Tired of Putting on a “Brave Face?”
Are you the type of person who when someone asks how you are doing, you reply “Great!” even though your heart is breaking?
• You or someone you love is going through a health crisis,
• You’ve just lost the love of your life to a break-up, death, or even Alzheimer’s,
• Or you’re filled with shame because your financial situation is dire.
While it may not be appropriate to burst into tears at the office, (or my favorite, stay in bed until it all goes away) getting into the habit of denying your feelings leads to an emotional outburst or illness. So how can you move beyond the happy façade and be truly happy?
Stop Pretending and Start Thriving
Most of us are lost in the cultural delusion that we should just get over “it” and get back to work. Several years ago, a friend of mine lost her husband the same week their baby was born. Months later, while having coffee we were talking about how she was feeling resentful over the lack of emotional space around her and her family, she said “I wish we lived during the time where when you lost someone you wore a black armband for a year. That way everyone respected that you were still grieving.”
Living by the norms of our culture, we have learned to disconnect from our natural inclinations to show emotion because it is unacceptable. And while it’s true that little Sandy shouldn’t literally scream for ice cream, especially if she’s 30 years old, we need safe spaces for us to feel and to heal.
You Are Not Your Emotions
Emotions are chemical reactions to thoughts and external stimulus. Think about someone you really, really love and what happens? Feel good emotions are stirred up inside of you. Also, if you hear a strange noise outside your house, you’ll have an immediate emotional/chemical response before the thought arises, “What’s that?”
Emotions are like clouds that move through the sky. Sometimes they are like white billowy tufts of cotton candy sailing through a perfect blue sky and sometimes they are dark and moody, harbingers of a gathering storm. In either case, they are always on the move, and yet when you ignore them they cause you great harm.
Invite Them to Tea
One of my favorite teachings about the power of our emotions is found in the poem by the great Sufi Mystic Rumi, entitled, “Inviting Mara to Tea”
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!…
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
When inviting your emotions in for a chat however, remember that one cup is enough otherwise they will become a nuisance. The key is to find balance between honoring what you are feeling and staying present.
6 Things You Can Do Now
1. Create a sacred space in your home. Sacred spaces are important for you to meditate, contemplate, or just sit quietly with a cup of tea. It doesn’t have to be an entire room, it could be an area in your bedroom where you have a favorite chair and side table with flowers and incense. When you take time out in the same space every day, you create a positive association, where before you even sit down, you begin to feel calm and connected.
2. Meditate. During my guided meditation classes, I often refer to the body/mind as a refuge. The place where you FIND AND CONNECT with YOU. During your practice, you can allow anything that you are feeling to come up. Once they arise YOU CAN CHOOSE to either let them go or maybe address it in the sanctuary within.
3. Journal. Writing in a journal is another amazing way to give voice to what is going on inside of you. You can write letters to the parts of you that hurt and allow them to respond. Like in Rumi’s poem, there may be something important that they have to tell you.
4. Talk to someone. Community is important to your personal healing and to the collective healing of humanity. When you share your stories, your joy and your pain, you add to the collective wellspring of healing that everyone can tap into. Haven’t you ever been moved to tears or laughter by someone’s story? When was the last time? Was it healing for you?
5. Movement. You can connect to and release negative emotions, and generate positive ones through art, dance, or even taking a hike at sunset.
6. Let go. Once you acknowledge the emotion and its message, then let it go. You are not your emotions, you are the Watcher of your thoughts and emotions, and like the sky you are not moved by the passing of the clouds.
Remember that whatever you choose to do, do it consciously and mindfully.
photo courtesy of Ricardo Liberato