Malia Bradshaw is a certified yoga teacher, writer, and mental health advocate. Malia specializes in providing yoga, meditation, blog content, and discussion to support those suffering from anxiety, panic disorder, depression, and depersonalization. She draws from research, spiritual texts, and her own experiences to illuminate the subtler aspects of heart, body, and mind. She is highly skilled at communicating and guiding others in returning to calm and clarity. You can learn more at maliayoga.com/ and follow her on Instagram: @Malia.Yoga
The Art of Feeling What You Feel
By: Malia Bradshaw
Growing up as a highly sensitive person, I felt A LOT, and I often had no idea what to do with such intense emotion. So very quickly, I learned that it was safer and more comfortable for me to stuff my emotions down inside a dark, lonely corner where they wouldn’t have to be seen or felt or explored. This habit of avoiding emotion worked wonderful for many years.
But of course, that unmet emotion had to come out sometime, somehow. All of the things I had left to fester began seeping out through anxiety, panic attacks, nightmares, depression, and so forth. The unresolved trauma showed itself in strange fears or unnecessary anger. It became apparent that what we don’t deal with sticks around. What we don’t meet in our emotional life will eventually beg to be seen.
So for the past several years, I’ve set my intention to allow myself to feel what needs to be felt.
It’s scary to step into the unknown of difficult sensations. Often, if I allow myself to cry, I get worried that I’ll dive off the deep end and never stop. Or if I allow myself to sit with fear, I get scared that it might break me or kill me with its intensity.
But we are strong enough to handle the emotions, sensations, thoughts, and pain that course through our bodies. As children, it might have been too difficult, but now, as adults, we are capable of exploring this without letting it break us.
So the past few days, when intense emotion has bubbled up within my chest, instead of moving on with my day and pretending like the pain isn’t there, I take a moment to pause. I give myself permission to feel. I allow myself to cry, to grieve, to write, to express it through movement like yoga or dance. I don’t make myself wrong for crying. I don’t get scared that I’ll fall into pieces if I let myself go. I just accept the tears and watch them flow.
And then, inevitably, there’s a softening. There’s a clarity. The tears and other forms of expression have washed away the grip of unacknowledged sensation in a sweet release.
It reminds me of all the times I’d talk to my fiance, overcome with extreme anxiety, worry, and frustration. And he would simply tell me to cry. He’d give me permission to cry, because he knew that I always, always feel better afterward.
Then, I don’t stay there in that sad, anxious place. After I feel what needs to be felt, I have the strength to move on. Letting the feelings visit but not stay. Visit but not live here. Inviting the emotion in for tea but then sending it on its way when it has taught me what it can.
So I will tell you this: you are strong enough to feel and explore what’s here. There’s no need to be afraid of sensation because it will move through you and it’s only here to teach you. And yes, it will stay around, even if we try to hide it away somewhere, until we look it square in the eyes and ask what’s needed. Can you meet this with kindness? Can you love yourself enough to sit with the totality of your experience in a human body?
If you need some direction and guidance on how to sit with difficult sensations, here is a video that might be helpful.
And as always, it can be wonderful to explore feeling with a supportive professional, like a therapist or counselor, especially if you are dealing with trauma. Please take care of yourself and recognize your limits. While there has been a lot of stuff I can sit with on my own, I made the compassionate decision to see a professional when it came to exploring a specific trauma in my past, and that support from someone else was absolutely necessary for me in order to move forward. Lots of love to you sweet friends!