The Wisdom of Feelings
Have you ever had a dream like this? SOMETHING IS CHASING YOU. It’s terrifying. You run from it. You would do anything to make it go away. All you know is this is some unnamed, unknown beast.
In a dream like that it feels logical that the beast is something outside of us, something out to get us.
Imagine for a moment that you turn and face it, asking,”Who are you? What is this all about?” Could you do that? What if I told you the beast is something you created, and it’s not outside of you, IT IS YOU!
Well, it’s true and here is how it happens…
Imagine someone takes in a cute baby Bear as a pet. It is adorable and fuzzy – at first. It delights and entertains them. But as it begins to grow and its wild nature expresses itself, they punish it. They put it in a cage and poke it with a sharp stick to try to keep it under control. And the more they abuse it, the wilder it gets – until it is a ferocious beast.
What we do with our most turbulent emotions is not much different than the story of the wild Bear. We wish we didn’t have some of the emotions that we do have. We don’t want them and would do anything to avoid them, or god forbid, let others see them. So, some of our most secret agreements with ourselves are designed to protect us from emotional pain by creating a cage to keep things under control. Our judgment of our “bad” emotions becomes the sharp stick we unmercifully punish ourselves with inside a prison of our own making.
One bad emotion that we are told to never let anyone see is anger. Often when small children don’t get what they want, they express their disappointment by crying and acting out. This is sometimes uncomfortable for the adults around them and they try to control the behavior of their children.
One of my clients, Angie, said that her mother’s mantra when she was growing up was: “It’s not nice to be angry”, and “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Hearing this repeatedly, coupled with a few good whacks on the rear-end for any outburst, Angie decided that sullen silence and letting them guess what was wrong with her was a better choice than rage.
When Angie got married she was determined to create the family she dreamed of – a group of people around her that loved her no matter what. But as time went on her marriage was a disappointment. She felt her husband should know what she wanted without her having to tell him all the time.
He couldn’t figure her out and began spending more and more time away from home. He didn’t take care of her emotional needs. Her frustration often resulted in her flying off the handle at her children at the slightest provocation.
Angie was ashamed of her behavior. Her outbursts at her children felt horrible. She didn’t want anyone to know about it and she couldn’t understand why she felt so out of control. She dreaded sleeping because her dreams were often filled with monsters in her house that she could not get away from.
After a few of my coaching sessions with helping Angie on her Self Awareness, she realized that the constant suppression of her desire and not asking for what she wanted created resentment. (Please note that I am not a professional Psychologist and it was all Angie’s own self discovery partly guided by the coaching process.) This resentment built up into a seething rage, under wraps most of the time but never-the-less, dangerously close to the surface.
Ignoring it, sulking, punishing her children and then punishing herself only fuelled the fire below. It was expressing itself with her children and it kept her husband emotionally distanced.
When I first met Angie she wasn’t even aware she was angry. In fact, she often parroted the same phrases her mother used -“It’s not nice to be angry”, and “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” But her nightmares were getting worse, as well as her relationship with her husband. Her rage was the beast she couldn’t face, ‘the angry Bear in the cage’. She was sure if she opened the door to that cage the beast would surely devour her.
So how do we tame the beast? The secret is in the story of Beauty and the Beast. In that tale, Beauty is at first afraid of the Beast. But, then she courageously faces the Beast without judgment about who he is. She makes the effort to get to know him. As time goes on she discovers respect and love for that which she previously thought to be so hideous. And with her love and persistence, the Beast is magically transformed into a handsome prince.
We can do the same thing with our wild emotions that we label as the beasts in the dungeon, monsters in the closet. The truth is they are crying out for us to notice them.
Our emotions are simply intuition translated into physical feelings that are full of good information about what is happening in the moment. But, over time, we interpret what happened and our beliefs, and the agreements that arise from those beliefs, are often filled with turbulent emotions that have no relevance in this moment.
Our emotions deserve our honor and respect. Let them speak and they will open the channel for change. It is easy to love the good things about ourselves, but real transformation is possible when we begin loving ourselves exactly the way we are. Pamper, cuddle, adore and take care of the beast within. Honor and respect it and let it tell you its story, then see what happens. Imagine a 400-pound Bear as an ally! Powerful, isn’t it?
Dr Surya M Ganduri, PhD. PMP. is the Founder & President of eMBC, Inc., an international firm specializing in strategic and executive leadership development processes that Help People Succeed in an Evolving World. Dr Surya has over 28 years of business experience in management consulting, leadership development, executive coaching, process improvements, organizational development and youth leadership. For more information visit www.eMBCinc.com or contact eMBC, Inc., directly at (630) 445-1321.