I wrote a blog a little while back which is a good revisit either before or after you read this, and you can read it here: Belonging versus Fitting in
Now I might completely ruin this quote, but Marc Brackett said:
It is one of the great paradoxes of the human condition that we ask many variations of the question: how are you feeling? over and over, which would lead one to assume we attach great importance to it. And yet we never expect or desire or provide an honest answer.
I don’t think we do it on purpose. I don’t think we’re equipped and I don’t think we have time to deal with peoples feelings. Isn’t that a sad place to be? We know deep down the most important thing we will have in our lives are the relationships we cultivate and the people we surround ourselves with. Yet we do not know how to help people deal with their emotions and we do not prioritise our time towards it.
Right now we’re in the midst of a health crisis. It’s the biggest threat we have faced in modern medicine. It’s not just about Coronavirus, it is all the basic cancers that were once curable, that right now we can’t treat, the person having a heart attack we might have to turn away. There is a lot going on in our environment right now, and that causes a lot of anxiety. The virus has also given us the gift of connection and time. We can take the time to get to know our own emotions and those around us.
What happens if you ask one of our most asked questions… are you ok? What if you hear that the person is disappointed… sad… anxious… depressed…?
Right there, right at that moment, that is the moment you have to provide unconditional support. You have to give that person your time. You have to be open, curious, not judgemental, help the person think about alternatives and help them see it is ok to feel what they are feeling. They are not stuck, they are not weak… they are human.
The most important thing we all want is to be seen, known and loved. It’s why we love asking the question. So few of us are willing to be vulnerable enough to be truly seen, known and loved. It means being you, not fitting in and saying what you think the other person wants you to hear. It means telling your truth, your story, your pain and your fears. A lot of time we fake it – we tell the bits we think the other person wants to hear.
Most of us don’t have the vocabulary or the understanding of our emotions to really help us get to the heart of what is hurting us. Most peoples emotional vocabulary is: happy, sad and pissed off.
It’s important to know what you are feeling. It is scientifically proven through numerous studies that you can’t function properly as the emotional system impacts cognitive thinking, you can’t make decisions properly, you don’t make good relationship decisions, your physical and mental health deteriorate and your performance/creativity diminishes.
When you understand your feelings you can manage all other areas of your life. Emotions matter. We brought up a generation who were so ashamed of their feelings/emotions, they couldn’t label them properly, so they created races with no winners, and fluffy feedback. We didn’t think about how to deal and cope with setbacks/failures, so we just avoided them.
We’re now raising a generation that understands prevention is better than intervention. We need to deal with things rather than avoid and suppress. We need to take time to pause and reflect before moving on to the next thing.
We are so conditioned that we fake our feelings, mostly through wanting to fit in with what we think other people want to hear. It’s a massive emotional labour. Hiding parts of who we are and then remembering who you told what.
We need a broader vocabulary and we need to understand there are underlying themes (Marc Brackett talks about this in his book Permission to feel):
Anger: Theme – injustice
I poured my heart and soul into that project and Tom got promoted for it.
Disappointment: Theme – unmet expectations
I thought by giving her flowers every day that she would go out with me.
Jealous: Theme – someone you care about it being taken away from you
I have deep feelings for that person, and this very good looking person could take them away from me.
Envy: Theme – wanting what someone else has
She has a massive house. I really want that house.
Joy: Theme – achieving something
I finished that book I’ve been writing.
Listen to your themes. Understanding your themes helps you label your emotions… then you can get granular – is this a lot of envy or a little of envy?
We all need the permission to express our emotions. You need people around you who want to listen, and who want to understand why you’re feeling the way you do. This comes from acting out of belonging and being surrounded by people who allow you to be yourself. If you tell someone ‘I’m anxious’ and the person responds: ‘don’t worry I’ll just tell everyone you’re nervous’. That’s not being supportive, that is holding a massive red sign up saying ‘that is a thing we don’t talk about.’ It’s super judgemental… and half the time we don’t even know we’re doing it.
‘I’m anxious’ should be met with… ‘that is ok, it is a perfectly normal emotion. Why are you feeling anxious? What can I do to help or do you just need me to listen? So you want to sit and talk about it a bit first.’
We have a lot of barriers to break, on top of this, people have feelings about feelings. I feel depressed, and because I feel depressed, I feel worthless that I can’t get out of this feeling of being depressed. We have a lot of work to do as humans to unpack this. The emotional part of our brain is the oldest part of our brain – we are born feelers… our enemy is our newest part of our brain – the logical part which tells our emotional brain off… It’s essentially a really bad emotionally abusive relationship taking place in our brains.
Suppression and denial is easier short term. We may have thought it was a great way to deal with things in the past, but it gets buried in your belly, your heart, your lower back… it metastasises. Emotions do not go away. The debt will be called out (thank you Brené Brown for that phrase).
We need to meet our feelings – we don’t numb. We need to work through: is this something I prevent, maintain, enhance, work through etc? We need that level of emotional maturity. We can be with the feeling but don’t let it have power over you. Feeling anxious about Coronavirus? Maybe don’t watch the news for 10 hours a day. Emotional regulation takes a lot of effort, a lot of time and initially can be very painful, but it helps you so much longer term.
You have to be vulnerable. You have to be your true self with the people you love the most. You have to trust those you love to share your truth. That is when you start identifying whether you have been fitting in with those you love or whether you have been baring your soul to truly belong. Because when you have that trust, knowing that you are not judged, that is when anything can come out of your mouth and be met with unconditional love.
Remember that empathy and compassion are not finite. Every single persons hurt matters. It is not scored out of 10, it is not compared. Every single persons hurt matters and should be met with love. So much of emotion is someones life story, and if you truly care about someone you want to know their story. There is no such thing as a bad feeling. We could all do with hearing that, especially at this moment in time. Just because nobody in your family has COVID-19, just because you are not out there fighting it, does not mean you have any less right to be feeling any of the emotions you are feeling right now. So make sure you talk about it.
Brené Brown and Marc Brackett talk about this a lot more eloquently in the following podcast. Well worth a listen: https://brenebrown.com/podcast/dr-marc-brackett-and-brene-on-permission-to-feel/