I don’t have PMS today. I swear. But everything is rubbing me the wrong way – that irky combination of feeling overstimulated/stressed/tense and exhausted at the same time, like I want to sleep all day and also scream at the sky! In our house, we call this feeling “inside out.”
These feelings are. not. comfortable. If I said I want to make them go away, that would be an understatement.
But I’ve traveled long enough on this road to appreciate that bargaining with my feelings will not make me feel better. I have to feel them. I especially have to feel them if I don’t want to eat them. Even more than that, I don’t want to keep them stuffed in my body, as that hurt, hurt, hurts. I want to take good care of myself.
So that’s where I’m at today: in a mood that isn’t pleasant – say, the equivalent of being in a blizzard – and wishing for a mood that felt more like San Diego – 70 degrees and sunny.
I know it’s not realistic to think that life is always 70 degrees and sunny, even though the child in me wants to believe that dream state is possible. So this feels like an opportunity to surrender.
How can I surrender to how I’m feeling – irritable and tired – and allow it? How do I show kindness to my hurt parts rather than try and control, suppress, or push them away?
In my case, I went out to my rocking chair on my back porch, wrapped myself in a blanket, and rocked myself back and forth, softening my resistance to my feelings with each rock. “Okay, bitchiness, okay fatigue, okay stressed out and overwhelmed, I see you. It’s okay. You’re allowed to be here.”
By allowing, I felt the tension – that feeling of fighting against myself – ease. I cried. I raged. I let out all my frustration while snot dripped down my face. I said to myself, “Yeah, some things really suck right now.” I put my hand on my heart and said, “I care. I care about this suffering.”
Slowly, slowly, slowly I felt better. I got in touch with some deeper feelings under my frustration – in this case, grief. (I find grief under most feelings.) I realized that several things that had hurt my feelings this week were coming up to be processed, and I let myself cry my tears.
Now it’s several hours later. As I sit and write this post I’m able to see that my feelings have shifted. I still feel tired. I still have some problems to work through. But I don’t feel angry anymore. The frustration has softened.
I feel better because I allowed my feelings. I accepted them. I cared for them with kindness. I even appreciated them – they made perfect sense and had some important messages for me! (“Set boundaries. Get more rest. Get more help,” was one of them.)
I feel better because I opened my heart to all of me.
It’s easy to love ourselves when we feel happy, vibrant, joyful, playful, content, or grateful. But loving ourselves when we feel bitchy and frustrated and inside out? That’s not so easy. At least not for me.
And yet I’m learning that this is where the manna lies. If this healing journey is about reparenting ourselves – relating kindly to all our tender humanity – our bodies, our needs, feelings, moods, hurts and more – then I heal something deep inside whenever I love the bitchy, frustrated, inside out part of me. I allow that part of me to feel safe, to express herself, to feel heard, to even feel appreciated.
And when I allow that part of me to feel heard, a powerful paradox occurs: she quiets down. She feels soothed. She moves into action – this is what I need from you. (In my case, stronger boundaries and more rest.)
She empowers me to take good, good care of myself. Just writing that makes me fall in love with my frustrated, bitchy self. I get it! You’re trying to help me.
I feel that it’s important to talk about negative feelings – especially in a culture that, in my view, overly focuses on the positive. There’s a line of thought that says:
1. If you focus on anything negative, you’ll attract more of it.
2. Be positive. All the time.
3. Focus on the good.
I appreciate the intentions behind these ideas. I don’t think it’s healthy to get stuck in negative feelings, or any feeling for that matter. (They’re meant to move.) I sure don’t want to remain stuck in anger, bitterness, or despair. And I agree that gratitude is a powerful practice.
But at the same time, I think we’ve thrown the baby out with the bath water. We’ve become so focused on the positive that we attack the negative, including anything “negative” within ourselves. We may feel terribly guilty when we feel anything less then, well 70 degrees and sunny.
Nature has room for all seasons; for all kinds of weather. This gives me hope that there is also room in our hearts for all our weather, for all our feelings. This includes the “negative” ones.
I invite you to try this out for yourself. The next time you’re feeling inside out, don’t fight it. Don’t try to positive talk yourself into feeling different. Don’t perk yourself up with platitudes.
Just feel the inside out feelings. Listen to what they say. Care for them. Allow them to be there. Cry your tears. Feel all your feelings.
Karla McClaren encourages us to practice “conscious complaining” – ritualizing a time when we can consciously vent our frustrations. Linda Popov calls this “emptying our cup.” Imagine a child coming home from school after a very, very bad day. That child doesn’t really want a cookie, or a video game, or someone telling him, “Cheer up.” That precious child wants to empty his cup, to let it all out into kind, loving, open hands.
He needs someone to bear witness.
Bearing witness to our frustration doesn’t attract more frustration. In my experience, it does the very opposite. It’s how we move through our feelings and come to peace. It’s how we embody the beauty of the serenity prayer – grieving what we can’t change and then drying our tears, dusting off our palms, and changing what we can.
Needing some hands-on help?
- To learn more about befriending emotions, try my overeating program, Heal Overeating: Untangled, 12 audio sessions to create emotional healing from food.
If youd like to read more about befriending/allowing our feelings, you may enjoy these posts:
- End emotional eating with kindness
- Stop sugar cravings with kindness
- Loving where you’re at (a post on befriending anxiety)