Expressing feelings has been an ongoing challenge for me. Similar to many women I have worked with, I judged my feelings as wrong and bad, and something to be suppressed at all costs.
I decided at an early age that it was weak to express my feelings. There was a sense my feelings were unwelcome from others, and I certainly didn’t want the kind of attention that came with a woman having feelings.
I received credit and acknowledgment from family and friends for being easy-going, pleasing, and getting things done.
I decided that being pleasing and accommodating was far more valuable than me taking up space by expressing my feelings, which would only cause discomfort for me and others.
So I adopted a “poker face”! At 21, I even earned “Smiley” as a nickname because I was always smiling.
What they didn’t know is that my smile was masking a world of pain. A lifetime of suppressing and hiding my true feelings. Swallowing down the sadness, the anger, the frustration, the grief, the pain, the hurt of a childhood full of upheavals, relationship endings, moving houses regularly, and the loss of people who meant the world to me.
In my mid-20s through to early 30s, I learned to connect with my feelings through a series of different therapeutic modalities. Having a safe space to go regularly to express how I felt, to cathart and move things through my body was liberating and life-changing.
At some point though, I recognised that my feelings needed more space in my daily life. Not just once a week, they needed to be consistently present in my daily life.
This continues to be, a process of refinement for me.
Step 1 - Learning how to recognise that I had feelings. To give myself permission to be present with the discomfort of feelings and emotions in my body, to not stuff them down, but to learn to feel them and breathe them through my body.
Step 2 - was learning how to be okay with others seeing my feelings.
Step 3 - how to express myself in a way that was loving and honouring of my experience, without dumping it on others.
At times, I still need to go back to step 1 - Give myself permission to have feelings.
This is where my journal practice comes into play, it’s a space where I can write anything I feel. I can be present with what is alive in my body, in the moment. A space where I can tease out and clarify the variety of sensations and experiences moving through my body.
Another incredibly valuable tool in my daily practice is movement and expression - allowing energies to move through my body without filtering or censoring. Letting myself move my body in ways that express anger, frustration, sadness, excitement, happiness, sensuality, and whatever else may be alive in my body in that moment.
This helps open up my capacity for holding myself in a variety of different feelings, having access to a wider range of feelings and knowing how to bring those feelings forward in relationship with others without blaming or punishing others.
A woman who gives herself permission for her feelings and knows how to express and embody those feelings is truly powerful!
P.S. I will speak more in a future post about the embodiment and expression of feelings without blaming or punishing others.