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The Gift of Emotions

When is the last time you just let yourself feel bad?

I’m serious. When is the last time that you allowed yourself to feel sad, discouraged or weary?

If you are anything like me, I find myself spending most of my time either trying to feel good and if I’m not, doing whatever I can to ignore the feelings that don’t feel so great. Thankfully, Facebook, Netflix, Youtube and other outlets are just one click away. Why feel bad when there is always something that can distract you?

As I have gone through counseling and sat with many different people, I found a common theme in our attempts to stay away from the internal world with all of its complexity and pain. Unfortunately, I have some bad news:

Our attempts to ignore and numb our hearts and our pain are not working.

Something that I have learned over the past several years is that our emotions are the language of our internal world. When we are feeling happy, excited or joyful – this tells us something about what is going on inside of us. We might experience joy when we accomplish a significant goal or experience healthy intimacy with friends or our spouse. We might also experience sadness or discouragement when a relationship we value goes south – or when the work we hoped would allow us to use our creativity with freedom turns into just one more place where we are expected to fill a predetermined role with unrealistic expectations.

These emotions can often lead to experiencing the emotions of anxiety or depression. We might as well be honest, we live in a time when it is far more acceptable to feel depressed than heartbroken or highly anxious than betrayed and lost. You can get medication for depression, there isn’t a medication for when your dreams are lost and you don’t know where to go. This in no way minimizes the fact that many people struggle deeply with anxiety and depression and that medication is one way to help getting through one day at a time.

But medication does not solve the pain and ache of the inner world. None of this may seem like good news, but the truth is that healing is possible. When our physical bodies are cut, scratched or bruised we know better than to ignore the signs of pain. We use Neosporin, band aids and change our bandages regularly.

Our hearts need the same care. When we go through broken relationships or what seems to be a season of never ending disappointment, we have a choice of either paying attention to and caring for our hearts – or ignoring the signs that something is not right within us internally. It will be painful and uncomfortable to engage your heart and emotions in those places, but healing comes through walking in those places, rather than ignoring them and waiting for them to go away. If these thoughts jump out to you – maybe it’s time to pay some attention to what is going on in your heart.

Here is a simple exercise to start with:

  1. Set aside 15 minutes without distraction and allow yourself to sit in silence for the first 3 or 4 minutes.
  2. You will experience distraction and probably have your thoughts jump to the 25 different things you are supposed to do today.
  3. Recognize the distractions without condemning yourself. Give yourself permission to feel whatever it is that your heart wants to feel.
  4. Follow the emotion. If you feel nothing…are you ok with that? If it’s anger, fear, anxiety or sadness – where do these emotions lead for you?
  5. End the time by thinking of five things that you are grateful for. Be kind to your heart no matter what you did/didn’t experience during that time.

Our bodies need antibiotics, clean water, and cleansing agents to become well again. Our hearts need silence and kindness. Will you give your heart a taste of both today?

Posted by Dave Lantz, MA, LMHCA with