Sitting With Feeling

When something is bothering me,

I write a song that tells my feelings.

Loretta Lynn

In “I Know I’m In There Somewhere,” Helene G. Brenner, PhD, writes:

Feelings, while not facts, are a highly concentrated form of information with their life-affirming story to tell.  There are no bad feelings–only feelings that get stuck.  And there are no bad thoughts or parts of you–only parts that you have exiled and don’t listen to.  No person or authority in the world can tell you what “should be” going on in your heart, nor do you have to prove, to yourself or to anyone else, that you have a “right” to feel whatever it is you’re feeling.

While American culture adulates people who project an unflaggingly positive, cheerful, “can do” spirit,  mental (and physical) health doesn’t mean being happy all the time.  It’s about being resilient, knowing how to heal and recover from losses and difficulties, being flexible rather than brittle.  To do this, we need to allow feelings of hurt, grief, fear or rage to be listened to, not suppressed:

1. Acknowledge.  Human beings are wired to run from difficult frightening or uncomfortable feelings.  The running can take the form of intellectualizing, minimizing, spacing out, panicking, blowing up or going to pieces. When a feeling is bothering you, notice the sensations you feel in your body and simply sit with them.

2. Being With.   Breathe deeply, step back from what you’re doing and notice what is going on inside you, without judgment.  Name the feeling as accurately as possible, “I’m feeling furious right now.”  Take a full minute to sit with the feeling and the sensations experienced by your body.  Notice, observe and describe the elemental feelings that you didn’t know were there, “It’s a big black hole that feels unseen and unloved.” Don’t impede its flow by thinking about how you can try to change or resolve it.  Just notice what else shows up.

3. Compassion.   Go as close to the bone as you can in telling the exact truth about what you feel.  In identifying your feelings, you free yourself to hear them out and learn about them without becoming them.  When you acknowledge the truth of your feelings, the grip of the past loosens and you begin to open up to possibilities.   In paying attention to what the pure feeling has to tell you, you allow an answer to present itself.

Click on “Leave a Comment” above to share what helps you deal with difficult emotions.

© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Photography for the Goddess in Every Wife and Mother


Feathers of Freedom

The function of freedom is to free someone else.

Toni Morrison

“You have a bird?,” inquired the woman standing behind me at checkout.  I was holding a big birdcage so my answer could have gone a few different ways.

“No, I don’t,” I winked.   “It’s a reminder that my bird is free!”

She grinned.

This Thanksgiving, I celebrate our freedom to choose by sharing the true story of a woman who liberated herself in fine feathery style.  Kitty Cavalier reveals:

I wasn’t always the confident life of the party.  For most of my life, I was suicidally depressed with a severe eating disorder.  My world revolved around my body, my weight and what diet I was on or not.  I wore long sleeves and long pants even in the summertime.  I made up crazy excuses so friends wouldn’t take me to the beach.  Getting undressed became traumatic even for the simple routine of taking a shower in the privacy of my own home.

Underneath all this shame was a deep seated belief that if only I were pretty enough, thin enough, charismatic enough, successful enough, fill-in-the-blank enough, my life would be better.  My body became the battleground of my grief,  shame, fear, anxieties and I hated it for not cooperating with my wishes.  Then one evening, I went to see a burlesque show…  

Click here for more on Kitty’s story and her School of Charm and Cheek.

Which  freedom will you celebrate this Thanksgiving?

Kitty Cavalier Burlesque Ostrich Fans by Sharon Birke

© Sharon Birke

Photography for the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Powerful Goddess is a trademark of DoubleSmart LLC

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