Everything felt normal as I went about my morning routine…until I raised my leg to get into the tub and heard a crack.
I dismissed the immediate discomfort in my back and took a shower. Within an hour, I couldn’t stand straight. The pain was excruciating. An MRI showed two herniated discs. I dedicated the next few months to healing my back, and with the help of Reiki, acupuncture, Gyrotonic exercises, and lots of inner work, I was back to my old self pretty quickly.
That happened two years ago, shortly after moving to New York. My husband and I had made the choice to turn our empty nester challenge into a real opportunity. We were super excited. The transition was well planned. There was one thing that I didn’t expect: the feelings of loss, disconnection, and loneliness that would overtake me in those first few months.
Yes, I know! I should have known better! I’m so good at taking women under my wings and helping them to cope and grow from their own transitions. But I definitely didn’t walk the talk this time around!
I supported my physical recovery with a deep emotional and spiritual healing process. It was months later when I realized that my body had sent me an important message that morning: “Enough! I can’t take it anymore! Can’t you admit that life sucks right now, face it, and deal with how you feel?”
Understanding the connection between my physical condition and my suppressed emotions was a turning point for me. I committed to stepping out of my comfort zone and feeling the pain.
Recognizing our own emotions is essential for our health and well-being. Suppressing anger, fear, or sadness has become normal for so many of us. Sadness carried over time expands into depression. Lots of fear becomes anxiety. And who hasn’t experienced anger morphing into rage?
It is not your fault when you suffer, but it is your responsibility to heal.
Physical Pain is an Indication That an Emotion is Being Suppressed
and Needs Our Attention.
I have been well trained in numbing my feelings since I was a little girl. I remember being yelled at for crying and slapped when I laughed too hard. I know that my mother did the best she could. She grew up with a very strict dad who wouldn’t let her express her emotions either. So it’s unsurprising I was programmed to suppress mine as well.
Here is the truth:
To heal from emotional pain, we need to connect with, identify, own, and feel our feelings. Then we need to let them go.
During my quest to meet my feelings in person, I have been researching “feeling” words. What I (and many of my clients) do, is use a list of these words (there are 241 words on my Feeling Words List, which you can download here) to experiment getting in touch with a wide variety of feelings, such as “amazed,” “animated,” “ardent,” “aroused,” “astonished,” “dazzled,” as well as “cranky,” “distressed,” “distraught,” and “frazzled.”
There are two fun ways to use the Feeling Words List:
- To identify how you feel when you experience a physical sensation, pleasant or unpleasant (There are 241 options!)
- To identify your core-desired feelings
I learned about core-desired feelings (feelings that flow deep within our hearts) from one of my heroes, Danielle LaPorte, who says that the road to true contentment lies solely within us. She believes that many of us misunderstand goal-setting. That we all, at some point in life, have used a person, situation, career, or object to define our happiness. But this way of thinking only brings temporary joy. By defining our core-desired feelings, we can create a map for success. But we must first make ourselves a priority in our own lives.
Look at the Feeling Words List, and identify your core-desired feelings. How do you really want to feel? Make those words visible in your space, your mind, your heart, and everywhere around you. Check in with your list daily. Explore ways to generate those feelings at the present moment. Don’t wait until God-knows-what happens so you can finally feel the way you want to feel. That day may never come.
One more idea to help you say “hello” to a wider range of feelings:
The Atlas of Emotions is an interactive tool that helps with exploring your feelings and emotions. There is an interesting story about the development of this fun tool: The Dalai Lama imagined “a map of our emotions to develop a calm mind.” So he recruited renowned emotion scientist Dr. Paul Ekman and Ekman’s daughter Eve to create one!
The Bottom Line:
Don’t wait for a herniated disc or another physical disaster.
Hang it, read it, review it, sing it, or dance it—I don’t care what you do to welcome it to your life, as long as you START FEELING!
And just for fun, let me know how do you FEEL right now?