the realization: I don’t really have an idea about what I’m feeling, so how can I write about it?! 

Yes, it sounds bizarre – to me too. How can I not know what I feel? 

There was something going on, yes. There was anger. There was rage. There was excitement. But what did these emotions want to tell me? And is there anything that lies deeper?

The Seven-Minutes-Experiment

So, I started off with the Seven-Minutes-Experiment. Now I have a slightly better idea about what I feel. But this is an ongoing process. Every day I have to remind myself to take the time to feel.

What I did find out is that there is not always a necessity to act. It is the opposite: I obtain peace of mind by non-acting. By just observing I’m automatically detaching from my feelings. Because feelings are like thoughts – they come and go. They don’t define me.

Okay, where to start? I might feel cold or tired, agitated, overwhelmed or nervous. By nature these feelings are not connoted in a negative or positive way. They just ‘are’.

Our mind likes to label our feelings. It marks them as good or bad. This way our mind creates its own version of reality. And this version of reality dictates how we experience the world, how we make decisions and how we interact with our environment.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. It is important that we categorize. The problem arises when we overrate our own judgement and we identify with this perspective of reality.

This causes stress. The mind takes over. It judges and judges. 

This way we create a barrier between ourselves and reality.

This is a difficult one. On the one hand I have to feel my feelings. Feelings are something natural. They give me a hint of what I need or what I am supposed to be doing in a given situation. They show me a direction.

On the other hand I have to be careful not to over-interpret them. Many times I would be better off by stoically ignoring them instead of labeling them and ‘acting out’ – verbally or ‘operatively’.

But let’s go a step back:

What Is The Difference Between Feelings And Emotions?

Oh boy, do I really want to open this jar? This is a huge topic. It is so complex and there are several approaches and even contradictory explanations of the relation between feelings and emotions. So, please research yourself if you want to draw a wider picture.

Etymologically the word emotion comes from the french word ‘to move’. Something is ‘in motion’ whereas a feeling is considered more as a state.

While an emotion passes quickly, a feeling can persist or better say reoccur over our whole lifetime when triggered for example by an emotion.

As you see – emotions and feelings are interconnected, but still something different.

The only way to really understand the difference between feelings and emotions is through neuroscience.

And this is pretty down to earth.

Emotions are a biochemical response – mainly brought on its way by the Amygdala and other subcortical regions of the brain. They originally helped us as a species to react quickly to possible danger or reward.

A feeling on the other hand is subjectively influenced by our former experience. They are processed in other areas of our brain, but as they are influenced by cognitive input it is hard to really locate them. 

While an emotion is a physical reaction of the body to a stimulus a feeling manifests psychologically through our experience. This process is very complex. It can be more described as a psychological conditioning.

If you imagine a theatre play emotions would be the scenes whereas a feeling would be the genre.

You could say feelings ‘plot’ emotions on the canvas of our mind. 

How Do Feelings Find Their Way Into Our Lives?

I summed up two perspectives:

Our background: What we have experienced as a child conditions us and our feelings. It determines how we act in relationships, what we think about ourselves and about others. It determines our whole experience of the world. Freud and his disciples knew that if we want to understand ourselves fully we have to go back to our traumatic experiences and feel the emotion that we faced during this traumatic event. This helps us to process and integrate the marks of our journey. Getting to know these ‘old’ emotions helps us to understand why we react in a certain way in a given situation.

Our needs: Rather our needs are fulfilled or not conditions the way we ‘feel’ about ourselves and the world. What are our needs? Yes, there is maslow’s hierarchy of needs. When we are tired, hungry or alone we lose our balance easily and we might react emotionally. Rosenberg extends or better say elaborates the list of needs even more: Next to physical nurturance every human has the need for autonomy (following own goals and values), the need for ‘celebration’ (celebration of the creation of life and its fulfillment, and also the celebration of losses, e.g. of loved ones), the need for integrity (authenticity, creativity, meaning and self-worth), the need for interdependence (community, appreciation, intimacy, emotional safety, contribution to the enrichment of life, honesty, support, trust,…), the need for play (fun, laughter) and the need for what he calls ‘spiritual communion’ (beauty, harmony, order, inspiration, peace). 

