How Are You “Feeling?”

“We try so hard to hide everything we’re really feeling from those who probably need to know our true feelings the most. People try to bottle up their emotions, as if it’s somehow wrong to have natural reactions to life.”

Colleen Hoover

I have been thinking about my “feelings” a lot lately. Emotional feelings that is, and how they tie to my physical body. I have recently come to the realization that I am out of touch with my feelings on a regular basis. As a result I walk around disconnected from my own body, my mind and the present moment. I do not believe I am alone in this detachment – my guess is many of us suffer similarly.

I am not sure exactly when this rift originally occurred but I do see now how it has had a negative impact on my life. Do not get me wrong, I am well aware that I needed to live outside of myself as a means of self preservation when I was a child. I remember around the age of five or six when my parents were dishing out whichever parental horror they were serving that particular day, I would close my eyes and picture a light switch on the wall. The switch was clearly marked on and off. It was a white switch on a white wall, utilitarian but it served it’s purpose. With just a thought I could switch the light from the on to the off position. That was it, I was gone. I had escaped from them or, for that matter, anyone or anything that felt threatening or bad in my life. It was the safest place I could get myself, this “nowhere” place. This was a place I would visit again and again whenever I anticipated there was a need. I anticipated the need often.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is light-switch.jpg

I do not ever recall switching the light back on, but it must have reset because I remember turning it off more than once. It took me until my late twenties to realize that this was not something that everyone did when bad things threatened them. I can look back now and see huge chunks of my life missing from my memory or, if I do remember something, it has this hazy, foggy sort of overlay to it. The thing is, not feeling my feelings has become a habit for me. That is simply my way of life. Long after the anticipation of danger has passed, I still find myself in this place where, if you ask me how I am feeling I am likely to say, “I feel fine” or “I am good. How are you?” I smile and move along not even thinking twice about how I actually felt or what was happening with me.

The danger in having this light switch so easily accessible is that it actually feels like it has become the default mode for most of my emotions. It evolved into a sort of numbness that, although it made difficult times seemingly easier to cope with when I was little and defenseless, it has, in my adult years, numbed me to happiness, joy, feelings of accomplishment and excitement. Another negative impact is that I still carry the wounds of things that happened, but I am unable to express my emotions so the wounds remain open and healing does not occur.

I remember when my mother passed away back in 2009. We did not have a good relationship but she was still someone that, when convenient for her, bathed, clothed and fed me. There was some emotional attachment to her as my parent. As I got older, we would go months without speaking and I believed that was fine with both of us. But every year on her birthday, whether we were speaking or not, I would send her a dozen yellow roses without fail. It was my way of honoring this person who gave birth to me, I guess a thank you of sorts. When she passed away in November of 2009, I took exactly one day off work to see if anything would happen with me. I spent the day with a friend feeling just kind of quiet. Nothing much happened, no tears shed. Just existing with this intellectual knowledge of her passing. I went back to work the next day and people who had heard of my loss came to give me a hug and express their condolences. I quite literally held up my hand at arms length and told them “not now, please.” At that point I escaped into my job, which is incredibly easy to do as a nurse. And that was it. I moved on…or did I really?

The funny thing about strong, unresolved feelings is they find their way up to the surface eventually. My mother’s birthday was in March. As the first birthday since her passing approached, about a week before, I was in the shower and had a thought, “crap, I have to send flowers to my mother!” The next thought was, “you can’t, she’s dead.” It all came crashing down right then, there was no one to send flowers to anymore. I fell in a heap on the bottom of the tub and sobbed. I ended up taking a week off to let it all out. Nobody was more surprised than me, but there I was. Feeling all of my feelings at once: sadness, anger, relief, a sense of loss and being anchor-less. A huge spectrum of feelings, unlike anything I had let myself feel before. It all came on, I was powerless to stop the onslaught. And now I am deeply grateful for that release. I was able to forgive my mother for quite a bit during that time of just allowing myself to feel this flood of emotions and heal some old wounds. Of course I proceeded to go back to my old habit of shoving everything else back down as soon as I reentered the world. I remember thinking, “honestly, who has time to deal with this emotional crap.”

So why, all of a sudden, has this become something I want to start looking at? Quite simply, I want to heal. Now I understand that being able to name my feelings brings me into the present moment, which is such an amazing and empowering place to be. It doesn’t matter if the feelings are what I perceive as positive or negative, it just feels good to actually FEEL.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is black-pit-3.jpg

I have been reading a book called Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth and it has helped me look at my relationship with my feelings, my body and understand that I have always seen myself as a problem that needs to be solved. My feelings were inconvenient to living my version of a successful and normal life. I believed that strong negative feelings were absolutely not welcome and because of that belief, sacrificed all my positive feelings too. I have tucked my feelings so far away from me it is like I have locked them away in this deep, cold, dark pit. And I am, only now, venturing down to carefully pull each one of them up, inspect them, claim them as sacred and as belonging to me.

