I was browsing my YouTube feed recently and noticed a number of videos about “getting rid” of your emotions. There seems to be a lot of talk and instructions on how to control, master, and avoid having to feel those pesky and painful emotions. Tap this point on your body here, say this “positive” statement there, and make that pain and unpleasantness go right away.
I started to get worried.
You’d think I would be delighted, and that I might think, “I don’t have to feel painful or unpleasant emotions?! Great! Let’s get rid of them!” The thing is, I know better.
What I know, in my years of experience of helping people regulate their emotions, is that trying to get rid of or push emotions away increases pain, suffering, and misery in the long run. Avoiding emotions or trying to make them vanish makes things much, much worse. In fact, viewing any emotional experience as “negative” sets the stage for emotional buildup and suffering.
Well then, what do we do?
LOVE our emotions!
Now, I’m not just talking about those mushy, gushy, gotta love ‘em emotions like joy, amazement, thrill, infatuation, delight, and all of their friends. I’m suggesting even loving emotions such as fear, sadness, hurt, despair, embarrassment, guilt, jealousy.
Here’s the deal: our emotions exist and they aren’t going anywhere. Emotions are a human experience, and all of us experience the entire range of those emotions. Whether we want to or not, we all experience emotional pain. That is just part of life. If we didn’t have unpleasant emotions, we wouldn’t have empathy, gratitude, connection with others, deep appreciation for art and drama, understanding, and the list goes on.
In other words, all emotions, even painful emotions, have great value. They give us information about what is happening in our environment and ourselves, help us understand what we need and attend to it, and connect us to others. Pain is not something to be pushed away. In fact, when we push away painful emotions or try to mask them or just be “positive,” we actually suppress the painful emotion, which leads to emotional buildup.
The way to truly and freely experience life is to welcome in and feel whatever emotion comes. In other words, love your emotions.
Want practice? Check out this short audio meditation that you can listen to anytime, anywhere and start practicing loving all of your emotions today.
A practice in loving your emotions.
Take a moment to settle in wherever you are. It doesn’t matter if you are standing, sitting, lying down, or any other configuration, bring your attention to this very moment.
Begin to notice that you are breathing. Notice your breath coming in and out. Where in your body do you notice your breath? When you bring your awareness to your breath, where in your physical body is your attention drawn? It doesn’t matter if you notice your nose, throat, belly, or tips of your toes. There is no judgment about this, just simply noticing where your attention is drawn in your physical body as you notice your breathing.
Now, let’s take a few moments and notice physical sensations. What physical sensations are present in your body in this moment?
When you notice thoughts coming in, either distracting you or analyzing why you are feeling what you’re feeling, very gently, bring your attention back to your physical body and notice what sensations are present in this moment?
See you if you can lay out the welcome mat for whatever physical sensations are there – pleasant, unpleasant, static and rigid or shifting and changing, it doesn’t matter. Welcome in whatever comes.
You might turn the palms of your hands toward the sky, opening your posture to help you welcome in and allow whatever sensations are present in this moment.
See if you can put words to the sensations you are noticing: like, a presence in the center of my chest, a tightness in my neck, a warmth in my belly. Take the next few moments, notice physical sensations in your body and try, as best you can, to briefly describe them to yourself.
Now, I am going to ask you a couple of questions while you continue to breathe and notice physical sensations in your body. I don’t want you to search for an answer or try to come up with a way to answer these questions. Instead, simply notice, what, if anything you notice, when I ask you a question:
- What emotion is present in your body in this moment?
- Where is emotion present in your body in this moment?
- Where, in your physical body, do you feel an emotional sensation in this moment?
- Take some breaths as you notice emotional sensations or lack of sensations. Remembering to welcome in whatever is there.
- Breathing in and out and welcoming whatever emotional sensations are present or absent. Welcoming your experience in this moment.
Now, bring both hands to rest over your heart center, or the center of your chest, one hand over the other. Breathing in and out, notice the sensation of your hands resting gently and lovingly on the center of your chest. Know that by tuning into your breath and your physical body, you have just participated in a practice to nourish, cleanse, and love your emotions. Your emotions, even when painful, are friendly and here to inform you. The more you practice loving your emotions in this way, the more peace and ease you are inviting into your life.
Acknowledge yourself for putting the time and attention into this loving practice.