Holding Space for Your Feelings...All of Them
Today’s episode is all about feelings and honoring them as part of your journey and your story.
I am a person who feels everything deeply and my relationship with those deep feelings - which has roots back when I was 5 years old - has been a bit complicated. I’ve only started to really intentionally address my identity as a feeling individual over the past two and a half years as I’ve started therapy and begun the work of becoming on purpose.
In that journey, I’ve found that I’ve spent a lot of my young adulthood downplaying my feelings or justifying their illegitimacy. For years, I’ve been prefacing my thoughts with whatever judgment I thought was sure to come. Before I’d say something, I’d quickly imagine what the person I’m speaking to might think and try to beat them to the punch:
“I know this is gonna sound dramatic..."
“This is totally not real..."
“This is gonna sound absolutely ridiculous..."
Those were just some of the phrases I used to pre-empt what I thought was surely coming my way. I’ve done this with family, friends, and my husband. Even when I spoke with my therapist I would automatically preface my thoughts with one of these statements because I assumed she’d feel I was being dramatic even though she’d given me no indication she felt that way. These responses started to become unconscious automated behavior that had become an integral part of my communication as well as the belief I had about myself as well. I believed I was "over-the-top", "dramatic", and a "cry-baby". And it was that belief, that prompted me to give her, and everyone else, permission to invalidate my feelings by doing it first.
In hindsight, I realize that it was a protective measure. I thought I could prevent any accusations of an “over-reaction" and I believed that by assigning my thoughts as overly emotional on the front end, people would more readily accept what I was saying. I believed that the immediate self-invalidation would prove that I was rational, thoughtful, and levelheaded.
One day in one of my early therapy sessions, my therapist said “You know you don’t need to preface anything you say here or assign any judgment to your feelings.” She called to my attention just how often I started conversations with leading phrases that assumed judgment on her part. She reassured me that I was in a safe space and that her role in my therapy is never to judge any feelings I have. It was incredibly affirming and - in a way - liberating to feel that I could say what I felt without restriction.
It was in this same session, or shortly thereafter, that we had a conversation about feelings and how we can experience multiple feelings at once. It was sitting there, on the couch in her office, that I gripped onto the idea of both/and.
So many of us, myself included, grow up thinking that we can only experience one emotion at a time and if we experience anything else, it negates any other feelings that could dwell within us. For example, many of us at some point or other have struggled with jealousy or envy as we compare our lives to those around us. Think about how many times folks we’ve shared these feelings with tell us to count our blessings or share a story of someone who has it worse off. These people mostly have pure intentions, but they don’t recognize the impact their “advice” has on us judging our feelings. if we deem an emotion as "bad" or "negative" we fight to push it away. We don’t let it take up any space because we think that doing so would be to ignore the more positive emotions - or so that's what we’ve been conditioned to believe.
Therapy was the first time I was introduced to the idea that there’s space for all of my emotions and that it’s okay for them to all be present. They had always been present, but I attached a lot of judgment to their existence and I’d try to push the “unnecessary” or “bad” ones away.
Through therapy, I’ve started to see myself and my emotions in a new light. For most of my life, I believed that my feelings were over the top and that the best chance I had at being heard was by dousing the flame on my feelings before sharing them. I thought I was avoiding the sting of someone telling me that I was being dramatic or over the top, but what was really happening was that the feelings were building up and I didn’t have anywhere constructive for them to go. I have a strong, incredible community both online and in real life, who are always willing to listen and support me. My husband is also a phenomenal listener and he has always accepted me for me. But even he, without knowing, has judged my feelings as being dramatic and at times made me feel like they weren’t valid because he deemed them as “too much.” This has not been the case for a long time because he has grown as I have grown, and he has a much deeper understanding of me and my emotions now but at one point this was a communication issue that we struggled with until I had the awareness (and the language) to share the new conception I had of myself and the way I experience emotions.
Again, it comes back to the both/and paradigm and understanding that multiple things can be true at one time. I can be grateful and envious. I can experience frustration right alongside joy. I can feel deeply, as I often do, and still have rationale-worthy thoughts.
I can hold space for all the feelings.
And you can, too.
I’ll even go further and say that you should hold space for all of your feelings,
Your feelings don’t make you. They do, however, help you learn about yourself as you become the person you are meant to be.
So, in honor of your journey (and mine too), here are some ways you can begin holding space for all the feelings as complex, confusing, and conflicting as they may be.
Ways to Hold Space for Your Feelings
Share your feelings with a trusted friend (or a trusted journal). Get your feelings outside of your body. They deserve to be given a voice. Give them permission to show up.
Be intentional about where, how, and with whom you devote your energy. Does this space, choice, or person fill you up or drain you? This allows you to control the narrative and claim your power to show up the way you want.
Sit with your feelings. Give them space to exist without judgment. Your disappointment or anger or grief deserves to exist alongside your joy. Feelings are data. Information that drives our growth and our becoming.
Talk with a professional and be intentional about who that professional is. Remember, the therapeutic relationship is AS important, if not more important, than the interventions themselves. Finding a great professional like a licensed therapist can help you understand your feelings through a new lens while also helping you show kindness to yourself through the process.
Remember, your feelings don’t make you but they are part of you and your story. Give your full self, emotions included, permission, and grace to show up. Vulnerability is a path to greater understanding, healing, and acceptance.
I hope this episode inspires you to let your feelings take up space because they help us uncover, acknowledge, and honor who we are. When we invite all our feelings to be present, we welcome growth. And stepping into more authentic, conscious, confident versions of ourselves demands that we become on purpose.
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