Laughing to myself a little now because, though I intended to write about honoring our feelings and “sense” (perception?) of things, was quickly reminded of how hard it is to know how we feel in the first place.
That aside, the idea of “honoring” our feelings has come up a lot lately. Am assuming we’re in a place to know how we feel to begin with. Don’t run with this idea and think honoring our feelings is in conflict with my earlier suggestions that our feelings aren’t necessarily facts. Paraphrasing one of my “heroes” (though he’d certainly admonish me for having any heroes in the first place, particularly him…), Sheldon Kopp has noted along with so many others (Tolstoy, Jung…) how curious it is that we spend so much time and energy actively not honoring our experience of things. In favor of doing so we dismiss our feelings, compare our insides to others’ outsides, diminish the importance of our feelings (sometimes by comparing ours to what others have been through), distract ourselves (food, buying, drugs, sex, alcohol, TV…) and etc.
The consequences of not honoring our feelings are huge. It can cause depression, acting angry (as opposed to being angry), addictions, irritability, not acting as the person we’d like to be, allowing people to violate our boundaries, is a huge factor in a lack of self esteem and more. It can cause us to not trust our own eyes and ears when we maybe ought to. It can keep us in relationships that are not healthy for us.
Honoring them is arguably as difficult as not honoring them. It’s likely one of the primary reasons we don’t honor them. For many of us, it’s not even an idea we’ve really considered. Much could (and will, eventually) be written just about how to have our feelings in the first place. Once we do have them though- honoring them and doing so gracefully is a very difficult challenge.
From my sense of things, “feelings” are called that for a reason. It’s so tragic that we behave in a way that indicates we often think we ought to do everything possible with them besides simply having them. They’re called feelings because we’re supposed to feel them. They give us messages about our environment and allow us to heal. Feeling them and not “folding, spindling, or mutilating” them is the first step. Once we have them, giving them a name is useful- I always begin with encouraging mad, sad, glad, afraid, ashamed, and/or hurt.
Am also a huge fan of treating them gently once we have them and have named them, whether they “make sense” or not. Not being gentle with them exacerbates them, or simply prompts us to change or otherwise avoid/ignore them.
Once having them, naming, and being gentle with them, we’ve begun to honor them. If we know we have them, know what they are, and are experiencing them without trying to do something unkind with them (make other people see/think differently, harming ourselves, avoiding them with some of the behaviors above and more), we can process them based on what they are. Crying when we’re sad or hurt, are pretty clear ways to honor our feelings. Telling other people what is happening for us when we feel ashamed (some say “guilty”, or less than, broken, etc…) honors our experience. Telling other people how we feel honors them. Asking people to be with us when we’re scared or feel broken is a great way to honor our experience of things. Being mad instead of acting mad (a subject for a whole other missive) is a way to honor it.
We don’t honor our feelings in relationships either. We’re loyal to people that are disloyal to us. We treat ourselves more poorly than other people often do, but when we do get treated poorly by others, we oft treat them more gently than we do ourselves, or ignore it wholesale. Though we may get our feelings hurt about something, we keep it secret. Sometimes we are sad or hurt or ashamed or angered by something, but keep it from the other person as not to hurt their feelings, but are often taking from them the chance to do or see something different.
Sort of wishing I hadn’t begun writing about this particular thing. Honoring our feelings is dependent on so many things- not doing things to get in the way of feeling them, having simple names for them, having them gracefully, treating them gently, not thinking or communicating about them as facts, processing them. So much might be written about any of those ideas. It’s come up so often recently, and is such an important idea though, am compelled to put at least something out there about it.