How Do I Feel?
Why do we want to change how we feel about ourselves? Are our feelings pleasant or unpleasant? If our feelings are unpleasant, we drink, eat or take a pill to change them. Or, if we are having pleasant feelings, we want to feel even better- so we drink, eat or take a pill. It’s not enough. I am not enough. I don’t like how I feel and I’ll do anything to feel better even if it’s harmful to me. Deep inside, I don’t care about myself. I am not enough. Like an unhealthy donut, I have a giant hole that I’m trying to fill. I am unaware of my emotions and feelings. I don’t understand them.
When I was in my early twenties, I was feeling immense shame, sadness and inadequacy. I was confused about my emotions. I began drinking and snorting cocaine to change how I felt about myself. All those unpleasant feelings vanished when I was drunk or high. I felt comfortable, whole, perfect and powerful. No inhibitions, no fears. I loved that feeling and I did not want to stop feeling that way. I did not want to feel pain or the problems of my life so I avoided discomfort by being high. But the high inevitably turned into a low.
When the high was over, I crashed… becoming depressed and filled with more unpleasant emotions. I needed more cocaine. I overspent, under-worked… always chasing the high. I needed to consume more and more of it and for longer periods. I needed to stay high, feel powerful… I did so much cocaine to feel this, that I would go into respiratory arrest and quit breathing. Then another crash… I could not stop. I risked my life many times to feel high.
My shame, debts, painful feelings of inadequacy and anxiety compounded… My relationships were in jeopardy, I was feeling confused, hopeless, despair… I give up. How did it get this far? I am searching for a bottom of a bottomless pit. Help! I call a treatment center… I go… and in there, as I struggle to grasp what happened to me, I have a moment. A shift in my consciousness, a moment of hope. I feel I can recover.
I can finally find myself and feel good. How can I feel that power I felt when high with no substances or dependency?
I have been off substances for over 33 years. However, I have been dependent on money, smoking and love- anything,not to feel those unpleasant feelings. So how do I change those feelings… how do I become emotionally mature?
This begins with self-discovery and awareness. I had to become my authentic self. We all lie about how we feel. When someone asks, “How are you?” Most people respond, “I am good,” even if we aren’t. As I begin to self-examine my internal beliefs about myself, I realize a significant point. I was raised to deny my feelings. I have stuffed them inside of me. Highly sensitive, I cried. I was told to stop crying. When I was angry, I was told to be happy. When I was super excited, I was told to calm down. And when I did something wrong, I was told shame on you! Parents, teachers, everyone around me as a child was telling me to deny my feelings, and if I did something wrong- here are some unpleasant feelings to top off your guilt and shame.
Here are eight emotional states:
• Love – affection, care, compassion, fondness, attraction
• Joy – enthusiasm, excitement, thrill, happiness
• Surprise – Can be pleasant or unpleasant, amazement, astonishment, or irritation and aggravation
• Anger – rage, upset, resentful, mad
• Sadness – grief, disappointment, loss
• Fear – apprehension, anxiety, nervousness, unease
• Shame – unworthy, regret, guilt, remorse
• Trust – belief, faith, honesty
There are multitudes of feelings based on these emotions. I embarked on my elementary education of emotions. Why do I feel this way? What caused my unpleasant feelings? How do I heal them?
Becoming self-aware… I feel unworthy because I was teased and bullied. This caused low self-worth, sadness, anger and shame. I healed this by being aware that I am not worthless, and I am good… I am not bad even when others say I am. I started understanding my unpleasant feelings and why they were inside of me. One by one, I plucked them out and replaced them with the truthful feelings.
I was pained and full of shame, so I escaped reality by creating a fantasy world in my head. In my fantasy world, I felt worthy, happy and fulfilled. Ah, just like escaping my unpleasant feelings with drugs and alcohol!
By understanding my beliefs about myself, I realized my strengths, weaknesses and talents. I came to honor my sensitivity as strength. I began to care about myself. I began to like myself and then love myself. I realized inside of me was a power… that I could use that power to express myself in work, relationships and life. I began to really feel good. I wasn’t afraid to express my feelings. I became transparent and the shame began to be replaced with self-confidence.
Today, I ask myself many times each day, “How am I feeling? What am I feeling? Why am I feeling this way?” I don’t need to react to my feelings. For example, if I am angry, I don’t need to snap. I can express my upset feelings appropriately and not deny it. Every day I feel a variation of emotions. Like a song, poem or scene of a movie, I can observe my feelings. I have come to love feelings.
I connect with my authentic self… artistic, sensitive, curious, compassionate, an explorer of life, a capacity for love and adventure… I no longer need to escape my feelings by using substances, people and fantasy to feel power. I have power in my life by connecting to my emotions and realizing their beauty. I have discovered my beauty by accepting my scars and healing my shame.
Above all else, I live in the moment. There is no need to feel the past or create an artificial feeling of the future. The now is a beautiful moment to experience, no matter what I am feeling.