With the definition of these needs and which feelings arise rather they are met or not Rosenberg lies the foundation for nonviolent communication: “The intend is to remind us about what we already know – about how we humans were meant to relate to another – and to assist us in living in a way that concretely manifests this knowledge.”

So what is there? We have a body and we have needs that make us feel one way or another. And we have things that happen to us that make us feel one way or another. And in the end we have our thoughts that influence the way we feel.

So far so good. Life should flow smoothly if we would just listen to our feelings. But a lot of times it doesn’t, because we distract ourselves.

How Do We Disconnect From Our Feelings?

A lot of times what we call ‘our feelings’ are just projections. We make other people responsible for not being heard, not being loved, for not being sufficient. More than anything they are often reponses of our old conditioning. Our little hurt self that wants attention. 

Rosenberg explains: “Judgements, criticism, diagnoses, and interpretations of others are all alienated expressions of our own needs and values. When others hear criticism, they tend to invest their energy in self-defense or counterattack. The more directly we can connect our feelings to our needs, the easier it is for others to respond compassionately.”

At the beginning I thought: Okay, I’m aware of this. I will just change it. I don’t judge. I don’t re-act. I only observe and take the time to understand my needs.

I found out that this is easier said than done. As I explained earlier – there is a fundamental biochemical process going on in our body. We don’t change that easily.

Sometimes we deny feelings subconsciously. Most likely we deny the uncomfortable feelings, because our brain can’t be bothered with finding a solution for an unsatisfying situation. 

Why? Because it wants to protect us from discomfort. We make ourselves vulnerable by confessing our deepest needs, because they might not be met. This is called coherence. Our brain likes convenience. It wants us to experience our life as ‘comprehensive’ as possible. This is why it prefers to stick to behavioural patterns that ‘work’. And a lot of times these patterns are not very useful.

Most of the time we are craving for something or we lack something and we are trying to find a ‘quick fix’.

A quick fix can be work, our phone, sex, drugs, TV or any other type of entertainment.

The problem is that these distractions lead us further away from ourselves. I don’t say they are generally bad, but they can be if they help us to avoid confrontation with our feelings.

“Avoidance is never an option in order to live a happy life,” said Margarete Paul, author of the book “Healing your aloneness”.

By avoiding our feelings we deny ourselves.

‘Not taking part’ can also be a form of denial. By avoiding new experiences we prevent ourselves from failure – but also from feeling ourselves.

Why Should We Better Connect With Our Feelings?

If you detach yourself from your feelings you will never fully feel yourself. You will never arrive in the present moment. You will never know what it means to be alive.

The more you become aware of your feelings the more confidence you get. If you are able to accept your vulnerability you have nothing to be afraid of. Social anxiety won’t be necessary anymore as you are not looking for approval.

Your nervous system relaxes if you are honest with yourself. Confess and accept anger or rage or sadness and automatically you will find release.

Additionally your body starts working in its natural power, because energy is being released.

The Real Homework

I found out that this is what it’s all about. I get to know myself by coming to my senses, by feeling myself.

Daniel Coleman, expert in emotional intelligence, expresses why this is so crucial for all of us:

“To understand human nature in general it helps enormously to first understand ourselves, which takes self-awareness. With emotional self-awareness, we recognize our feelings and how they impact us, which helps us, for example speak from the heart in a way that resonates with other people. Self-awareness also underlies effective emotional mastery, as well as empathy– we can only understand other’s emotions if we understand our own.” 

About six years ago, when I ended a toxic relationship, I started off with my journey of self-discovery. 

The following years were only about ‘toughening up’. I thought I have to get stronger. I thought I have to toughen up and this is the only way to get through this life. 

I was wrong. What I had to discover was my vulnerability. 

Through a lot of painful experiences I finally realized that I have to do my real homework. I have to learn to manage my emotions, I have to deal with my feelings instead of numbing them.

Stop creating yourself. Be who you are.

 

Power is Playfulness or How To Spread Light

Do you know these people who set the room on fire with their energy? It can be a colleague, a friend, a friend of a friend, a family member or somebody else you met personally. They spread such a lightness. Their mood affects the whole group.

