It’s OK to feel

When Joe’s fiancée called quits on their relationship of two years, his response was to immerse himself in work, avoid any conversation with friends about what happened, and instead put up a demeanour showing ‘it’s cool’! Ryan lost both his parents to an illness within a span of one month. He started spending more and more time at pubs trying to drown his sorrow in loud music and alcohol. Jane had grown up in a house with an abusive parent; at a very young age she had learnt to lock herself in her room and watch movies each time a showdown was happening at home.

What each of these people were doing was to bury their emotions in activities which gave them some sense of normalcy, however convoluted. But, trying to ignore or suppress emotions is like trying to hide an inflating balloon under a mattress, it will burst sooner or later. When we fight against emotional pain, we get trapped in it. Difficult emotions become destructive and break down the mind, body, and spirit. Feelings get stuck, frozen in time, and we get stuck in them. Denied feelings turn into limiting beliefs that make people choose harmful behaviour. It paralyzes people from saying stop and making changes that would bring them more joy and sense of self-worthiness. Suppressed feelings don’t disappear into the thin air. Those feelings hide, until they can’t hide anymore – the space in the compartment has run out. They begin to spill out in ways that seem strange and random. They show up as depression, or anxiety, or back pain, or an eating disorder, or migraines, or blind rage or some other mental-physical-emotional pain. So often people complain of poor sleep patterns, mental exhaustion, stress, health issues like high blood pressure or ulcers etc, without knowing that there is an underlying emotion which has been unaddressed.

Acknowledging feelings is more difficult for men, as for long it has been considered culturally acceptable for women to display emotions, while a man is expected to just get on with life. So, while women feel ‘allowed’ to express a larger spectrum of emotions, men seem to be limited to expressing it in form of one of the three – anger, contempt or pride. But despite all these societal or cultural “requirements” about emotion, it turns out that our brains aren’t processing things all that differently.

All of us are dealing with varying emotions at different points in life. Some are more difficult than others. Well here is the thing – It’s okay to feel! It is ok to feel excitement, to feel loneliness, to feel fear, to feel anxiety, indecision, or unexpected calm. It’s okay to feel pain, to let it soak into your pores. Allowing yourself to feel doesn’t mean you are weak. Rather, it opens you. It makes you human. To feel means that you are experiencing life. It means that you are letting yourself be a real person. A person with faults and flaws, expectations and emotions. A person that is capable of loving and forgiving, breaking and rebuilding, again and again.

It is important to remember that embracing your strengths and well-being does not mean ignoring your difficulties. We are measured by our ability to work through our hardships and insecurities, not avoid them. We are all fighting some sort of battle, and when we accept this truth for ourselves, and others, it becomes a lot easier. By learning to bear witness to our own pain and responding with kindness and understanding, rather than greeting difficult emotions by fighting hard against them, we open ourselves up to genuine healing and a new experience of living. The key to good emotional health is a person’s ability to express feelings appropriately.
Are you experiencing any of the signs mentioned above? Do you have any unaddressed emotions? Give yourself permission to live fully by allowing yourself to feel. Acknowledge the emotion, sense it in your body, accept it without judging it. If you or anyone you know needs support in this journey, contact me at khyatishah@katalist.net.in.

The more you hide your feelings, the more they show. The more you deny your feelings, the more they grow.