Sometimes you can be in a group setting - maybe a workshop or retreat, or a party or concert (remember them?), and you look around, just subtly....and realize that everyone else there is feeling something.
And you, nah, nothing. You're just not feeling it.
Like a stone. Numbed out. Not connecting with the energy of the room at all.
They are visibly showing emotions - laughter or tears, joy or sorrow.
And maybe even experiencing cathartic, healing transformative moments.
And you're just thinking - Nope, nothing happening over here, I wish I could access my feelings.
You really try. Try to engage. But it's just not happening. And it feels like there's something wrong with you.
Has this ever happened to you? Does this disconnection sound at all familiar?
The other day a friend of mine asked me what I thought about this situation because she was quite distressed at this seeming inability to feel. Not just the so-called negative emotions, but also the positive ones; joy, compassion, love.
She kind of knew what they felt like intellectually, but she just wasn't feeling them in her body.
I could totally understand her frustration, having experienced this myself. Knowing that I 'should' be feeling something but just not getting there.
And feeling like I was missing out - on connection, on getting the most out of the experience.
The key word to understanding this, very common, reaction is SAFETY.
It's all about keeping ourselves safe. Mostly at an unconscious level - but it's such a strong instinct that it can interfere with our engagement, and even enjoyment, of situations.
So why do we develop this feeling of 'it's not safe to reveal my emotions'? Here are some reasons:
- We all suffer trauma through our lives.
Big and small, it's just the nature of things. Loss, rejection, criticism; they all help us to create a protective shell, an inner mechanism, just so that we are able to function well out in the world.
- We all got messages about displays of emotion as we were growing up.
In some families - like in my friend's - showing your emotions is absolutely not encouraged, and even frowned upon, criticised or made fun of. So we learn, not just once, but over and over, that it's best just to keep them damped down or hidden inside.
- We didn't have good role models.
Sometimes it's just an absence of knowing 'how to do it'. How to laugh or cry without making an idiot of yourself.
- We're scared to open Pandora's box.
The idea that 'if I start feeling strong emotion I may never get out of it, or I will be overwhelmed and won't be able to handle it.'
So if this bothers you, what can you do about it?
Here are 3 simple ways to get in touch with your feelings:
1. EFT Tapping
Although this kind of thing can be hard to clear on your own (because precisely the same mechanism stopping you from feeling too much is the one which won't let you go there to heal) here are some ideas to try:
Try tapping right where you are:
'Even though I don't feel X emotion, I love and accept myself.'
'Even though I should be feeling something but I don't, I love and forgive myself.'
'Even though I feel I'm missing out, I love and honour myself.'
See what comes up.
You can also tune in to your body by focusing not on emotional feelings, but physical feelings. Do you have any pain or tightness or fluttery feelings? Tap on those:
Even though I have this pain in my knee, I love and accept myself completely.'
Or play 'let's pretend' and ask yourself, 'If I was feeling something what would it be and where would I feel it?' and then tap as if it were real.
2. Your safe place
Discover your 'safe place' for emotions and go there often to experience them.
For me, a safe place to cry is at a sad or moving movie or scene. And I LOVE crying there. I can walk into where my girls are watching something, watch for 2 minutes, someone says something kind or compassionate, and I'm bawling my head off. Bliss!
3. Write your Emotional Evidence List
At the end of every day, create your Emotional Evidence List:
'I'm so grateful that today I felt (whatever emotion - positive or negative) at a (number on a scale of 1 to 10).
Write as many sentences as you like.
This becomes your new norm - the 'See! I can experience emotion and live to tell the tale' - so you can start to tell a new story about you and emotions.
Because....what you focus on expands.