Intuitively they seem to respond to every (social) situation. They seem to express themselves naturally – in a way like nothing can interfere with their peace. A welcoming aura surrounds them that draws you in…

What do they do differently?

I ask some counterquestions:

When was the last time you started singing in the shower as loud as you can? When was the last time you were smiling at a stranger? – Not just a friendly smile, but a smile from the bottom of your heart? When was the last time you were happy for no obvious reason?

How many days do you spend caught up in the bubble of your head? How many days are you putting up a mask?

The core of our being supplies us with energy. And this energy manifests in happiness, appreciation or expression of excitement.

This energy radiates from the core of our being – if we let it. But a lot of times we don’t let it.

So what about these people who are like a warming fire on a winter’s night?

The energy that radiates around them is the energy of a kid climbing a tree. They act out their inner child – with grace and wonder. They are never getting out of touch with their playfulness.

They don’t only express their excitement (verbally or with their behaviour), but also their vulnerability. And this is what creates trust and in the end encourages people to be themselves too.

They are the real role models – the ones who demonstrate confidence without being manipulative.

Love circulates around them.

If we want to manifest love we have to stop creating walls that disconnect us from our environment and ourselves. 

Our mind is always trying to protect ourselves. We are trying to ‘fit in’. This is how our society is organized. We have to fit in. We have to adapt. We can’t follow our own rhythm.

But this is what moves us away from a purposeful and authentic life. And this is the root cause of all problems.

‘Owning your power’ means to be able to celebrate our singularities in any given moment – without a self-regulating voice in our head that tells us how to behave.

To surrender to the moment equals to surrender to yourself.

We have to encounter ourselves and the world around us with kindness and admiration of what is.

This is spreading the seed of unconditional love. This is how we create a sanctuary for the ‘un-loved-ones’ – everybody who is carving connection.

“Breaking the ice” means melting the hardcover.

If we keep sustaining our hardcovers we suspend ourselves from life.

With vulnerability and approachability compassion is possible.

This is how we connect with each other on a core level – by sharing this little spark inside of us.

Let us be the people who shine the light and set the world on fire. 

 

Conflict is the Foundation of Compromise

All of my life I tried to avoid conflict. I’d rather shut my mouth, than having an argument.

I’ve started to learn about nonviolent communication years ago. Only recently I found out that I still had a massive misconception around this whole topic in my head.

I connoted conflict in a negative way. I thought it is a bad thing, so I avoided it – especially in interpersonal relationships. I thought it is bad karma, negative energy, the beginning of the end…

It is the opposite.

It sounds a bit contradictory, but conflict is positive. It is the foundation of compromise. (The diplomats of you will smile at me.)

How? Well, what happens when conflict arises? Let’s assume there are two people who don’t agree on a topic. They blame the other person for not being right. In reality these people are not able to express their needs in a way the other person understands it.

But guess what? We are all humans. So, if we express ourselves in a grounded and compassionate manner most likely the other person will comprehend our point of view.

This is all there is. This is all that needs to be resolved. If everyone would be able to articulate their needs in any given situation a conflict would be part of the solution.

There will be some amount of discomfort involved – sometimes the problem is might be very complex, but in the very end things will smoothly fall into place.

 

Restoring Sanity

The higher the highs the lower the lows.
The brighter the light the darker the holes.

The deeper the pain the greater the gain.

There is a treasure within ourselves.
We just have to find it.

The truth doesn’t come smoothly. It comes hailing down on you.

If it doesn’t hurt it is not the truth.

The truth isn’t a pre-cooked dinner of your mom. It’s raw. You will not find a recipe on how to prepare it.

Because there is nothing to prepare.

If you walk on the verge of insanity everything is about balance.

Nothing else.

 

Inverse Resistance

I lack the understanding of form. This is why I lack the understanding of symbolism. This is why I lack the understanding of boundaries.

Because form – in a sense of entities, in a sense of personalities or roles – doesn’t exist according to my understanding of the world.

This is why I CAN’T define myself or the other. I see through them. I see through me. I see them through me and me through them.

