How do you feel?
a) “Mmm … Good, normal?”
b) “Leave me alone with your silly questions!”
c) “You think too much, Elisa. I don’t have time for these stupid games.”
d) “Good question.”
Here are the most common reactions to this little question. Reactions from others and my own as well. Why is it so difficult to answer such a seemingly easy question?
Because our feelings are so complex? Because we repress our feelings all the time because they aren’t appropriate? Because when we were little no one asked us how we were feeling and so we aren’t able to know? Instead, we learned to judge our emotions. When we are sad our parents tell us that we have no reason to be sad because we live in a rich country and have lovely toys. We learn to feel guilty for our inappropriate emotions and that it’s not ok to feel them. It’s very common. And at the same time absurd. Everyone know it’s not possible to control their feelings. So it’s important today that we change our attitude.
If you’re feeling sometimes like sadness, anger or sparkling joy without knowing exactly why, trust that each feeling has a reason, even if we can’t quite see it with our minds. A child can feel sad because nobody is listening to him and because he feels that he is disturbing his entourage. He can be sad because he feels that his mother is sad, even if she’s trying to persuade herself and others that she is not with a forced smile. Let’s listen to kids when they try to express their feelings and let’s take them seriously in order to learn from them.
I imagine that it’s different for each of us, but many people seem to feel that someone switched off the light when they try to figure out what’s going on inside after so many years. They don’t see anything. It’s dark. But just as eyes can become accustomed to the dark, we can with time see more clearly if we look in this regularly.
To feel alive, we need to learn to have access to our emotions again and put our thoughts to one side. That means we have to practice. As often as possible so that it becomes a new reflex. The good news is that this can be practiced at any time and ant place, even if you work 14 hours a day, if you need to take care of your children, if you’re sick in bed etc. The only thing you have to do is to ask yourself from time to time with real curiosity “How am I feeling right now?”. It’s completely normal to feel a bit ridiculous at the beginning because we’re not used to it so just feel the ridiculousness and have a good lough.
I started to do this little exercise during my therapy. One day I found myself lounging on the terrace asking myself this question. My head reacted right away saying: “My God, Elisa. Seriously? This is ridiculous. Whatever! This is useless.” As I had nothing else to do and nothing to lose – because at that moment in my life I was struggling to understand the point of life – I tried to do this exercise despite myself. I stayed where I was and kept asking myself the question and waited. To avoid falling back into thought, I observed my feet, my hands; I felt my stomach … and absolutely nothing happened.
This is absolutely normal when we are not used to taking time out for ourselves. Our feelings don’t know how to react when we suddenly start listening to them. Maybe they are annoyed because we never listened to them before when they wanted to talk to us. So we have to earn their trust and be patient. So I kept repeating the exercise each day for at least 30 minutes on the terrace with no distractions. After a while I started to feel nausea after which I would burst out in tears several hours later. Was this because of the exercise? I think so.
The annoying thing is that my emotions didn’t express themselves while I was alone at home doing my exercise, but rather in the most inappropriate circumstances. In a bar with my boyfriend and his friends or during a surprise visit to my family in Germany who looked at me with shock.
It wasn’t fun for my family and friends, but I felt liberated and softer. My thoughts calmed down a lot and stopped harassing me with their commentaries and criticisms. Strangely, these unexpected situations seemed to relax the people around me and created a true connection between us for a few precious moments. It was then that I understood what LIVING and LOVING meant to me. Feeling at least from time to time that connection with myself and others.
Even today I never know how to answer this question at the moment I’m asked. Maybe that’s because we’re feeling so many things at the same time. Sadness for the lack of love in this world, joyful anticipation for lunch, anger with our partner, a profound, unconditional love for our cat …
All this, we feel it all the time. It’s just that our consciousness is incapable of identifying it all because it is overwhelmed by all these impressions. So it’s not a matter of knowing how to describe what we feel, but rather just feeling it. So sit, lie down, or stand in silence and consciously feel what’s happening inside. The question is an entry point to kick off the abstract process of feeling … I don’t know it what I’m writing is clear for you.
In the end I would say: The first step towards self-love is to give yourself time. So take this time and get to know yourself and your feelings. It is very important that you do this regularly in order to get closer to yourself. There is no specific goal. This process must become a habit so that you don’t become estranged from yourself yet again. Like training for a marathon. When you have managed to finish a marathon and you stop training, you won’t finish it a second time.
Write to me to let me know if I have managed to express myself and if this text has been clear for you. I have so many thoughts and subjects in my head that I have to sort them and give them a bit of order. Perhaps with time my texts will be easier to understand. For that to happen, I need to practice writing and to receive your comments. So, let go and write to me!
See you next time!
(Translation by Zoé and Anna. Thank you so much :) )