“I thought I was over this.”
There are certain things that we don’t ever completely get over.
Death, abuse, rape, things soldiers see and do in war, etc…
These are experiences that change us at a core level, and pretending that they don’t is a recipe for misery.
However, I’m not suggesting wallowing forever. I’m just stating a fact. Sometimes bad things happen and they leave a scar. It doesn’t mean we’ve given up, allowed ourselves to become weak, or need an attitude adjustment. It means we’ve shown up for life and sometimes it kicks our ass.
These are scars that we manage. We allow the uncomfortable, painful feelings to move through us when they visit.
Denying our feelings is what makes us sad, sick and depressed.
Allowing ourselves to have our feelings, especially the nasty ones, sets us free.
“Julia” and I had this conversation via instant messenger this morning. I’ve changed her name and omitted identifying details, and am sharing with you today at her suggestion. I have some rendition of the conversation below at least three times a week with my clients. “Julia” has escaped her extremely abusive home, which was very brave. Now that she is free, some angry feelings are emerging that she is having difficulty reckoning with.
Julia : I’ve been feeling extremely bad the last few days. I don’t know what to do. Any suggestions? I just can’t shake off my feelings for some reason.
Keisha : What feelings are you trying to shake off?
Julia: I’ve been so happy the last four months, but lately a few things have happened that reminded me of my parents and I feel extreme anger and a feeling of getting ripped off. I just feel overwhelmed by anger, bitterness and cynicism. It’s so strange since I’ve been feeling so much better.
Keisha: Sounds like you need to feel your feelings—even the uncomfortable ones. What if you allowed yourself to permission to feel ripped off for right now? Allow it to come. The resistance to feeling is what is causing the suffering- “I’m not supposed to feel badly” is a painful thought.
Julia: Ok. Does it go away though? I think the thing that bothers me is that I feel like all these feelings are holding me back from being a happy and optimistic person.
Keisha: Yes, it subsides after you allow yourself to feel it. You can still be an optimistic, happy person and get pissed off and feel badly sometimes. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed, it means you’re a human being.
Julia: I’ve been reading this book that says that forgiveness will help you go far in life. I was trying to do it but it epic failed. Like honestly. I end up so triggered that I’m surprised my bed isn’t on fire.
Keisha: It takes ninety seconds to physically process an emotion. Just ride it like an uncomfortable wave. You aren’t ready to forgive. You are coming to terms with your feelings— don’t force it. That’s an attempt to spiritually bypass your feelings to make you feel better. It’s like saying, “Don’t feel those feelings. They are ugly, make them pretty and call them ‘forgiveness.’”
Julia: But doesn’t this kind of resentment weigh a person down?
Keisha: Yes, if you stay there forever, but you won’t. After you give yourself permission to feel your icky feelings you can pivot to something else. It doesn’t mean you feel like shit all day, It comes in layers. There is no “over it” in terms of forever, only “dealt with it all I can for right now.”
Julia: Ok now I understand. That’s a tough pill to swallow. I honestly thought that my baggage had disappeared in the last few months, now I realize I may be unpacking for quite a while. Thank you so much for this, at least now I feel like I have a right to feel the way I do. It’s just so frustrating when I read self-help books and I literally am not able to do what the author suggests. Like I intellectually understand, but emotionally I am completely lost.
Keisha : That’s some “all or nothing” thinking. We are complex creatures, these emotions are a journey—there is no “there” where you’ll never again feel ripped off or sad. But after a hard while, it will visit less often and for shorter amounts of time, and some days will knock you on your ass out of the blue and your mind wants to tell you that you’ve failed because “I thought I was over this!” Anyone can write a self-help book. Feelings aren’t tidy. Don’t judge yourself.
Julia : Wow, I feel so much better. Allow myself to feel what I feel, pivot when I’m sick of it. That’s it? When are you running for president? LOL
We don’t have to wear our scars like a badge of honor, showing them to others for validation or sympathy. But we must acknowledge the painful feelings when they come, resist the urge to stuff them, and allow them a place at the table–even for a few minutes. Forgiveness is valuable, but it comes later after we’ve walked through the swamp of emotion. We can’t rush it.
This brave practice will change your life!
Ths has been an especially hard several months for so many of us. But with that comes an opportunity to heal old wounds in need of attention.
Sending you loads of love,