Don't Try to Change How You Feel

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As I took another bite of my toast, my eyes welled up with tears, my breath caught in my throat.  I was feeling particularly overwhelmed and sad this morning because of some things that were happening in my life – nothing huge, just the stuff of life, what I sometimes refer to as “First World Problems.”

But I couldn’t dismiss the way I was feeling.  And it didn’t diminish the fact that right then, I missed my Mom terribly.  She was always the one I called when I was feeling blue.  I just wanted to hear her soft voice say: “Aaaawwww honey, I’m sorry that’s going on, I know you’ll get through this. It is just hard right now. What can I do to help?”  I loved that about her – she usually gave reassurance instead of advice. Since I couldn’t call her, I simply allowed myself to cry. I allowed myself to feel the sadness and self-pity I was experiencing. In a few minutes, I felt better.

Yesterday I was talking to a friend who is facing a probable diagnosis of ALS. This guy is a multi-talented, exceptional businessman with an amazing life. I couldn’t imagine what it was like to face that diagnosis.  

“How are you doing?” I asked.  “Well,” he said, “I’ve gone from crying 3 or 4 times a day to only crying once a day.”  Alarm bells went off in my head. “Why is that so important to you?” I asked.  “Well I don’t want to burden my family or friends” he responded.

His response was human – we don’t want to feel sad or burden others by our worries when we are having them. The diagnosis my friend was facing sucks.  Whether someone is facing a terminal illness or dealing with any other difficult situation, it is very important to feel and express our emotions.

But somewhere along the way, we decided we shouldn’t let our feelings “get in the way?” The way of what? Our humanity?

Feeling my feelings in the moment I am feeling them is one of the most important tools I use on a daily basis to feel powerful no matter my circumstances.  

What has our feelings “get in the way” is when we DON’T let ourselves feel them. Pushing our feelings down only makes them more intense and causes more dis-ease physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  When we allow ourselves to feel sad, angry, ashamed, guilty, or whatever we are feeling in the moment, the feeling dissipates and eventually disappears.

As the French novelist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr said: “Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.” Directly translated “the more it changes, the more it is the same thing.”  In other words, if you try to make yourself happy when you don’t feel that way, the sadness will still be there.

Don’t try to “change” how you feel. Breathe into it. Allow yourself to feel. Before you know it, the feeling will pass.