I see myself as a means of transport, a flashlight, a catalyst….

There is nothing to define. There is might be not even something to reflect? There is only to discover. But what there is to discover is not ‘something’. It is it – many before me named it – awareness, consciousness, oneness, ‘the way‘. In the end this is ‘us’.

My thoughts mask my consciousness. My thoughts are trying to define. This way they are closing my eyes.

Lacking the form is a good start. Probably this is something that distinguishes my way of thinking from the thinking of most beings. But the mask is there.

Expansion means to get rid of this mask, get rid of all thoughts. A beginning would be to not believe them. To not do what they are telling me. At a max these thoughts want to point in some direction.

Do you want to come with me?

What is there? Fear? Anger? Doubt? What are you the most afraid of? What seems to be the biggest challenge of your life? Define it. The more precisely you can define it the more shockingly will be the impact. The impact on and of what? The impact on your belief-system by dropping this fear.

The thing you identify has to be the thing to fully let go of.

If you never got in touch with any form of meditation you might have issues with this, but you will get there.

Imagine this challenge, this fear. And now let go of it. How? Drop it, push it over the edge. It doesn’t belong to you. It is only a thought. So let go. Dive into trust instead. Completely.

I imagine this trust as a warming and comforting bathtub. The doubts and threats and dangers are imposed, constructed, dictated. They are trying to hold us back from diving into the soothing bathtub.

What’s the water in the bathtub? It is the essence itself. It is pure love.

If we are ready to immerse into the unknown we are going to experience it.

Resistance and disbelief are the fences. Prejudice and self-hatred are the bouncers at the doorway to paradise.

Paradise how I understand it – a place of unity, a place of wholeness, a place where true innovation is possible.

If we discharge our mind from its responsibility true innovation will be possible.

If we don’t believe our thoughts the unbelievable will be possible.

All we need to do is to get rid of our resistance and dive into trust.

 

Embodying Reality

I’m transforming.
I’m expanding.
I’m compiling.
I’m transcending.

Sensory input is beyond perception. I’m not observing, I (sur)render.

Out of body, out of mind I’m hovering.

Above the ground or elsewhere my energy field absorbs.

All matter blows up like a balloon.

A new force draws magnetically.

I’m submerging through the grid of masks.

My consciousness expands impulsively.

The boost disassociates me from the rest of the world.

My internal materializes within another dimension.

Involuntarily I convert into a canvas of reality.

I am lived.
I transfer.
I become life and everything that is and ever will be.

Is this embodiment of the light or incorporation of the shadow?

 

Writing Transformation Challenge 0.1

The longest two weeks of my life are coming to an end. Ok, I’m exaggerating. But man, this was harder than I thought. The idea was to get rid of my notes, but in reality I created so many new ones – of course – because the more I write the more I think and the more I think the more I streamline my insights.

The learning curve is steep, but through this challenge I definitely made the most progress I’ve ever made with any writing experiment. I literally wrote my ass off. But no pain no gain, right?

Nevertheless – I completely under-delivered. This was partly due to my perfectionism, but also because I was quite involved with editing projects and other work.

Instead of 14 articles I published only nine. Six of the 14 days I worked full-time. I visited my parents in my home village and I was living on a campground. I had a lot of social interaction, which drained my energy.

Nonetheless I used every free minute to write – in the subway, waiting for the bus, in the train, before going to sleep…. I spent nearly every spare moment writing.

I’m proud of what I have achieved in these two weeks. This challenge reached depths that I have never suspected and this is all that matters.

Killing The Darlings Fastly

The time restraint of the two weeks definitely forced me to steam down my insights. This made me think sharper. Due to the time pressure I had to ‘kill my darlings’ very fast. What do I mean by that for those who don’t write? I had to shorten and revise my articles faster and this helped me in the process of ‘detaching’ from my writing.

Writing is Growth

I find peace while writing. I love the process of filling a page with my thoughts.

Publishing with the idea to have to revise it ten times afterwards doesn’t satisfy me and it doesn’t improve my writing either. “Learning years are not earning years.” I guess patience is key and as long as I keep going everything is fine.

