Of course, a better idea would have been to let go daily or, better still, moment by moment throughout each day. To do so is, actually, the way we humans are wired. Anyone who has raised a child knows the process. Something occurs, and the child’s emotional reaction--whether delighted, angry, frightened, or sad--is immediate. Because children feel things with such intensity, the emotion is also huge. It becomes the whole world--until that emotion is spent, that is. When it’s been felt and expressed, it is also naturally released. The incident is left behind. The little one moves on.
Children are merely the prototypes for how we all oughta experience the world, no matter our age. Of course, our repertoire for managing our emotional lives must mature with us, but if we want an immediacy of experience, the ability to feel authentic emotion and release it is essential. Feel, release, move on. If blocks are erected that impede this process, our capacity for a rich experience of living becomes stunted.
I’m working with marvelous human being, Beth*, who was raised to be the heart of her family. Her Piscean temperament seemed to have combined with various family dynamics to enlist Beth as the one who felt all things deeply. In a way that was quite confusing and overwhelming for her, this process included experiencing the emotions of others, intuiting that for which she had no conscious understanding. In our previous work, Beth had attained a deep healing, having disengaged from a dynamic that placed upon her an untenable burden. However, she remains a woman with deep reservoirs of emotion, and this capacity continues to be a rich gift she brings to the world.
Recently, Beth has been struggling with the gradual but unmistakable loss of a partner to a debilitating disease, and she uses her sessions to attend to emotions that often take second place to the demands of full-time caretaking. During a session last month, Beth conceived of a force she referred to as ‘an Angelic Wholeness’. She envisioned this entity coalescing a foot or so in front of her. In addition to the connotations of guidance and support that Angels have come to represent, Beth also sensed that this Presence was a willing repository for her painful emotional material.
As she worked with this image over the next few weeks, Beth discovered two caveats. First, she needed to feel the emotion fully herself. Next--and for Beth this was the challenging part--she needed to let that feeling move through her, releasing it into the welcoming arms of this Presence.
While Beth is the woman who gave me the image I now share with you, the process is one many of us have experienced ourselves, albeit somewhat less poetically. Our emotions need to be felt. We also need to hold them lightly enough, without the grasp or the wallow, that they-- and we--are allowed to move on.
Sometimes we avoid emotions, especially the ones that make us feel most vulnerable. Other times we become ensnared by them, and struggle as we may, can’t seem to break loose. While some of us gravitate toward one or the other of these poles, most of us tend to spend at least some time vacillating between them. Emotions may be shunned due to our fear of getting sucked into their vortex, leading paradoxically to an emotional intensification that eventually swallows us up. We are pursued and captured by the very emotions we thought to thwart. Unfortunately, the intensity that we feel when we’re finally nabbed tends to confirm that feeling is dangerous. And so, the process repeats, again and again.
Despite the unworkability of this dynamic, ya can’t blame a girl or a guy for trying! Who wouldn’t want to avoid that which is painful? However, such experience is the stuff of life, and so, to avoid it requires an avoidance of life itself. We begin to shrink, living much smaller than is possible.
To avoid emotion goes against our nature. We simply must feel, since we are feeling creatures. This process of feeling is also part of our innate healing mechanism. When we set out to deny it, powerful symptoms develop--anxiety, depression, substance abuse--to name but a few.
Our emotional lives are a river, healthy if continually fed with new rainfall and allowed to flow freely. When we tamper with either end of this process--try to deny water an entry or dam up its release--our river becomes ill. It may slow to a trickle, develop foul and stagnant pools, or press the barriers we erect and occasionally overrun the banks.
Life is a tricky business. Like Beth, we don’t always have a chance to tend to our rivers. But such tending is a worthy and necessary endeavor, which brings with it the rewards of a healthy, functioning emotional ecosystem, continuously replenished and cleansed.
May your river run freely this day and all days, from the wellspring of the headwaters to its release into your own Angelic Wholeness.
*In this and all my blog entries, whenever I refer to an experience with a specific person, know that the individual has been consulted and has given written permission for me to publish my thoughts about their journey. Know, too, that I have changed identifying information, given the person the opportunity to review my entry before posting, and offered the individual the pleasure of choosing her or his very own blog name.