40/100 days of emotional badassery - In which loving ourselves is painful

Photo by Ikon Republik from Pexels 
It’s very late, I’m tired, and I just realized I forgot to write today! 
My day was packed, I didn’t sleep much, and my resistance saw a crack in the system. 
Since I’m exhausted and frustrated, all I feel like I can do right now is putting down the thoughts on my mind on "paper". 
 
I was just about to go to bed when I’ve read a short caption about a fellow writer whose vulnerable work I admire and love following, who reminded me I haven’t written my daily post. Sharing what she had gone through today, she was mentioning feeling sad and investigating why. 
 
She realized the end of her cycle was near and found relief in the idea that hormones were the culprit of her sadness, that she had control over through distancing herself from it by naming it and identifying the source of it. She was wondering why that worked that way and if a therapist could maybe pitch in.
 
I am reading (among others) the wonderful book True refuge from Tara Brach, and had just read this afternoon something very complementary to her moving story. Reading it made me sad, filled me with tenderness and wanting to write her a short letter. So here I go.
 
My dear hummingbird,
 
First of all, thank you for sharing your story with us. I’m always so moved by your genuine offerings. 
You asked how came putting words and identifying where they come from puts a distance between us and our feelings. 
 
The mechanism is quite simple : emotions live in our body, and words and explanations put them in our mind. When we leave our flesh for our thoughts, we distance ourselves from our sensations, the primary source of our feelings (our bodies feel everything before we do). If on top of this, we feel like they aren’t “real” through the explanation, it momentarily feels like they didn’t exist, we feel liberated from them for a while.
 
I’m so glad you found some relief. And feel somehow guilty, scared of what I’m about to write. I’m afraid you might feel hurt or attacked in some way. I hope the truthful place where it comes from will meet instead your constant will to grow, that I find so beautiful, real and brave. 
 
Reading you made think about all these times I have unpleasant feelings around the end of my cycle too. It’s fascinating to me to experience how much my feelings are big, and like yours, often feel too big, especially around that time, but being highly sensitive, it can happen any time. It can be scary and painful, shameful sometimes. I feel you, and it really sucks sometimes. 
 
I want to share something with you today that gave me a lot of peace over the years (even if it still can be a struggle) : there’s nothing to control at all, and actually controlling our emotions hurts us more than we know and feel.
 
There’s nothing wrong with unpleasant feelings, as painful as they are, they are pure and important information. I don’t believe hormones provoke feelings, but that they only exacerbate them. 
 
When I am really sad at that time, the only actual sustainable refuge I find is going through it. Actually feeling it. I had quite a break down discovering on my journey I couldn’t really control my emotions, that my only real way “out” of them, was through them. I also had to relearn this over and over, still am and it was/is painful eeach time. That’s why it’s so hard for me to write this to you.
 
Like you, naming them helped. It always helped to recognize what we feel. I felt I had cracked the code. It definitely helps to recognise some of what is happening.
 
Like you, I spent a lot of time running from them through rationalizing them, giving them a meaning that was less close from “I am sad/scared/ashamed/angry”, and towards “it’s okay, it’s not that serious, I’m fine, really”.
 
Except I wasn’t fine. Except I was having those bursts of unpleasantness and discomfort taking me by surprise, especially in grieving periods, like you are. And I was feeling like I was overreacting often, and feeling very ashamed about it. Like something was wrong with me for not “getting a hold of them”.
 
And today, I read the wonderful Tara Brach describing the very same trance of getting out of her body so she doesn’t feel what she was feeling, but this time realizing through a powerful moment that she wasn’t helping herself, that we cannot think our way out of pain. That we must feel it in order to process it, and finally leaving it behind. That it’s a process. 
 
It demands to go back to our body, over and over again. Because the mind will keep finding ways out, and our counter-intuitive job in our crazy world pretending like feelings like these are weaknesses and signs of our unworthiness, is actually to sit with it.
 
Go back to our body, connect to our curiosity and look, with our mind eye, where it is? How does it feel (not with our beloved words, with our sensations)? How does it evolve? Is it hot, or cold? Hard, or soft? Does it move? Does it have a colour? Breathing. Feeling. Naming the body parts and what’s happening to them, rather than the feelings them, which is thinking rather than feeling. 
 
Right now, I have a lump in my throat. I stopped writing. My mind really wants to go back with another story of why it’s here right now, I’m stopping it again to go back to my body. My chest is tight. The lower part of my belly is too. I’m still here, I still survived, the sky didn’t fall in, I felt pain, sit with it, and I’m still here. I thank myself for the courage of staying still, and keep writing.
 
Once we let ourselves feel it for a moment, and truly listened to it, a loving kindness meditation can also brings us some relief and maybe the tears we were craving if they didn’t come through connecting to our body, the beautiful release of the physical tension. 
 
I’ll do this after I’m finished writing to you, to nurture my scared inner child for having had the courage to put this all in writing. To let her know it’s okay, that even if you are upset, we can deal with it, we can face the guilt and the pain, we can hold space for your pain too if we participated in it or if you feel the need to share it.
 
We must remember to heal : real peace only exists in the present moment, and we can’t leave our body and be present. Thinking is not being present.
By not fleeing our feelings or containing them, we can find a strength we didn’t even know existed in us. That incredibly grounding place where we can face ourselves, just as we are, stark naked and vulnerable, and be at peace and loving towards ourselves, no matter what. 
 
I won’t lie, this is hard. And gets painful. It’s also a practice, we are imperfect at this, always, even monks, training for this all day long, are. But after a few years, my feelings rarely feel too big now, even if they actually are even bigger and there are more of them now. I know that whatever I have to feel, as long as I go back to my body, I will be okay. 
 
That, my dear friend, is the most beautiful gift I offered myself in the past few years, peace among the chaos. I hope sharing it with you might maybe open or facilitate some new loving paths for you. I know the little one inside of you craves it, we all do, she needs your permission to feel it all. I promise it’s going to be okay if you do, even more than okay, that tremendous growth comes from exploring the whole of what we feel. 
 
With so much love,
L.

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