Archive for June 2012

Your Feelings Matter

June 28, 2012

(For this week’s audio podcast, click here.)

I sometimes find it challenging to honor my own feelings – especially if what I want or feel seems to be at odds with other people, or my emotions don’t seem to be “appropriate” to the situation.  While I’m not someone who tends to hold back sharing my honest opinions, desires, and feelings and, over the years, I’ve gotten quite a bit of feedback from people close to me about talking too much, dominating situations or conversations, and being selfish – underneath all of this is a deep fear that my feelings and desires aren’t as important as other people’s.

It has been humbling to come to this realization about myself recently.  However, it has also been incredibly liberating to see this pattern and to ask myself the question, “What would it be like to honor my real feelings and to live my life knowing that what I want and feel is just as important as anyone else?”

Honoring our feelings isn’t about being self absorbed, arrogant, or better than anyone – it’s really about being true to ourselves, honest with how we feel and what we want, and willing to engage in authentic conversations with other people – even, and especially, when we don’t feel or want the same things that they do.

So why can it be so challenging for us to honor our own feelings?  Some of the primary reasons for this are:

  • We worry that people won’t like or approve of us
  • We don’t value ourselves in an authentic way (i.e. we think we’re not good enough)
  • We’ve been taught to put other people’s needs, desires, and feelings ahead of our own
  • We’re not comfortable feeling and expressing certain emotions
  • We don’t think we “deserve” to have what we want (i.e. we think we’re not important enough)
  • We haven’t been taught healthy ways to honor our feelings
  • We worry that we’ll be seen as selfish

These and other things get in the way of truly honoring what we feel and what we want in life.  Sadly, by not honoring our feelings we both discount ourselves in a painful, and ultimately damaging way, and we create separation between us and other people, often the most important people in our lives.

Here are a few things you can do to enhance your capacity to honor your own feelings:

  • Be Real About How You Truly Feel – The first step of any process is always about being real, first and foremost with ourselves.  Even if we feel unclear or uncomfortable with a specific situation or certain set of emotions or desires, the more willing we are to be real about what we truly feel and want, the more ability we’ll have to honor ourselves and be authentic with others.  Making it a practice of getting in touch with our true feelings is essential.  A great way to do this is through journaling. It’s not about justifying how we feel to anyone else, it’s about being honest with ourselves.
  • Stop Judging Yourself – One of the biggest things that can get in our way in life, in general and specifically when it comes to feeling our feelings and expressing our desires, is self judgment.  We think to ourselves, “I shouldn’t feel this way,” or “If I share this, they will think I’m a terrible person.”  We use these self critical thoughts to suppress our true feelings, which can have significantly negative consequences on us and others. What if we just allowed ourselves to be real and to honor what’s true for us in the moment, without judging it?
  • Give Yourself Permission to Feel – Because of our self judgment, we sometimes don’t give ourselves permission to feel… especially certain emotions.  As human beings we tend to have a hierarchy of emotions – liking the “good” ones (love, joy, gratitude, peace, etc) and not liking the “bad” ones (anger, fear, hurt, powerlessness, etc).  However, at the deepest level, all human emotions have value and can benefit us if we’re willing to feel them in an authentic and healthy way.  Giving ourselves permission to feel what we’re feeling is critical to our ability to honor and move through our emotions in a way that serves us, our relationships, and our life.
  • Let Go of Your “Story” – Many of us, myself included, are attached to our “story.”  We love all of the drama and all of the details that make up the relationships, situations, and circumstances in our lives (both past and present).  While our life story, as well as the details of specific relationships and circumstances in our lives, is important at some level, too often we get caught in the story and all the drama, which actually takes us out of our emotional experience.  Where we have real power is in feeling our feelings, not talking about them, rationalizing them, or explaining them – but in simply feeling them.  Human emotions are not sustainable – especially if they are authentically felt.  It only takes about a minute or two to genuinely feel and move through an emotion.  However, when we attach an emotion to a story, we don’t allow ourselves to truly feel it and thus can keep it stuck in place.
  • Get Emotional Support – As important as our emotions are to our lives, our well being, and our relationships, sadly we don’t get a lot of emotional training in life (through school, at work, and in general) and we don’t often have built in, healthy emotional support mechanisms in our daily lives.  We live in a world that is primarily focused on action, results, and appearances – none of which has anything to do with our emotional experience (even though our emotional experience is not only one of the most important aspects of our lives, but is what drives much of what we do and produce in life).  There are, however, many ways we can find or enhance our emotional support.  Most of us have certain emotional support structures in our lives that we’ve set up for ourselves, consciously or unconsciously.  The key is for us to utilize these in a consistent and authentic way, as well as to make sure they are empowering us to honor ourselves and our emotional experience in life.

