Our society hates feelings. We’re taught from an early age to suppress and repress our emotions. We label it as a weakness.
“Men don’t cry” (and neither do big girls, according to Frankie Valli).
Even the well-intentioned continue this conditioning. If you’ve ever lost someone close to you, you’ll know that inevitably some well-meaning person will try to get your mind off of the pain and suffering. And while that distraction helps in the short run, it creates more suffering in the long run.
I am the poster child for suppressed emotions.
I wouldn’t let anything in. I wouldn’t “show weakness” as I thought of it. If I show emotions then people will think I am weak and know how to hurt me.
My dad passed away when I was 11 years old. I couldn’t comfortably talk about it until I was 22 years old. Acquaintances in college would ask me how my “parents” were and I’d tell them, “They’re good.”
Another clever trick I used to suppress my feelings was automatically switching my thinking to problem-solving.
Someone I care about has a problem? Quick, start trying to solve it so you don’t have to feel empathy.
I am hurt from a breakup? Quick, start solving all the other problems in my life to deflect from my feelings.
I was proud of my logical mind and thought I had developed a strong mindset until the walls started to crack.
I started to feel anxious and overwhelmed more often. I struggled to create close friendships and get to the next level of closeness in my relationship with my now fiance.
I started to get this pressure in my chest that I never felt before.
Then I started to do something I now refer to as “Spiraling.” I would suddenly be so overcome by anxiety that I would lay on the couch, unable to move for hours; negative thoughts flooding my mind the entire time.
When I started to “Spiral,” I knew I needed to confront this.
I decided to get a performance coach and dive deep into mindfulness. I started to journal, meditate, and read everything I could on this new scary subject, the inner mind. I read all the current and ancient books on Stoicism. I dove into spirituality and Buddhism.
Through my coaching, reading, and practicing, my eyes were opened to an entirely new way to live life. Many breakthroughs and topics I have written about in prior articles.
But one breakthrough helped me the most. One breakthrough stopped the spiraling, allowed me to create closer relationships with the ones I cared about, and helped me live a happier, more mindful life.
And it’s a subtle breakthrough, something you wouldn’t even be able to tell happened.
The breakthrough was to stop hiding from my feelings and start accepting them.
Create the awareness to feel something, label it, accept it, then let it fade.
If you want to start living a happier life immediately, this is the secret.
The Stoics, the Yogis, and the Buddhists all use this practice as the foundation of their philosophies.
Many people believe that Stoicism preaches non-emotion and the Buddhists preach to not feel anything, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Both philosophies actually preach to feel your emotions completely. To accept them, and to even be grateful for them.
To accurately and authentically label your emotions and feelings is the ultimate awareness
If someone passes away, or if you feel empathy for someone else, it’s okay to accept those feelings.
Instead of fighting the feeling of empathy (or sadness) and mislabeling it as guilt or anger or weakness, we should be grateful that we can empathize.
We should be thankful that we have people in our lives that we care for enough to feel empathy on that level.
Since this breakthrough, I have started to become more aware of how I am feeling in each moment. When I feel myself being triggered I pause to ask myself why I am being triggered. I acknowledge my feeling, work to understand it, then accept it.
Then I let it fade.
I have noticed a general rise in my happiness and more patience/acceptance with my emotions.
It’s okay to feel. We don’t need to suppress and pretend they’re not there or deflect by trying to solve.
Men can cry, and so can women. We can also love openly, express fears honestly, empathize warmly.
Don’t hide from your feelings, embrace them.
Want to solve your problems and become happier in the process?
Check out my article on creating space here.