It is safe to feel
Sadly the coronavirus has brought suffering, financial loss, and even death. But to those of us who will embrace the unprecedented “slow-down” superimposed on our busy lives, it will bring a profound opportunity.
This virus has stopped us in our tracks, and brought us face-to-face with ourselves and our existential worries.
Humans experience three types of feelings: uneasiness, excitement, and calmness. They are sensed physiologically in our bodies—our worries as uneasiness, our happiness as calmness and excitement.
We naturally welcome and embrace calmness and excitement. However, when we experience uneasiness we want to get rid of it as fast as possible.
Many of us treat uneasiness like the coronavirus. We try to keep it out—the coronavirus outside the door, our uneasiness outside of awareness.
But uneasy feelings are not a virus to be killed. They are an integral part of us. Without them we would not be whole. Like excitement and calmness, uneasiness brings us closer to ourselves. Facing our worries allows us to understand who we are and what is important to us. All our feelings, including uneasiness, give meaning and purpose to our lives.
During these unfamiliar times, we find ourselves restricted in movement and confined to our homes. Forced to slow down we may find ourselves without our typical strategies to escape uneasy feelings. It has become harder to ignore the threats, losses, and uncomfortable truths of life.
Reduced engagement with the world outside of us, has naturally brought us a step closer to the emotional world within us. We have shut the door in an effort to protect ourselves. But inside the realization dawns, I am with me and my feelings. We are left without our usual distractions.
Being confined to our homes has increased uneasiness in many of us. Our comforts and routines have been temporarily stopped. We cannot give each other the usual space to manage our relationships. But most significantly, we can no longer escape the uneasiness within us.
We feel uneasy about uneasiness. The forces within—
—threatens us as much as the virus without.
Many of us will find new ways to escape uneasy feelings even in these circumstances. But some of us will engage with this opportunity and start a journey that has long been waiting.
Looking inwards, facing our inner world, particularly our uneasy emotions, is integral to any therapeutic and transformative process. Profound learning starts with facing our inner discomforts. Happiness is reached through inclusion not exclusion. All emotions are welcomed.
So why is it so challenging to slow down, become still, and feel, whatever it may be?
The main reason lies in our early experiences of life. From birth we instinctively run from discomfort. The young mind is threatened by pain and the losses of life. By default we are wired to escape or eliminate uneasiness. This is why facing uncomfortable feelings is often easier said than done. Outgrowing our young perceptions and optimizing the emotional mind allows us to face, observe, and resolve uneasiness. However, this requires skill, persistence, and often a trained guide.
So how can we harvest the opportunity of today’s challenge?
How can we ensure we won’t just survive the superimposed slow-down but transform through it?
We can start by embracing the slow-down.
We can engage in practices that help us face our uneasy feelings. We can recognize that while uneasy feelings may be uncomfortable, they are not a threat to us.
Feeling our feelings won’t kill us. We will survive them.
Unfortunately, the coronavirus can threaten our breath and aliveness. Sensing uneasy feelings in our bodies and the truths they express, will not stop our breath. It is safe to feel. It is safe to know.
Here is a simple exercise to start embracing slow-down: Pause for a moment, take a deep breath, and for a short while follow the air entering and leaving your nose. You might want to count three to six breaths. Even if you detect uneasiness within, continue following your breath. Allow yourself to sense whatever you are feeling, while recognizing that you are alive and breathing. End this exercise by taking another deep breath.
Embracing “slow-down” leads to transformation. It is the first step in the process of emotional optimization.