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It feels so good to feel so bad

"Insert inspirational quote here:"

Hello, friend. Yes, oh yes, we live in a positivity culture, and thanks to the prolific modern scientific research in the arena of optimism, we are all pretty well aware of the benefits behind feeling good and always searching for the silver lining. And if you've been hiding out under a rock somewhere, don't worry, you can merely find another human who gets their inspirational quotes on an RSS feed like a steady IV of liquid cotton candy. Or visit my Instagram page. Shawn Achor, positivity expert, researcher and speaker, alone has written several books on the topic. Deepak Chopra and Oprah (did these two plan to have rhyming names?) have their meditation series based on tapping into relaxation and positive feelings. Mastin Kipp has hundreds of thousands of followers, positivity coaches and speakers like Dr. Wayne Dyer and Joel Osteen are widely renowned. Physiologically speaking the benefits are innumerable: better blood flow, weight loss, a sense of happiness and well being, a stronger immune system, clarity, focus, healthy relationships, better sex, increased productivity and creativity, all caused by an influx of endorphins, hormones and feel-good neurotransmitters like oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin. These are all responsible for health-benefiting and life-enhancing feelings. Yes, happy = good. We know, we know, we know.

So what about these other emotions? The not-so-feel-good emotions like shame, fear, depression, anxiety, guilt, sadness, grief and anger…? The emotions that never get invited to parties? The ones that stay chained to the radiator while you go out and dance? Socially and culturally, there’s a focus on positive emotions and an abandonment of the negative ones. Thankfully, there’s hope that this is changing, due to contributions from pop culture, like Disney’s Inside Out. Through a children’s animation, the film offers us a unique perspective on human emotions and how without sadness, there can be no happiness. Trust me, I get it; bad emotions just feel, well…icky. This is only human. So what do we do? Throw the negative emotions out with the stale Kung Pao chicken? Not so simple.

All of your emotions are important and feeling them is the very key to accessing all of those yummy emotions we chase after (and ushering in the positive things we want in our lives).

As adults we can often be made to feel that strength comes from smiling through the pain – but true strength can actually be found in the willingness to feel these moments of unhappiness, rather than give in to the temptation to avoid or numb one’s self to emotional discomfort. “ will feeling like crap help me to feel better?” you ask? Great question, clever reader.

Based on years of muscle testing and human energy labs, Dr. David Hawkins, Ph.D. and M.D., author of Letting Go: the Pathway to Surrender, among others, discovered a way to measure the frequency of emotions and created an emotional energy spectrum based on his findings. The frequency of shame resonates at a level of 20, while joy resonates at 540. In short, emotions that are low on the spectrum, like shame, create a very weak energy field within our bodies that actually causes weakness and fatigue. The opposite is true with those higher on the spectrum, they caused an increase in strength of the muscle being tested.

An aversion to so-called negative feelings causes behaviors of avoidance, distraction, repression, and numbness. However, when you avoid your emotions and don’t feel them, the energy does not go anywhere. It remains within your body. Over time, you develop a collection of these groups of emotions that reside in varying frequencies. This collection of emotions then makes up what your average frequency is. When an emotion is fully felt, the energy is able to run its course and disperse from the body. For example, when you have a good, long cry after an upset, you tend to feel much better, lighter even. This is catharsis, an energy release. When we avoid these negative feelings, we are in effect, negative feeling-hoarders. Imagine if you will, that your body is a house; then, think of all the thoughts, memories and feelings tied to theses emotions that you are holding onto as outdated objects. You’ve put them on high shelves, boxed them in the garage, hid them under the bed, stuffed them in closets – these places are now bursting at the seams and you have no room for the feelings you really want in your life. Who knows, there might be dead cats under there! (metaphorically speaking, of course...) The result is stress, constant anxiety, tightness in the throat, an uneasy stomach, a compulsion to drink to “take the edge off”, countless addictions or numbing your brain with hours of mindless television or binge eating. You work more than a gorilla hopped up on a box of caffeine pills and you "like it." You exercise like it's an Olympic sport, as if by collecting your sweat in jars will garner you a medal. You pick petty fights at home with your Labra-doodle; I'm joking here with you, but you get the point. These are the manifestations of avoidance.

Another way that these negative feelings are glossed over is by developing a spiritual practice. You mediate, you do yoga, you read books on positivity, you do the work, but if you are honest with yourself, you are still not happy. You Namaste you way past your feelings and create a happy, rainbow shell of glitter around your bad feelings. As Brené Brown, vulnerability researcher, teaches us, “You cannot selectively numb emotions.” This is why when you numb your pain, you also numb your joy - you end up living your life caught in between two lower frequency emotions, in a narrow emotional spectrum. For example, predominantly the highest frequency emotion a person may feel on the spectrum is frustration, while the lowest they may experience is shame.