I struggle so much with the simple question of how I am feeling that my husband and I do a little exercise. When I think of it I ask him how he is feeling. He tells me in much detail and then he asks me. I have a list of feelings that I printed out and I scan down it to see which words stick with me in that particular moment. It may sound strange but it is really working to help me widen my feeling vocabulary beyond the cursory “good,” “fine” and “tired.” I am also trying to link the words to sensations in my body. For instance when I am happy I feel a warmth in my chest and an overall body muscle relaxation. When I am amazed or in awe I feel this quick, all-over rush of tingles. You get the idea. It is like I am learning a new language. I am enjoying the exploration of all my feelings, even the ones that I may have believed were negative. I have found the fastest way through my “difficult” feelings is to acknowledge their presence in my mind, honor them and then let them be. Let myself feel them fully. It has helped me truly start to be grounded in my own life, and the reward of that is realizing how much joy is in so many day-to-day things. I had no idea that a person could be consistently happy for any period of time, but we can. I just have never before let myself feel long enough to know that. We have to be willing to feel the not so good stuff as well. I know that now – or at least I am learning.

My wish for all of you is if you struggle like I do, maybe you too can start asking yourself how you really feel and give yourself the time and space to really sit with whatever comes up. I promise, after some practice, it is worth it.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I feel so much gratitude connecting with you.

If you enjoyed reading this post you can click this link to my personal blog 🙂

79 thoughts on “How Are You “Feeling?”

  1. This post was so good! Thanks. I feel similar about how I don’t have time to deal with all this emotional stuff. Kind of a self-indulgence, I believe. But if it’s making me feel miserable for this long , then I owe it to myself to examine it. The quote in the beginning was poignant.
    Have a good start to a new week, and take care!

    1. Yes, this is very relatable. Keep feeling those feelings and allow the healing as it comes. Thank you for the reminder that my feelings are my own. Neither right not wrong.

      1. Growing up in a very strict home, my feelings were secondary. That was so long ago, but it’s the kind of negative thinking that still follows me. You’re right…need to heal from it and own my feelings.
        Have a blessed week and take care!!

  2. This is good and it’s wonderful that are working on dealing with your feelings. I appreciate how your husband is willing to help as well. Be gentle with yourself.

  3. It is such a comfort to see that you have someone in your life who truly loves you and who is teaching you how to love yourself. This way, you are breaking the chain of pain that seems to have tied itself around your parents.

  4. I had/have to use a list of emotion words as well. I found that I just kept listing the same 5 or 6 words all the time. My problem is that the negativity so deeply buried began to come up and daily the list was negative that I wrote. SO I switched to only allowing myself to write positive emotions down daily. Problem? I am stuffing things back down inside and keeping emotions never dealt with and arms length. This has deeply affected my relationship with my son. And I really need to take care of it.

    1. Wow, Kate. That is a lot of hard work. Thank you for doing the work and I wish you happier days for both you and your son. Thank you so much for sharing that with me❤️

  5. Beautifully written! I too find myself giving default answers of “I’m fine” or “I’m ok” instead of really analyzing how I truly feel in the moment. Your post has given me the courage to try and give more honest answers in the future. Thank you 🙂

  6. Thank you. This was very well written. Very powerful. I’ve spent years learning how to be okay with how I feel. Sad, angry, depressed, anxious do not mean I’m broken. They mean I’m human. Hard to get beyond the past when you shove every negative emotion you have into the heading of “broken”

    1. “Sad, angry, depressed, anxious do not mean I’m broken.” This is so true. It means we are living our lives. Thank you very much for your kind words. ❤️

  7. Thanks you for sharing these intimate thoughts. Trauma from childhood trends to live with us into adulthood, often masked behind other, easier to express emotions. But I believe their impact can be lessened by facing them head on and, as you stated, feeling. I’m happy for you that you have a life partner who’s willing to work with you. I’m similarly blessed. Peace, Health and Harmony.

  8. Very inspiring. <3

    I can relate to almost everything you said. I also learned quite early on how to bury my feelings – if only to avoid the punishment of crying. I used to think that crying was bad, anger was ugly and happiness always came with a price.
    And my parents, as loving as they are, inadvertently reinforced that belief through their parenting method. I really can't blame them – it was how they were raised, too.

    In our family, we talk about everything except our emotions. I think it was one of the reasons I ended up in unhappy relationships. I didn't learn how to confront real feelings.

