“Clearing out all your misery gets you out of the way. You cease being an obstacle, not only to yourself but to anyone else. Only then are you free to serve and enjoy other people.” Elizabeth Gilbert from Eat, Pray, Love.
As a mother, I am amazed at the moments when my three-year-old daughter eagerly jumps out of my arms into a room full of little girls she has never met. I am shocked when my six-year-old son actually likes the teacher I find to be cold and distant.
In these glaringly obvious moments, I realize as silly as this may sound, that my children and I are different entities. Inherent in this fact is that we have unique emotions and reactions to the world around us. Although, I use the example of mother and child, it is true with any relationship.
How we perceive our world has to do with any number of factors; our cultural environments, how we were raised, innate personality traits, etc. When it comes to perceptions and our subsequent emotions, we must allow others to experience their unique emotions and maybe even harder, we must experience ours too.
Emotion is simply feeling in motion. I believe allowing our feelings the freedom to express themselves is as vital to our health as anything else we do. If we are always stopping our tears as they flow, not letting our anger do its angry dance or shunning our fear for peaking out from under the covers, we stop these creative expressions midstream, stunting a therapeutic release. (If you have ever urinated somewhere you maybe weren’t supposed to, and had to stop “midstream,” then you understand this feeling very well. It’s unnatural and it hurts!)
When we grant our emotions the freedom to be felt, we usually feel magically better. It is when we stop them “midstream” that we get stuck. Then our emotions get really pissed off because we didn’t allow them to do what they are here to do. These stuck emotions can turn into more complicated variations of themselves or worst-case scenario, unfelt emotions can manifest as illness. It’s like Woody Allen said, “I don’t get mad, I grow a tumor.”
I am telling myself this because I am wondering if unsavory displays of emotion like tantrums (my own as well as others around me) are probably best dealt with by allowing them to just have their way with us and then leave our bodies. It’s like a trapped bird frantically caught in a house desperately seeking a window or door so it can escape to return to the openness and possibility of blue sky.
Whether its your own emotion or someone else’s, be like a bird watcher. Sit back and watch the bird spread its wings and fly.
Feeling is healing and by addressing our own individual boo-boos and the emotions swelling up around them, we will help ourselves and also in the most authentic way possible, help others heal as well.
Below is a poem that brings to mind the idea of taking care of our own internal wounds, allowing others to experience theirs and then letting them go. It’s from the very informative book, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom by Christine Northrup, M.D. Whether you are a mother, or have a mother, we can all relate.
Mothering the Mother by Nancy McBride Sheehan
In a society preoccupied with how best to raise a child
I’m finding a need to mesh what’s best for my children with what’s necessary for a well balanced mother.
I’m recognizing that ceaseless giving translates into giving yourself away.
And, when you give yourself away, you’re not a healthy mother and you’re not a healthy self.
So, now I’m learning to be a woman first and a mother second.
I’m learning to just experience my own emotions
Without robbing my children of their individual dignity by feeling their emotions too.
I’m learning that a healthy child will have his own set of emotions and characteristics that are his alone.
And, very different from mine.
I’m learning the importance of honest exchanges of feelings because pretenses don’t fool children,
They know their mother better than she knows herself.
I’m learning that no one overcomes her past unless she confronts it.
Otherwise, her children will absorb exactly what she’s attempting to overcome.
I’m learning that words of wisdom fall on deaf ears if my actions contradict my deeds.
Children tend to be better impersonators than listeners.
I’m learning that life is meant to be filled with as much sadness and pain as happiness and pleasure.
And allowing ourselves to feel everything life has to offer is an indicator of fulfillment.
I’m learning that fulfillment can’t be attained through giving myself away
But, through giving to myself and sharing with others,
I’m learning that the best way to teach my children to live a fulfilling life is not by sacrificing my life.
It’s through living a fulfilling life myself.
I’m trying to teach my children that I have a lot to learn
Because I’m learning that letting go of them
Is the best way of holding on.