That moment when you are standing at the top of a ski slope and it looks steep and scary and people are whizzing past you. I just need to make the first turn.
It’s just the first turn and I have these skills because I know how to ski although I am paralysing with fear: What if I don’t make the first turn, go straight down the hill and I can’t stop…? I say to myself: “stop being ridiculous, just get on with it.” I hold my breath; my whole body tenses up and I go, making my first turn. At the bottom of the hill, I am reminded that I can in fact still ski. (Input your favourite fear story here)
The feeling of FEAR can be pretty paralysing. We can fear failure, we can fear judgement, we can fear jealousy, abandonment and rejection… fill in your kryptonite. All these negative crazy emotions, we freeze up, revert to survival mode and get through it the only way we know how (and usually I’m holding my breath). I don’t remember being taught as a child how to dialogue with my emotions. They were unknown, big and scary, coming from this unknown place with very little understanding on how to deal with them. So, I started to pretend they didn’t exist. Today I am learning that feelings are a form of communication, and not something unmanageable, scary or wrong.
I developed quite the skill of not feeling my feelings. I became so good at it; I didn’t even know I was doing it as an adult. It was a survival mechanism I developed as a little girl. This survival skill unfortunately doesn’t know the difference between positive and negative feelings. It covers them all; and serves me in protecting me. The result was unfortunately I didn’t really know what made me feel truly happy either. How can I truly know what makes me happy if I was not acknowledging what truly makes me unhappy?
My young adult life was mostly spent being “happy” and putting a smile on my face no matter what… the version of happy I had created. This often led to people being jealous of my “happiness” which ultimately led to my fear of truly being happy. Feeling truly happy was forbidden fruit. More importantly I was reinforcing that I couldn’t trust myself because I was not listening to myself or my feelings. Feelings are how we communicate with ourselves first and then the world around us. To develop a good sense of your emotions is to develop trust with yourself; to develop a good line of communication with yourself.
From the day we are born, we start to experience feelings and they are scary because we are new to this life and we don’t quite know how to communicate with our caregivers just yet. They are trying to figure out what we are saying and we are trying to communicate in the only way we know how; by making a whole lot of noise or acting out. Sometimes it happens that our caregivers are just not around to help us manage these feelings, to teach us skills or they haven’t learnt to deal with their feelings and therefore can’t help us navigate ours. Unguided it is easy for a child to think they have done something wrong and they develop coping mechanisms to survive. Mine was to not acknowledge my feelings, they didn’t matter anyway or so I thought.
Feelings started to bubble up and came out as rage or self-harm. It was easier that way and if I can’t control the outside, I was going to control the inside. Instead of feeling all my feelings I could find lots of different ways to ignore them and hurt myself. The little girl inside was slowly retreating to a safe and protected place she created so she didn’t feel abandoned. There was no open line of communication between myself and her, only a well-built wall.
It is more main stream now to understand that when kids act out it is as a result of an unmet need. We understand now that if we take the time to teach our babies how to communicate with us without words, they can better express what they need. We can communicate and understand what need is not being met, and then meet it: the child within will not retreat. Feelings will be understood for what they are, a form of communication, and not something unmanageable, scary or wrong. We will feel seen, heard and have our needs met. We will develop skills, learn that we don’t need to “perform” and that uncomfortable feelings mean there is a need not being met. We will search and discover what that need is and we fulfil it. We will develop and trust that negative feelings are a mode of communication and not something to ignore. Feeling our feelings will equal trust in ourselves because we have the skill set to understand them. This also means positive feelings will not be forbidden fruit and we can feel free to embrace what feels good. We will become healthy adults that are attuned to pleasure and what feels good because the moment it feels wrong, we will search and fulfil the unmet need.
Not so long ago, I begun using my happy feel-good emotions as a guide to finding what makes me truly happy. Allowing myself to orientate towards what is pleasing to me also opened me up to all the negative emotions I had been hiding from. Fast forward a few years after slowly releasing the pressure valve I had the epiphany the other day that I could feel fear of (fill in the blank) and still trust myself because I am now listening. In fact, being curious about my feelings, of fear, will nurture self-trust.
How we talk to ourselves is so important, it is the voice we hear the most of. Telling myself that my fear (at the top of the ski slope) is ridiculous and that I should I just get on with it is basically telling myself that my feelings are ridiculous. This is my survival skill of suppressing my feelings, ignore them and getting on with it. What if I approached it differently: You can trust yourself because you are feeling. This has nothing to do with my ability to ski and more about my ability to trust myself AND feel (fill in the emotion). Feelings equal trust because I am listening to myself. I hear you my inner child.
I can ski, I have this skill set and if I embraced my fear and showed it the love and respect it deserves just like any other feeling, how would I experience that first turn differently?
Some time I am able to do it and other times I ski off in another direction. I thought I had to overcome my fear and not feel fearful at all (then I would be a good skier). Fear is a healthy emotion and the more we fear fear itself the bigger if will become. Next time I feel fear, I will do an inventory of if there is a need not being met or simple acknowledge that it is my inner knowing saying “not today” and that okay.
Fear is an emotion that often feels too much even in the smallest amount and it can stop us from trusting ourselves because we think that a negative emotion must mean we have done something wrong. Feelings are not wrong: I encourage you, the next time you feel fear to open a dialogue with yourself from a place of gentleness, curiosity and empathy. What is being communicated to you? All feelings, positive and negative, are how we are being communicated with by higher self. The only thing we are ignoring is ourselves through ignoring our feelings, would you be able to develop trust with someone that ignored you? I am listening.