    It took one really bad relationship that almost pushed me over the edge to finally examine what I truly feel. My walls went crumbling down, and I had no idea how to sort through all the emotions that got out. Almost a year of darkness and extreme negativity lead to learning how to control my emotions and properly express them. It's still a struggle, but the important thing is that I'm on the path.

    I'm glad that you've found a way to heal, and found a partner who supports you in your healing process. And thank you for sharing your story. 🙂

  9. This is so powerful. Yet being on the other side of manifesting your emotions could be dangerous too. I struggle with being overly expressive about my thoughts and emotions and they show themselves in the form of my behaviour with people around me and their overpowering nature especially with negative ones.

    In my journey of finding a balance, I realise how difficult can it be for stoic and overly expressive people like me likewise.

    Sending all the positivity and love your way to empower you in embracing yourself.

    Love x

    1. Thank you so much for sharing. It is so helpful for me to see a whole different side of this. I think you are right though, it is all about balance. Sending you love and support.
      I am so thankful you connected with me today❤️

  10. Hi Danielle. What lovely words. I have so much compassion for what you’ve been through – especially in finding it difficult to properly access and define your own emotions. I suffered from depression and anxiety for over a decade. I only recently come out of the ‘fog’ so to speak but still have difficult days. It’s those days I find the most value in when sitting down to meditate and simply allow myself to feel whatever emotions arise. Your words are a true inspiration and your list of emotions as a way to help define what you are feeling at a given moment is something I mean to try. Thank you for sharing!

    1. I am so happy this resonates with you! I also have a daily meditation practice that I believe is one of the biggest contributors to my ongoing healing. My husband, who has after being together 7 years, started to meditate with me daily and he is really positive about it’s impact in his life. If I could give everyone I’m the world one thing it would be the desire for a daily meditation practice. Thank you for your kind words!

  11. Thank you. I needed this today. My son passed away and the funeral was yesterday. Grief comes in waves but I know the crash is coming. I don’t want to put it off or run from it. That’s not healthy. I honor my son and my grandkids by taking care of myself so I can be the best version of me for them. I appreciate the reminder. It couldn’t have come at a better time.

  12. Oh Gregory, I am so incredibly sorry for your loss. You are a brave and beautiful person. If there is anything I can do, even just be someone to hold space while you grieve, I am here for you. Sending you so much love.

  13. It’s good that you feel now. I used to have that problem too. Especially expressing how I felt to someone I care about.

      1. Thank you so much for your heartfelt words. They are all valuable to mull over and really take in. The part that resonates most with me is being able to feel happiness, joy, for any extended period of time. I struggle with depression, and often lived in the dark hole that felt safe because it was what I knew. The world has so much in it that can bring joy, and we have so much that we bring with us to be joyful about.

        So thank you for encouraging awareness of how we feel and acknowledgement that it is ok to feel the good and the bad. I love writing and discovering new words so the exercise about finding the right word appeals to me too.


      2. (Apologies. This was meant to be a separate comment, but my phone does not work the best with WordPress!)

      3. Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful words. I have suffered with depression, anxiety and PTSD for a large portion of my life. I have spent the past couple years devoted to looking internally rather than externally to heal those deep, dark, oh so comfortable places. I know there is something better out there for me…and for you too…for all of us.

        Sending you love and light on your continued journey and thank you so much for ring part of mine❤️

  14. So Beautifully spilled out from your heart … such powerful words with subtle change in the way we see our emotions/feelings …its like just be with it , acknowledge it, honor it, and then comes the breath which plays a vital role.

  15. Depending on your environment and the people around you, always showing your feelings is not permitted. I have witnessed on rare occasions where terrible people used someone’s bad feelings or loss of a loved one as ammunition to attack. Doesn’t sound real. But, unfortunately it is the truth for some. As for everyone else things will work out for them in a positive manner.

  16. I love the idea of printing out a list of words for how you feel! I definitely think we say ‘I’m fine’ way too easily and we should all be more honest (at least with ourselves if not others) about how we are really feeling. I think something we’re taught to do is to reject any unwanted feelings we have, when really what we should be doing is acknowledging and accepting them before we can actually do something in response to them. Your experiences sound hard, but the idea of you picturing yourself switching off a light switch is fascinating. This is beautifully written, thank you for sharing 🙂

  17. Great Post ! But problem with me is that I have no one to share my feelings with. I have Social Anxiety Disorder + Maladaptive dreaming. I even hesitate talking to my own parents and have even written a post on my blog. Can you suggest me a way to become extrovert becuase I am totally an Introverted guy.

    1. I am not an expert by any means but I know there are dating apps that are geared towards introverts.
      If you don’t already talk to a therapist it is likely a good idea as they can really help you discover feelings. It has been helpful to me to have one at different times in my life.
      I truly appreciate you reading and commenting on my post!

Leave a Reply