Pay Attention to Your First Feeling
Let’s take a look at the emotions and relating. This will be a five part article series with each article taking a deeper examination into each of the primary emotions and their fixed counterparts. Enjoy!
In my recent article on communication I assert that the problem is not with communicating but rather with relating. There are five core emotions I am most interested in: Grief/sadness, fear, anger, love, and envy. These feelings are our primary or natural responses to any trigger provoked from the outside world. These feelings are universal in that we all experience them the same way. The same things may not bring them on but they are all experienced in the same way. How I feel sad is the same way that someone else feels sad. Emotions are “passing through energies.” They are here to come up and pass through.
If we examine grief/sadness, it is the emotion that naturally arises when we lose something we are not ready to let go of. That could be a pacifier for a baby, a friend that moves away, a lost stuffed animal, a broken relationship, loss of our health, the loss of job, the loss of money, the death of a loved one, the loss of someone’s approval and or recognition, the loss of a friend etc. If as children we were allowed to experience and express our sadness, we would have learned our sadness was normal and okay. We would have developed no fear or shame around our feeling of sadness. When children are validated in their sadness, heard, loved and understood they become so comfortable with this emotion they learn to move through it quickly and efficiently as adults. They would see it as something that is to be expelled, expressed and let go. Sadness would be viewed as a naturally occurring experience and that all is well even when feeling sad.
However, most of us as children were told not to cry. We got the following messages “to cry over that is silly,” “that is nothing to be sad about,” “be quiet can’t you see that other people can hear you?” “don’t make a scene,” and we get the message throughout our lives that our sadness is a burden and/or annoying. What I have found is the people who most reject my sadness are the ones who created it in the first place. When someone creates a negative response within me from something they have provoked, I have found they are the most annoyed by sadness response. My sadness may cause them to take some responsibility for the reaction they helped to create. Thus, most sadness goes invalidated by those closest to us.
I cannot tell you how many people in my office will apologize before they cry, as if it something so shameful, unnatural and embarrassing to be doing. All I can assume is they were taught their sadness was shameful and embarrassing. In their attempts to “get over” their sadnesses, they learned to repress it. To repress something means to keep it in, not allow it its expression, or to hold onto it. For many, sadness is a sign of weakness. As we repress the emotion of sadness it does something very dangerous to us. Repressed sadness turns into chronic depression.
Chronic depression is not a natural emotional state. The body is not meant to handle this as a container, and you will find the chronically depressed never feel well physically or emotionally. The entire frequency of a chronically depressed person becomes dense and diluted. With enough repression the chronically depressed person lives in a distortion around relationships, people’s intentions, their abilities or lack thereof etc. This is not how we were meant to live.
We were meant to feel the first feeling, to express that, have it validated and understood so the emotion can pass through and be free. Imagine if that is how we were allowed to exist in the space of this natural emotion. How different we would feel with our sadness. It really does not take much to validate another person’s pain. This natural emotion is one that visits and travels with all of us often throughout our lives. Sadness is an emotion we can ALL relate to. However, we cannot all relate to chronic depression, which is why it is so isolating for those who experience it. They have packed all of their sadness into the basement of their emotional house until they became like hoarders and it took over their whole system.
Once we begin hoarding the emotions they become so overgrown they become fixed. This makes them unnatural. Once anything is fixed it is unmoving. How can that work in a world that is in constant motion? The more fixed one is the less flexible and the more difficult life becomes. Once chronic depression is created, the person actually becomes attached to the depression just like hoarders are attached to stuff. Why? They essentially become their sadness, and lose touch with the reality, with the choices open to them and all the power they could have.
When you are with your partner and you sense they are feeling sad, get in touch with what that feels like to be sad within your own memory recall and relate to them from that universal space of knowing what something feels like. Lets say you were the cause of your partner’s sadness, instead of defending right and wrong, why not try and identify with how your partner is feeling instead of diminishing them, or defending yourself and see how much better you can relate. It is their sadness they are feeling. It may have been triggered by you on purpose or on accident, but it is still their feeling so you can try and see it from an objective distance.
From the simplest place in your open mind you can definitely relate to how you feel when you feel sad. From here you have the opportunity to give your partner the space to express this natural emotion. You don’t have to own their sadness for them but you can encourage them to expel it from themselves. If you did this, imagine the freedom your relationship could have. If you tell your partner in any way they are wrong, all that happens is the natural emotion gets repressed, it turns into an unnatural phenomenon with resentment being the catalyst to destroy the relationship. Keep in mind there is no harm to sadness. Someone’s sadness is not an affront against you. It is a natural emotion that only wants or desires to pass through, so it can be released. It is not meant to be repressed and marry up with resentment. Resentment is a chronic emotional state that gets re-sent (resent) back into the relationship. Relief from resentment only comes from expression.
The time it takes for an emotion to pass through will be quickened if we can express the first emotion. If you cannot express it to a partner then maybe this isn’t the right partner. However, even if you cannot express yourself in a relationship, no one really needs to validate your emotional state other than you. If you are certain and comfortable in your emotions others will naturally sense this in you, and take you more seriously. The great thing about the first feeling is that it is simple. Someone asks you what is wrong and you say “I feel sad.” Further explanation is not necessary. When we feel our feelings are going to bother someone else, we jump up, say too much, become too emotional, and try and prove our feelings and their rightness, then no one takes us seriously. We look like an insecure chaos center and people turn us off. The first feeling for us is the raw truth. If something is real for us, state it simply. Simple phrases with deep meaning give our natural truths a sense of dignity. They are quiet and easy for the other to understand. The simple is always easier to relate to when it comes to emotions and feelings. Arguing, proving, yelling, tantruming, stomping are all loud, and the problem is… no one will want to relate to you.
At the end of the day, the sadness response is still your response and you are responsible for it. When it is obvious the other is not going to take any action to help in the clean-up of the sadness mess, you are still responsible to clear your sadness. Why, because we can clear anything without the approval of the other, once we can look at the genuineness and honesty of our first response. We can begin to see what makes us sad may not make another sad, and we can validate for ourselves why and how the sadness got triggered. Knowing yourself on this level will help you to help another relate to your feelings. Knowing your own responses helps you to deepen your relationship within yourself and to better represent yourself in the emotional world.
Psychological health is synonymous with maturity. A chronic, fixed emotional state lacks maturity. Again, it is fixed and unmoving and stuck in perceiving an unfair and unjust world. Once we get to the chronic state we act out in ways that normal, rational people would not react. To pay attention to your first feeling, and to see the simplicity of sadness makes things much less complex and much more relatable. So you feel sad…it is ok. It is ok to feel sad. Find your way to express this. An emotional state that is chronic is one of seeing yourself as victimized and hopeless. This narrow view does not promote creativity or the maturity to use the sadness for growth and opportunity.
Solution: Nothing is happening to you, it all happening for you. Start to ask yourself forward-moving questions such as: why do I feel sad? What can I do to help this emotion pass through? How can I let myself experience this emotion? What can I learn from this sadness to help my personal growth? What is the opportunity I can get from this feeling? How can I express this simple emotion in a way that someone else could relate to me? If you have experienced a death…what books or support groups could you search out to help you process your sadness in a way where your growth and insight are deepened? If you have lost a job, what resources have you researched to get your life back on track?
Little Life Message: Sadness/Grief is a natural emotion. Every emotional response we have is designed to bring us into a deeper and deeper understanding of ourselves and others. Understanding the natural emotions will teach empathy. Empathy is a sign of psychological maturity and health. Power on!