last night MTL partnered with Building Hope again for a great evening! just so you know, Building Hope is a grassroots initiative designed to create a more coordinated, effective and responsive mental health system in Summit County. after Patti Casey took her own life in January 2016, the Casey family decided to positively channel their grief to help other people struggling with mental health and addiction. my personal favorite quote is from Patti’s daughter, Betsy, “Let’s create a community where people talk about their mental health like they talk about a knee replacement.” at MTL we always try to open the dialogue about our interiors. after all, we rarely talk about those places inside us that are truly at the center of so much of our lives. and last night we did just that. : )
nearly everything i talked about last night came from or is somehow tied to the book Emotional Agility by Susan David… the only difference is that she does a much better job explaining everything. : ) if you are looking to process and navigate the waves of your emotions/feelings or if you are attempting to help a friend or simply become more attuned to your interiors, i highly recommend this book. it is a fabulous read in my opinion!
with that said, i want to say just a bit more…
we live in a culture that tends to encourage the suppression of our feelings. one of my sons uses the word “awkward” and he doesn’t really know what it means. he’s just heard it used in different contexts and understands that being “awkward” is something we tend to want to avoid. so emotions that possibly create awkward moments also tend to get the boot. but it does not have to be this way, and it isn’t everywhere. if you have ever traveled beyond the borders of the US, more than likely you have witnessed the expression of emotions in a variety of ways… less constrained and limited… more outward and physical in nature…
people fall to the ground and weep…
people scream out loud…
people literally dance for joy.
in my opinion, our culture prefers to keep emotions internal in an attempt to fit a category titled “dignified.” so when we are presented with other more demonstrative expressions, they shock us… and get labeled “awkward.” even if they are awkward, what if the practice of such expression is actually more freeing and healing?
last night we looked at what are considered to be the 7 basic human emotions: joy, anger, sadness, fear, contempt, disgust, surprise. if you consider the spectrum of emotions as waves with fluctuations, it’s interesting that the majority of what we experience on that list is in the valley… the uncomfortable, down side or what I affectionately refer to as the “dark side.” those are the emotions we consider taboo somehow. the ones that aren’t peak or summit experiences. and truth be told, those “dark side” feelings are the ones we experience more often.
how unfortunate that we learn to ignore them or suppress them rather than embracing them, truly feeling them and moving through them.
it seems that my experience of containing “dark side” emotions only leads to issues down the road. keeping it internal almost always works against me.
that’s why last night i encouraged us to embrace the “dark side”… to enter into these awkward emotions… to see them… to allow them to exist with the intention of naming them and getting them out of our heads and hearts. i believe that healthy expression strips them of their power to control us.
many times the “dark side” becomes an area of our lives we avoid or dismiss, believing it will magically fade away. in doing so, we actually allow it to fester and grow in ways that are unhealthy and harmful. so what if we choose to engage those feelings instead… acknowledge them… and get them out in the open? what if we journal them? what if we talk about them with friends or therapists?
i am all for healthy expression of our emotions and feelings in an attempt to move forward, grow and heal.
i genuinely believe that we are hardwired to feel the full spectrum of our emotions so that we can become our true selves… comfortable in our own skin… full of self-compassion.
one last thing, here is a parable i have paraphrased that spoke to me about my own brokenness and the process of healing:
there was a woman whose daughter died at a young age. she was devastated. she immediately took her daughter to doctors, pleading with them to bring her back to life. she didn’t feel as if she could live without her daughter. no doctors could help, but eventually she came across a man who told her about a specific healer that could help. so she took the body of her daughter with her and traveled up the mountain to see the healer. moved by the mother’s grief, the healer said he could help though he would need her to find some special ingredients. in particular, he needed mustard seeds from the home of a family that had not felt the sting of death and grief. the mother set out to find the seeds. she traveled from town to town striking up conversations and meeting others. she would tell them of her story, her daughter, and her quest. then she would listen to their stories of loss and hurt. for over two years she traveled in search of a family untouched by that type of pain. eventually she returned home and buried her daughter. in sharing her story and listening to the stories of others her heart had somehow been healed.
i personally like to imagine that she kept traveling and telling her story. : )
what if our feelings and emotions simply need to come out… to be recognized and expressed… to be felt and named? what if that story can be ours? a story of expression and healing and life.
and let me also add,
your story isn’t finished.
there is healing.
there is life.
you aren’t finished yet.
These posts offer further reflection on topics we tackle during MTL nights.