Sometimes I long for the days when I could stuff down my emotions; I was an astute employer of avoidance and denial. It worked. Or so I thought. The problem was, I have always been a person who has a keen sense of emotions- call it empathy, awareness of energy, or just call me delusional- but I believe I have always been able to feel the emotional energy around me even when it wasn’t being acknowledged. I suppose that’s why I became a psychologist.
At some point in my life, my avoidance and denial had to crumble- there was just too much emotion behind the dam for it to stay intact. And then it started. Days, months, maybe even years of feeling things that I hadn’t before wanted to feel. It was awful. And yet, it was liberating in the most painfully awesome way. I was finally able to clear out some of the clutter and see who I truly was and what I really wanted underneath it all. It was like cleaning out some disgusting drain pipe; I didn’t really want to do it, but I knew that if I didn’t, things would keep getting stopped up and it would be an even bigger mess.
For me, letting in my emotions is sometimes still a difficult thing to do. Even though I encourage my clients to do it every day, I won’t pretend that it always comes naturally or easily for me. Occasionally, I fall in the trap of thinking that I need to “have it all together” for my clients; that I shouldn’t be preaching to them when I struggle with it myself. But then I realize that this knowledge, this experience, helps me connect with them and understand. I understand how difficult it is to be vulnerable in this world. It takes an incredible amount of courage to open up and let people see you. I can truly relate when they are sitting across from me trying to fight past all the barriers, dig deep, and acknowledge the pain that lives in the dark corners of their souls.
I’ve learned this through some deeply painful experiences of my own; telling someone how you really feel about them or what they’ve done to you isn’t always welcome. Sometimes when I acknowledge my feelings to others, they get… uncomfortable. They want me to “get over it,” or “let it go.” And I’m sure some of them call me crazy. But as difficult as it can be, I’ve also come to realize that it is a very effective way to know who is going to be willing to engage with me and who isn’t. To know who I want in my life and who I don’t. To know who my people are- the ones who have seen me and will go there with me. If you’ve read anything by me before, you know I’m a proponent of letting go, but letting go is often misconstrued into pushing down. Letting go means letting it in, letting it have its affects, and then letting it move on. As much as I would like to be someone who doesn’t feel things so deeply all the time, I know that this just isn’t in my bones.
Perhaps that means I will have to sacrifice some relationships, but it is far better than sacrificing myself. This is the real me. Take it or leave it. I lived many, many years of my life pushing down my feelings; I have no desire to go back there. And when it gets tough, which it does, I remind myself of how much courage it takes to be honest.
So know that, even if I don’t know you, I am one person who is standing behind you when you refuse to pretend to be ok. And I’m cheering you on. You deserve to feel every ounce of emotion that this wonderfully chaotic world has to offer, don’t let anyone tell you that there is something wrong with you. Life is pain and life is joy. Letting it affect you is a beautifully courageous thing to do.