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If You Really Want to Heal It, You Gotta Feel It.


So many times in my life I’ve been told, “you say exactly what you think (or what you feel).”

My reaction has always been the same. In my mind (not usually out loud) I respond. “No way do I say what I feel, not even close!”

I’m aware that much of the time the world doesn’t want to hear my feelings– for better or worse. And sometimes, I’m relieved because I don’t want to hear  my feelings either.

Most of us begin storing up ways to hide our feelings before we’re even old enough to lift the weight of a box.

I think the #1 way to hide our feelings from others (I used to live this way as a rule) is to hide our feelings from ourselves.

And we have a storehouse of options for hiding our feelings from ourselves. Here are a few:

We can blur our feelings with drugs, escape them through sleep, placate them with shopping, soothe them through sex.

Our tendency to hide our feelings is very deeply ingrained in our culture and in our own inner terrain. We can numb ourselves without any outside assistance whatsoever.

We can suspend our true feelings by daydreaming, magically creating a new, more agreeable set of feelings using our imagination.  The problem with this option is the unwanted feelings return as the daydream ends, like a dreaded shadow looming ever larger over us.

There is one guaranteed way to avoid standing in the shadow of our dreaded feelings. That way is to WILL ourselves not to feel.

“Triumph of the Will” is part of what makes humans great. Mastering our will is the same as winning, right?

So, those dreaded feelings…

that don’t fit our idea of success…
or aren’t in alignment with our idea of who we should be…
or who others want us to be…

Those loser, unwieldy, wrong feelings we don’t like can be silenced. Completely. Silenced.

As evolutionary animals, we have a healthy reliance on this power to silence our feelings.

As modern humans, we might need to silence our feelings in order to complete an important task or to listen to someone else with more pressing problems than we have.

We’re right in these moments to put a cork on our fountain of feelings to help ourselves and/or others survive.

But silencing our feelings can also be self-sabotage.

We know the ways we will ourselves not to feel…

…staring at our screens— phone, laptop, television.

…staying in a relationship or job that doesn’t fulfill us.

…trusting others more than we trust ourselves.

The problem with silenced feelings is that quiet doesn’t mean erased. And that disgarded feelings don’t decompose. They accumulate inside us over time– in our inner landfill.


Once the cork is blown off our feeling-fountain and explodes like a geyser all over our pristine facade, and maybe even over other people (oops!), what do we do?

If our habit is to will ourselves NOT  TO FEEL BAD, we’re also (likely) to will ourselves to relax and feel GOOD.

I have seen people come into restorative yoga and WILL THEMSELVES TO REST. Just like that. People who describe themselves as “Type A” are often highly skilled at willing themselves to rest.

I’ve willed myself to “let go” during meditation. What about you?

The alternative to willing ourselves to not feel — and/or willing ourselves to feel better? ALLOWING ourselves to feel and ALLOWING ourselves to feel better.

Reflect for a moment on the difference between willing something to happen and then allowing that same thing to happen.

We’re hardwired to feel. And, paradoxically, the reason for feeling in the first place is to feel better. To heal.

And then there’s this to consider…

Willing ourselves NOT TO FEEL is not the same as remaining calm and composed or redirecting negative thinking to more positive thinking. Right?

Willing ourselves to relax and feel better isn’t really relaxing and feeling better at all. Why? Because willed relaxation is forced relaxation— there’s violence in it.

And the violence is likely coming out of fear. This kind of will is self-abuse disguised as self-care.

We harden into our iron will when we feel too soft, when we can’t face fear and pain directly. We look for ways to escape by pretending our fear and pain don’t exist or by pretending we’ve “fixed” or have overcome the pain and fear– likes when we will ourselves to relax.

But “the only way out is through.”

Through the fear. Through the pain.

Here’s a meditation technique a wise person once offered me in when I was so afraid, so in pain I couldn’t even say, “I’m afraid and in pain”.

This wise person didn’t need me to tell them how I felt because they were willing to see my feelings even when I wasn’t.

The technique is simple in structure.

Close your eyes, get comfortable  and relax as you bring your attention to your breath.

Then when you’re ready, ask yourself. “What am I feeling?” or “What feelings are present?”

If feelings are present, allow them to swell, or reveal themselves in their own way. Stay open and curious as they take shape, move, evoke.

And do this if no answer or feeling comes, or if the answer to the question is “nothing”….

Ask yourself about this so-called “nothing”. What  shape, color, texture, sound, smell , taste or all of the above does this nothing have? What is this nothing? How does this nothing feel? How much does it weigh, if it has weight at all?

As the nothing becomes more tangible, more visible, sensual, knowable, just remain open as it reveals itself.

Then, once you have a picture or some sense of the nothing, ask yourself this. “Are there any feelings contained in this nothing?”

Or, “What feelings is this nothing coming out of?”

Get interested in what’s outside of the nothing. What is above, below, left right of the nothing? Are there feelings there?

As before, if feelings are present, allow them to swell, or reveal themselves in their own way. Stay open and curious as they take shape, move, evoke.

If no answer or feeling comes, once again, sense into or visualize the nothing…

As the nothing becomes more tangible, more visible, sensual, knowable, just remain open as it reveals itself.

Pretty soon, nothing is revealed as SOMETHING. Get into what that something is.

If the something says, “I’m scared…”  or “I’m hurt.” Get interested in what’s outside of the fear and pain, the reasons at the roots of the fear and pain.


Now. As you feel, you can also express or release the feeling in any way that feels right.

I often imagine my exhales are the feelings I’m letting go of. I feel them moving out as I exhale. As I inhale, I feel what else is inside, and I exhale out whatever that is.

Writing can also be helpful. Or talking the feelings out loud.

You might feel them emerging from body rather than mind— in that case maybe you dance, run or walk them out.

But feel them as they leave. Feel them until they’re gone.

They might return. That’s okay, repeat all the above. And keep in mind that you’re re-directing an old pattern and that sometimes old patterns don’t re-direct overnight.

Feelings can hurt, but they are not the universe’s way of punishing us.

Feelings make up our soul’s language by telling us “what’s going on”. They deliver us the soul’s news so we can make informed choices. Just like body sensation delivers the news when we’re injured (pain), comfortable (pleasure), healthy (vibrant) or sick (blah).

Listen to your feelings in a nuanced way, closely, like you listen to your loved ones.

I’ve said it many times to you, and many more times to myself.

“If you REALLY wanna heal it, you gotta feel it.”

I hope this has been meaningful and helpful for you in these times, in this world we’re in.


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