Admitting feelings

If we don’t admit feelings, even to ourselves, then how will we ever process them? Photo by Hasan Almasi on Unsplash

Our minds are like prisons.  We incarcerate feelings which we don’t want to see the light of day.  We pretend that everything is rosy.  But underneath, we have a range of prisoners, quietly talking to each other in the dark.

For instance, a young child might experience jealousy of her sibling, but be unable to express that, possibly because her parents punish any expression of jealousy.  So the child bottles her jealousy up.  She learns to keep a fixed expression on her face, so that no-one can guess what she is feeling.

In another example, an adult might yearn for freedom, despite being married.  But, because the society he lives in does not condone such freedom, he quietly goes from day to day, with a fixed smile on his face, feeling awful, but showing grace.

We do not have to act rudely on those feelings.  The young child does not have to punch her sibling.  The adult man in the example does not have to run away or have an affair.  But we are wise if we become aware of exactly what those feelings are.  If we don’t, we have left prisoners in our hearts, and thrown away the key.

The world is full of people with feelings held prisoner.  In the worst cases, we not only hide our own feelings, but blame other people for the same things.  Then we have two sets of prisoners, ourselves, and other people.  Our lives become chaotic, competitive dramas, full of conspiracy and intrigue.

How do we let the feelings out of hiding, especially when they are feelings that would seem disgraceful to others?  How do we process negative feelings such as anger, jealousy, hurt, paranoia, anxiety, self-protectiveness, greed, and spite?

Counselling can be a good start.  A good counsellor will be non-judgemental, and accept the client’s flow of feelings, good and bad.  Being accepted by a counsellor, some clients can then start to look at their own difficult feelings with self-empathy.

Art is another outlet.  We can sublimate the energy into creating writing, paintings and other representations of the turmoil.

Meditation is a well-known technique for learning to accept without suppressing.  We learn to sit in peace, without having to react to every small feeling that arises.  Those feelings are not held prisoner, but can move around us and be seen.  We, however, are free to choose kind actions and thoughts, without being dominated by the negativity we experience and process in private.

Finally, we can do some sharing with friends, although this is difficult.  Friends and family often have something to gain or lose from our behaviour, and therefore it can be a strategic mistake to share feelings they cannot cope with hearing.

However we choose to do it, we can learn to accept everything flowing through us, good and bad, easy and unpalatable.  To ‘admit’ means not only to confess or declare, but also to allow in or through.  By admitting our feelings, we are opening the prison doors, and allowing part of ourselves to heal and re-learn.