«Return to Blog List What’s the Big Hurry? (Emotions vs. Feelings)
You’ve probably had this experience: You’re anxious or you’re angry or you’re lonely and you want not to feel that way. Right now. So, with a sense of restlessness and agitation and maybe an inner declaration of “I can’t stand this sensation for one more minute!”— you jump immediately into action. You do whatever it takes to move away from the almost-unbearable reality of that overwhelming emotion.
What’s the Big Hurry?
The hallmark of an addictive, compulsive process is that there is a sense of urgency. There is a sense of being in a hurry to find relief: “I have to have a drink now.” “I have to release this sexual tension now.” (Anger and loneliness often masquerade as sexual tension and excitement.) “I have to move away from this discomfort now.”
And, if that immediate obedience to your emotional discomfort becomes a habit, that habit can, over time, become an addictive pattern. You’re angry: so, you lash out at someone, or you drink an “adult beverage” or smoke weed. You’re anxious: so you go shopping for something you don’t need or that’s not in your budget. You’re lonely: so you temporarily boost your serotonin levels with a pint of Hagen Dazs. Or you sit at your computer and distract yourself with online pornography.
Medicating vs. Relating to Your Emotions
You’ve managed to medicate the emotion, but you’ve also managed to abandon a part of your inner self (what I call your “Inner Community”) that needed you to connect and be relational with him or her. After either numbing-out (Hagen Dazs) or distracting yourself by getting emotionally-high (e.g., creating emotional drama) as a way of distracting from your emotions, you will crash. It might take an hour or it might take a couple years. But, you will crash. And you will crash right back into the original emotional state, except now, because this part of your self has been abandoned by you, you crash down to a more intensely painful place than where you started.
Emotions are Addictive
Emotions are the raw stuff of our neuro-chemical responses to people, places and things. And sometimes those emotional reactions reflect our personal history of neglect, abandonment or abuse. Emotions, without the mediating influence of our witnessing consciousness remain primal, isolated and as random as a downed power line in a storm, sputtering, sparking and whipping around uncontrollably. Without some means of being authentically connected with oneself, without all that life-force energy being channeled in some relational way, things can get out of control. In fact, your whole life can get out of control.
Feelings are Relational
For the purposes of this discussion, here is my definition of feelings. My feelings are what happen when I consciouslywitness and come to my own assistance in the midst of intense emotion. I am able to slow down and mediate the rawness of emotion by coming into relationship with it.
For example, I can say to myself: “When I realized that I didn’t want to stay at my old job anymore, the story I made up about that was that I would be perceived as being a “bad” person and I felt shame about that.”
Now, if I only stayed present with myself long enough to know that I felt I would be experienced as being a “bad” person, I’d probably not even get to the part of witnessing and being present with the shame that that triggered for me. I might even go directly to anger and making the other person (e.g., my boss or my co-workers) wrong, as anger generates a cascade of intoxicating stress hormones that are very effective at blocking out the subtleties of what’s really going on with me. In other words, I’d go into a reaction (in a Big Hurry), rather than slowing down and witnessing the painful emotion of shame.
Conscious witnessing of, and relating to my emotional state makes it possible for me to relate compassionately—as a parent does with a distressed, overwhelmed child—to the raw emotions I am feeling. That is what I call “coming to my own assistance.”
Have a Relational Map to Your Inner Self is Helpful
It helps to have a map to your own Inner Universe and to develop your relationships with your “Inner Community.” Your “Inner Community” is those parts of your inner self that are informed by your personal history in this lifetime, as well as those spiritual archetypes that reside in you and can grant you access to what I call “The Timeless.” The Timeless is that dimension in you that does not carry the burden of your personal story in this life (and does not carry the accumulated personal history of your genetic lineages).
The next time you feel that you must do something right away to distract, distance or anesthetize your strong emotions, try doing something that feels counterintuitive:
- Move closer to yourself and to those emotions by noticing where the epicenter of the emotional sensation is in your physical body.
- Put a hand or both hands on that place (often it’s the solar plexus, center of the chest or lower belly) as a gesture of kindness and presence;
- Breathe into your belly (this slows down your distressed central nervous system)
- Say this to that distressed part of your inner self (Inner Community): “I’m aware of you. I’m right here with you. I’m with you. I love you.”
- Validate the emotion without capitulating to it (e.g., acting on it). (“I am feeling ashamed/angry/lonely, etc. in this moment and that’s okay.”)
- Hold an intent in your belly to merge with the part of you that is in The Timeless (e.g., Source energy, a wise woman/wise man archetype in you
- Relax and slow down. Be kind to yourself.
And then see what happens.