Why is this? Why after all the avoidance or soul-searching does the unhappiness remain? Because you have not truly acknowledged it. Emotions are a part of our own survival system, it’s how we know whether or not we’ve been insulted or injured, whether we feel cared for or neglected, how we empower ourselves to take care of us. If you have not sat down with the intention to make time to feel your feelings, it’s a great way to make a new start for some big life changes.

It’s time to do some emotional house clearing by sitting down and facing them.

“This doesn’t sound like me at all, I feel my emotions.”

Do you? Are you sure about that? I don’t mean to insult you by asking this question. I don’t know you or where you are in your life or your state of affairs, but this feeling business can be quite tricky. I used to think that because I considered myself to be a person who was emotionally in touch with myself that I was feeling all of my feelings; this couldn’t have been further from the truth. Being an emotional person does not mean you feel your emotions. At some point, there is usually something that we push aside unconsciously and these things need to be cleaned up. I simply ask that you experiment and see what comes up for you; if you're willing, of course. There are always these little covert ones that sneak under the radar; reliably, something is ready to be cleared out.

1) To start, you are going to find a comfortable place to sit where you will not be disturbed.

I recommend sitting upright or in a comfy chair with your feet flat on the floor, since our main parasympathetic system flight or fight responses are to fall asleep, or hide.

2) Next, begin to relax into your body by taking deep slow breaths.

Imagine that you breath is not just filling your lungs, but every limb, every organ and every cell of your body and even beyond your body. We are simply experimenting, so get as relaxed as you can in your current state.

3) Now you are going to focus on the sensations in your body.

Is there tightness in your throat? Do you feel a knot in your stomach? Is there pain in your lower back? How do you feel? It’s time to get curious. Once you’ve found a sensation that piques that curiosity, you are going to follow it.

This is important: You are not actually going to label, judge or try to engage your mind to explain what the emotion or sensation is or to pinpoint it. Just sit and stay with the feeling. Feel it and surrender it. Repeat this again and again as long as the feeling lasts. What you will start to notice is that this feeling will shift, change or morph - follow it.

You may notice a feeling of expansion or openness in certain parts of your body, muscle twitches may arise, you may feel tickled, or pinched and it’s quite possible you will start laughing or crying. It’s important that you let it happen. This is how the old emotional energy makes its way out of your body.

For your first time, I recommend sitting for at least fifteen minutes so you can feel the energy shift in your body. If you feel comfortable going longer, I recommend sitting there as long as you feel okay to do so.

Remember that you are in control, that you can stop any time. What may happen, and what usually starts to happen, is that memories will start to crop up in your mind. If you started by focusing on a feeling of tightness or anxiety, you will notice memories arise where similar feelings were generated; this is because they reside on the same frequencies – they cluster together. You will be clearing groups of these emotions and memories at a time. I recommend sitting until the emotions have run their course. A good indicator of this is when your thoughts stop, memories cease to surface, your mind goes blank or the feeling disappears entirely.

4) When you are finished, take ten really deep breaths in and out, begin to wiggle your toes and fingers and reawaken yourself slowly to your present surroundings. You will likely feel a sense of lightness and release, but clearing energy does impact you physically – think of it as a mini-workout or perhaps how you feel after a deep tissue massage. You may feel very tired, hungry or even energized. Honor these feelings and take care of yourself.

Congratulations! You have done yourself an amazing service. Take time to repeat this process daily before you go to sleep to feel the emotions of the day and you will notice some major shifts in your sense of well being and your physical health. You can also work on injuries and illnesses by feeling the discomfort of your symptoms and surrendering them. Putting your focus on what needs healing can have a truly powerful effect. Onward and upward to clearing out the old to make room for the new!!

Lastly, it's not uncommon to feel that if you start to feel your emotions you will be swallowed whole, you will never stop crying, you will lose control of yourself or, even in extreme cases, die. I've heard some of my clients say that they hate their emotions and they don't want to feel them. I promise you two things, one, that this is completely normal and two, that emotions are like paper dragons. Once you face them, they will disintegrate before your eyes and you will discover a new strength. This I can promise you. For the more difficult emotions or if you feel hesitant to practice feeling your emotions alone and would like assistance, I offer private emotional coaching sessions. I will never judge you or your emotions and I am able to hold space for you as you release them. I would be honored to help you on your path to healing.

Need some help with this process?

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