Pressure shapes a diamond, but it contracts my brain. It is more important to develop a writing routine than forcing myself to press the publishing button. There are things that are just not ‘ripe’ yet.

There is no such thing as ‘finishing an article’. There is always something to add. There will be always ten new articles in the pipeline. And that’s good – as long as the ideas are flowing I’m going to write.

“Writing over publishing”

I wrote between two to ten hours per day, but if I’m tired I better get some sleep. My topics are too fundamental to just pour them out. The range of subjects expands with every article that I write.

It blows my mind what I’m learning from this challenge. Even though my perfectionism screwed up the quantity of my challenge. I’ve never wrote more within two weeks. I feel like a tiny barrier in my head broke. And this is all that matters. I will keep going.

 

The Lonesome Warriors

We are throwing ourselves out there.
We are growing deep roots while reaching out for eternal connection.

We challenge the current state by challenging our own convenience.
With reverence not with resistance we are breaking down our own walls.

We rip ourselves apart to give you a clear sight to the core of human nature. Mind-stretching and heart-opening we elevate the planet’s vibration.

Questions are our weapons, discomfort our means of transport and unconditional love our fuel. Our vulnerability is what makes us invincible.

We are the lonesome warriors fighting for existence.

With every barrier we break the battlefield extends. What we conquer is consciousness – layer after layer.

There is no way back – only forward.

Let’s team up and be the change.

 

Beyond Pain Lies Compassion

Okay – as this is a writing experiment I’m going to be brave today on “Day Two” of my “Writing Transformation Challenge”. Straight out of my notes from this morning:

How to do the work? How to look at life with compassion and fearlessness?

It means to look at ALL situations as part of THE enlightenment (process). More precisely: All situations ARE enlightenment.

The transformation takes place if we use all situations.

It doesn’t matter if the water is hot or cold. It doesn’t matter if we sleep alone or in a room with 20 people. It doesn’t matter if we call anything material our own or not.

The transformation takes place as soon as we are no longer afraid to lose it all.

Uncomfortable situations are our means of transport in order to accept / embody our non-being / detachment. But for this we have to give up our comfort.

We have to lose our necessities, our desires, our pride. Because all these things are trivial. They are rooted in our ego. And our ego keeps us trapped.

As long as we are wanting to ‘receive’ we only feed our ego. Why? Because this is the wrong focus.

We receive nothing before we are connecting with the warmth of compassion, the warmth of unconditional love, because this is compassion. We receive when we give. And I mean really give – without expecting any reward.

When we are able to shine our light even though we just went through the deepest emotional pain, this is when we reached unconditional love.

We are able to shine our light when all the masks are falling. If we are unmasking all the lies we are telling ourselves.

As long as we are looking for protection we cling to our desires and we are closing ourselves off from compassion – the true source of energy.

Of course I’m writing this all from the perspective of a westerner. I have in fact nothing to worry about. But exactly because of this I have to be willing to give it all up. It is my obligation to go further, because other people can’t. They are born into oppression, poverty or starvation.

Compassion for all beings includes compassion for our own selves.

You may ask: But how can I be compassionate with myself?! If this is your question (as it is mine) you are still a victim to the wrong ideals. You didn’t take the time to find what nourishes you.

You are still ‘not there’. You haven’t opened the door yet. The real door is still closed and you are hoping for ‘release’ from the external.

This release doesn’t come as long as you are lying to yourself. As long as you chase and rush and hustle you get blinded by superficiality.

I chose the path. I saw too much. I felt too much. I can’t ‘go back’.

This is why I reply ‘I really don’t know’ when somebody asks me ‘What do you want?’.

I’m not doing this ‘for fun’. I’m not running away.

What I know is that this is not about me.

It’s about us.

Getting in touch with our fears is something we are forced to. We are facing loss, illness and physical pain. From the moment we are born we are used to suffering.

The secret is to re-discover the compassion that connects and comforts us all – behind the pain.

The pain is only one side of the coin. The other is compassion.

‘To free ourselves from all fear we must touch the ground of our being and train ourselves to look directly into the light of compassion.’, says Thich Nhat Hanh.

The real question is not: How to overcome the pain, but how to find compassion beyond the pain?