Image by Peter Kaminski
Out of all the shades of all the emotions in the world, we tend to have some favourites.
Some of us go through life being bemused, others angry or sad. Not all the time of course. We don’t paint our lives just one colour – but we do seem to choose from a palette with only a few colours on it. Instead of all the colours in our emotional rainbow we choose only a few. Those of us who look on the bright side tend not to see the shadows (which can leave us vulnerable to unexpected turns in the road), others of us are usually a bit gloomy (and so may not notice opportunity passing us by). If we have anger as a constant theme in our life others may see us as scary, if we live fearfully others may approach us hesitantly. Having our favourite feelings colours our internal world and our relationships.
Where do our favourite feelings come from?
In my experience most often from childhood. Our favourite feelings are usually the ones we experienced when “things got tough around the house” when we were children. And they will usually be the ones we experience when we encounter frustrations now, or when we suffer a ‘misfortune’ like getting a cold or flu. We usually experience a very narrow range of emotions when this happens.
I’m not wanting to convince you to feel a particular emotion. Having a voice telling us that we have to be positive whatever happens is just as limiting as feeling sad (or angry or fearful) all the time.
How do we feel a wider range of feelings?
I think the answer is to make sense of our favourite feelings. That is, not to treat them as bad, but to welcome them. There are different ways to do this.
One approach is to understand what we felt as a child. And to meet those needs now. We may still carry a hurt or angry child around inside us. It is no kinder to ourselves now. than it was then, to tell us to not cry (more common for boys) or not get angry (more common for girls) or to not be scared. Instead we need to provide safe spaces for the child inside us – spaces where it is safe to play (a big one for me) or where it is safe to have other needs met (whatever the need is for you). Once we have welcomed our favourite feeling or feelings and met the need behind them we are free. Not that we won’t feel this feeling again, but that it will be there ready to be called on when needed, instead of colouring all of our experience.
Another approach is to ask ourselves how our favourite feeling or feelings serve us. It may be that if we feel bad enough then we’ll allow ourselves a break. It may be that if we are frustrated enough we are allowed to say no. The key is to know that we can go straight to the benefit. We don’t need a certain amount of the favourite feeling before we can have what we want.
The way to a wider range of feelings in my experience is through our favourite feelings. It is not by going around them or trying to suppress them.
In summary, here are two ways to embrace our favourite feelings and open ourselves to a wider range of emotion.
1. Healing the past that is still with us.
Note our favourite feeling or feelings.
Remember when we experienced this as a child.
Identify what need that we had that wasn’t met then.
Identify to what extent this need isn’t met in our current life.
Take whatever steps we can to meet this need.
2. Healing our unmet needs.
Take note of our current feeling or feelings.
Find what this feeling allows us to do (that we wouldn’t otherwise do).
Experiment with doing this.
Ask what benefit they have for us.