Every few minutes, life throws something at us that we don’t want – traffic, dirty dishes, a gray hair, a screaming child, a work project, bills, divorce, death. These situations bring up uncomfortable feelings – frustration, sadness, anger, fear, vulnerability. Our natural, automatic reaction is to push the feelings away.
Think of what you might say in response to devastating news: “No.”
When we carry resistance beyond this initial reaction, we are saying no to life. We are refusing to feel our feelings. It can become a way of being.
We resist in all sorts of ways - eating, drinking, shopping, texting, blaming, worrying, yelling. We endlessly scroll through Facebook or Instagram. We think this should not be happening. We stay busy. We try to perfect what is in our control.
This resistance takes energy. It builds tension in our bodies. It strips us of the present moment.
When we avoid feelings, fear unconsciously drives our behavior. We organize our lives to avoid feeling difficult emotions.
We stay stuck.
It’s so normal yet so unhelpful.
How to say yes?
The next time you struggle with an unpleasant emotion, instead of pushing the feeling away, lean into it. This involves going into your body and noticing what the emotion feels like physically.
As much as you want to turn away from this feeling, get to know it. Learn as much as you can about it. Use adjectives to describe the feeling in great detail- its color, shape, movement, texture, location, temperature.
Acceptance and Commitment therapists recommend that we observe our feelings as if we are curious scientists, then open up and allow the feelings to be there, even if we don’t like them.
The point of feeling our emotions is not to suffer for the sake of suffering. By dropping the struggle and opening up to a feeling, we reduce its impact on our actions. Instead of putting our energy into resistance, we invest our energy in doing what makes our lives meaningful. We gain peace and presence.
To say yes is to be in your life completely, with all of its richness and complexity and messiness. In the words of Jon Kabat Zinn, “you put out the welcome mat” on your life.
There is beauty in a willingness to be with whatever arises. Notice the feelings in your body, make room for them, allow them to hang out while you carry on and do what matters.
Would you like to learn more about processing difficult feelings? Let’s talk.
This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness come as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. ~Rumi