Share your thoughts, ideas, insights, actions, and more.

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Embracing Powerlessness

June 7, 2012

(For this week’s audio podcast, click here.)

In a recent session I had with my new counselor Eleanor, she said to me, “Mike, it sounds like embracing powerlessness is something that would benefit you right now.”  When she said this, a chill went down my spine and my body tightened up.  “What do you mean, ’embrace powerlessness’?'” I asked.  “Why would I want to do that?”

Powerlessness seems almost like a dirty word to me, at least to my ego for sure.  Priding myself on being a “powerful person” and in the business of “empowering” others, I couldn’t imagine what embracing powerlessness even meant, let alone see the value in doing it myself.

Even with my fear and resistance, I continued to listen to what Eleanor had to say about this.  She went on to say, “Allowing yourself to feel powerless doesn’t mean you are powerless.  In fact, the more willing you are to embrace the feeling of powerlessness when it shows up, the more authentic power you’ll be able to access.”

She then taught me a simple meditation/visualization technique to embrace the feeling of powerlessness (for specifics about this technique, click here to listen to my audio podcast where I explain it in detail).  I’ve been using this technique for the past few weeks and talking about it with people close to me.  It has been incredibly liberating.

Through this process, I’ve realized that in many of the areas of my life where I’ve struggled and suffered most, one of the key factors has been my inability to acknowledge, express, or embracemy feelings of powerlessness. Instead of embracing powerlessness, I often end up erroneously attempting to force outcomes or results in the name of being “responsible” or “powerful,” when what is usually really driving me is fear and control (hence the struggling/suffering).  Can you relate in any way?

I recently heard the author, speaker, entrepreneur Chip Conley give a presentation at the Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco.  He opened with the serenity prayer, which I appreciated and heard in a new way – “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”  I’ve always had a bit of a reaction to this prayer and its underlying wisdom – not wanting to fully acknowledge the idea that there are actually things I cannot change.  However, this prayer is all about consciously embracing our own powerlessness and there’s true brilliance in its simplicity and insight.

What if we stopped pushing against, resisting, and fighting with the things we think need to be changed about life, others, and ourselves – especially those things that are out of our control?  What if we were able to bring a deeper level of acceptance and serenity to the difficulties and challenges in our lives, instead of piling onto them (as well as ourselves and others) with loads of judgment, pressure, expectation, and more?

It’s incredibly liberating when we’re able to acknowledge and express our true emotions, even the ones we may not like, such as powerlessness.  We tend to have lots of stories, beliefs, and real hierarchy when it comes to emotions – deciding that some are “good” and others are “bad.”  The reality is that emotions are positive when we express them in a healthy way and negative when we suppress them, hold them back, or pretend we’re not feeling them.

We’ve all had lots of positive experiences in life when we’ve had the courage to express our fear, sadness, anger, and more (i.e. the “bad” ones).  We’ve also had negative and painful experiences when we’ve withheld or suppressed our love, excitement, passion, gratitude, and others (i.e. the “good” ones).  Maybe it’s less about the emotion itself and more about our willingness and ability to express it in a healthy and authentic way.

It’s also important to remember that human emotions aren’t sustainable.  They are meant to be felt and expressed.  Once they are felt and expressed, however, they pass through us beautifully.  This is why we often feel much better after a good cry (see my post on “The Benefit of Tears”).  The more conscious we are about our emotions and the more willing we are to express them authentically – the happier, healthier, and more alive we become.

As I’ve been allowing myself to embrace and express my own feelings of powerlessness, even though it has been a bit scary and uncomfortable, especially at first, I’ve been experiencing a deeper level of peace and power in regards to some very stressful and uncertain circumstances I’m currently facing in my life.  And, embracing powerlessness in general has started to shift my entire outlook and is liberating me from a great deal of undue pressure and expectation that I’ve been placing on myself for many years (i.e. most of my life.)

How can you start embracing powerlessness in a positive, empowering, and liberating way in your own life?

Share your thoughts, ideas, insights, actions, and more.

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