As NSW heads into week 7 of its lockdown, and the thought of another week of watching daily numbers seems to be the norm, I contemplated the vast range of emotions everyone is experiencing at the moment.
Experiencing anger, frustration, fear, loneliness, boredom, anxiety, rage and other so called “negative feelings” can be difficult. And for many, we don’t do it. For many, we have been taught from an early age that these kind of emotions are not “ok”, or they are not appropriate, or that we just don’t express or show our feelings. In fact, happiness seems to be the gold standard and ideal that we are all set up to chase.
Think back to when you were a little child and you and cried because you were sad – did your caregiver berate you? Tell you to be a big girl/boy and stop crying? Give you a lolly to stop crying. And if you were angry were you put in the naughty corner or sent to another room for time out? Or what happened when you complained that things were tough? Were you told to stop whingeing and to toughen up, be a man. What does this say for feelings? What messages does it give to the child about expressing emotions that may be considered not the positive emotions?
Repeating the same old patterns
Essentially, emotions got dismissed or ignored or we were not helped to express our emotions in a way that we were heard, validated and allowed to express them in a healthy way. So we grow up, and we repeat the same old pattern. We learn that there are ways to distract from emotions that cause us discomfort, or we don’t want to feel. Nothing beats a glass or three of wine, throwing ourselves into work, punishing ourselves with exercise. It becomes easy then not having to face these emotions.
But then lockdown comes. Things slow down, and there is space and time. And a whole lot more of uncomfortable emotions bombard us. And unfortunately, there is no manual for this. There is no manual for facing emotions in a pandemic.
Feelings come and go
What we do know is that feelings are transient. They come and they go. And while we do want to always feel happy, happiness too, comes and goes, just like anger and sadness. Instead of struggling to cling to happiness as if that stop the negative feelings, allow all the feelings to come and go. Feeling our feelings is essential, essential to our well-being. A feeling will continue to rear its head in one form or another, until it is felt, acknowledged, and worked through. For as long as you push a feeling down and try to ignore it, you give the feeling the power to control you.
Notice your feelings
If you want to love your life, with all its ups and downs, then fully experiencing all your feelings is part of the process. Starting today, notice your feelings, and instead of judging, or pushing away that feeling, just breathe into it. Label it. I am feeling [Insert appropriate feeling]. And just breathe. No need to judge. It’s ok to feel it. It will pass.
So, take a deep breath, a longer exhale, NSW, you got this. One step at a time, day by day, moment by moment.