In my early twenties, I had a hard time with feelings. I was so blocked that the only emotions I was able to experience were varying levels of anger and fleeting moments of happiness. I walked around with a hard shell to protect myself. My anger was a shield that kept people from getting close to me. And if people couldn’t get close, then I couldn’t get hurt.
My feelings of anger were a knee-jerk response and the easiest to access. Anger propelled me forward. Anger made me feel powerful and justified. Anger was a safe go-to. Underneath that anger was a lot of fear. Fear of rejection. Fear of not being good enough. Fear that if people really knew me, they wouldn’t like me. And all of those things were old ideas that I had picked up during my lifetime and had incorporated into my very being.
I was successful. I had friends. I had a career. I was financially self-supporting. I had boyfriends. I didn’t know that anything was wrong…..until. And the until is the key. When my husband and I got engaged, I was confronted by a whole lot of emotion. A lifetime commitment was scary. I didn’t know if I could do it. And all of my fear came out as anger. I was ruining my relationship. My until was the day that my husband was willing to walk away from me if I couldn’t get a grip on my emotions. He was tired of my angry outbursts, and although he didn’t want to split up, he wasn’t willing to be in a relationship with a woman who was emotionally stunted.
I went to see a professional coach who helped me identify my feelings. When I would recount whatever grievance I had towards my husband, place of work, my parents, or friends, and tell her how “angry” I was about it, she would ask me what was underneath that. And you know what it did? It made me angrier.
And then it made me sad. And being sad made me scared. Because being scared meant being vulnerable. And being vulnerable meant that I could be hurt. But I was already hurting, and it was masked by anger. My cycle of anger was always to cover up a feeling that was underneath it that I was afraid to experience. When I learned how to feel, life opened up. It was like seeing in color for the first time. Those fleeting moments of happiness turned into sustaining joy. Compassion for myself and others grew. My friendships got deeper. And my relationship with my husband blossomed.
Learning how to feel opened me up to experience life on an entirely different level. It was fuller and richer. My experiences had more depth. I had been shortchanging myself without knowing it. My go-to might have felt safe, but the anger was ripping me off.
What feeling are you stuck in that is smothering your soul? Maybe you’re a jokester and make light of everything to feel safe. Perhaps you’re a people pleaser and making other people happy is more important than making yourself happy because you have a deep need to be liked. Or, maybe you’re stuck in regret and are beating yourself up over the past. Wherever you are, there is so much more underneath the surface waiting for you to experience.
Learning how to identify my feelings changed my life. It can change yours too. Check out my 90-second video on identifying feelings to learn how.