Recently, I leaned on a special person in my life to vent. I told her that she was the one person, other than my husband Jeff, who I could share what I was feeling in that moment and knew unequivocally that she wouldn’t judge me for it.
And she didn’t. Instead, what she said was (I might be paraphrasing slightly), “I believe that all emotions are valid. What you do with them, how you act on them, and even how you voice them are all your responsibility. But you should absolutely feel them.”
And so I did. I felt them and expressed them. I talked, vented, snarked a
bit lot, and cried. She gave me the space to do it. She also gave me the gift of her perspective, support, and love.
We live in a world that tells us that it’s not okay to feel with our whole hearts. That we must be seen as strong, or at least unruffled by what life throws at us. That there’s something wrong with us if we aren’t. That it’s a sign of weakness or an internal flaw for not keeping our emotions in check.
And so we tuck them away (or at least the negative ones), we sweep them behind a facade of “everything’s fine,” and we accept a life that isn’t an authentic expression because we want to protect ourselves and others.
Yet, when we don’t express our emotions in healthy ways, they come out in unhealthy ones. And when we don’t allow ourselves the actual emotional feels and the chance to move through them, we start to stunt ourselves. We start to wear a cloak of inauthenticity.
And here’s the clincher. The people who I respect the most are those who feel with their whole hearts. Because when I’ve seen your soft underbelly, when I’ve witnessed your compassion, when I’ve seen the expansiveness of what moves you, and when I know that you are open to a connection based on authenticity, then I know that you and I have something we can actually build on. I know you aren’t just showing me the highlight reel, but the full spectrum of who you are.
This year has felt hard for me in some very specific ways that I won’t go into right now, because what they are is less important than my reaction to them. I have had to work — sometimes really hard — on inner peace. And between those points of peace and wonder and delight and joy and humor and love, which are very much a part of my life, I have also felt sadness, frustration, hurt, and anger. Oh boy, have I felt anger.
There’s something incredibly humbling about having a great morning meditation, feeling super zen going into the day, and then getting triggered by mid-day. There were days that I’ve thought, “Who are you kidding? You’re trying to practice inner peace? You can’t even make it through one entire day, sister!”
At some point though, I realized that my anger was asking me to listen because it was trying to teach me something.
What the…heck?! Anger as a gift??
By the way, I am in no way suggesting that we live in the emotion of anger forever, licking our wounds like victims, or that we take it out on the world around us, lashing out with aggression. Anger without dissolution or resolution can be destructive, and I believe in the tenet of “do no harm.” But anger can truly be a gift when we realize its temporal nature, when we see that it is nothing but a storm that is passing, making way for the light. Anger can be cleansing and cathartic when we can recognize that it’s showing us what’s wrong so that we can move into what’s right.
But to see this, I had to sit with it. I had to get through the fiery flash of my immediate reaction and ask it what I needed to learn.
I’d like to tell you that this was an instant process after I figured out that the universe was trying to teach me something. That each time I was triggered, I immediately responded by discovering the message at its core. I’m more hard-headed than that though, I guess. I’ve not done the best job this year quickly moving through anything. I’ve had moments when I’ve felt justified, and at times, I have wanted to simmer in my sauce of dismay, disappointment, or disgruntlement.
And see, the universe (or whatever divine entity you believe is teaching you this message) has plenty of time. Just like the special person in my life who gave me space to vent, the universe will give us all the space and time we need to learn whatever the lessons are that we’re here to learn. It’ll even give us numerous chances to practice until we’ve learned them.
At some point, while sitting in my stew, I told myself, “I don’t want to feel this way anymore. Please help me move through this. Please tell me what I need to know.” And only then was I able to listen to what my anger was trying to teach me.
In my case, it was telling me a few things:
- I still have some healing to do in some specific areas of my life.
- I have to fully face that I control my energetic boundaries, what I allow in, and what I don’t.
- I have felt stifled and controlled by numerous circumstances and some people in my life, and I have the power to move through them and create my own space of joy. That means letting go of the things that don’t fit.
Anger was just the cover. It was emotion that had been telling me something was wrong. It was the sign to dig deeper so that I could find the parts of myself that needed care and mending. I had been waffling between feeling trampled on and vindicated, overwhelmed and deeply saddened, and my anger was at both myself for feeling this pain and at others for inflicting it, whether or not it was intentional.
I haven’t yet experienced a life with all perfection and no pain. It simply doesn’t exist. But I know that the pain of what we feel, if we actually let ourselves feel it, provides a path that leads to the perfect life for each of us, which is quite different than a life of perfection.
I do believe that we are meant to find our joy. I also believe that we are meant to be kind and loving. It doesn’t mean that circumstances or people won’t ever tick us off. But after we feel the emotion, we always have a choice of what we do with it, how we act on it, and how we voice it.
If we give ourselves the acceptance of knowing that our emotions are okay and we give ourselves the compassion that we would a dear friend, we can trust that the full spectrum of who we are, that of feeling with our whole hearts, will ultimately lead us back to the place where the light can shine through.