IV. Stuffing our feelings causes disease.
The cycle of not feeling and stashing and moving on takes hold of us. Since we rarely get to come back and feel the feelings that we stuffed, we begin to feel stuffed. Things start to happen in our lives that we can’t control - our health declines, pain arises, arthritis sets in, we get chronic bronchitis from a cold. Yes, of course we could take the view that we just got a cold and it got stuck. We can make all sorts of reasons for it - we were worn out by pushing hard to complete the last project at work by the deadline, whatever.
But we could also imagine that our body was trying to tell us that we were pushing too hard in myriad subtle ways and that it was inviting us to stop long before we succumbed to the cold. We have largely forgotten how to listen. Or it’s not convenient to do what we know our soft bodies are asking for.
We push until we get what one of my teachers calls “the frying pan to the face”: the illness that stops us, the car accident, the workplace injury, the unexpected relationship end. When we don’t let ourselves feel the feelings, more-or-less when they are happening, this is where illness, as in, not well-ness, not whole-ness, comes from.
Almost all of the time we have not asked for the thing that is hard to feel, hard to digest, hard to hold in our awareness - maybe you lost your job, maybe you find out that your dad has cancer, maybe you witness an accident, maybe an adult who is supposed to care for you abuses you instead. Much of the time these hard things happen when we are children and they change us. They bring us to believe things about ourselves that are not true, but we carry on living as if those things are true: “I am too much, too loud, too hard.” “I have no right to space, to voice, to safety.” “Others are the ones to tell me how I am, who I am, what I can do with my body.”
Most of us carry our version of these categories of beliefs: “ I am too ______________”, “I’m not ____________________ enough”, “When I _______________ something bad happens”
We make a connection between the difficult things in life happening to us and our actions and behaviours. A child’s interpretation of intensely expressed adult feelings will always be, “This is my fault.” We humans are meaning makers and often can’t help looking at life through a personal lens. We will quickly and unconsciously make these difficult experiences into belief systems: “When I get angry, my dad hurts me.” (I can’t be angry, my anger is dangerous and so is expressing it...). “When I fall in love, my partner always cheats.” (I will never find someone who will stay with me, I’m not worth someone’s time, I’m not interesting/beautiful/sexy/smart enough…). “When I get a new job, people give me more than I can handle and I get overwhelmed and lose my job.” (I’m not a good worker, I get stuck with the worst jobs, I will always be miserable at work...).
These things that we believe about ourselves make it even harder to slow down and let ourselves feel the painful or difficult things that we have not taken the time to feel. We get too full and our physical bodies begin to suffer. So does our self-perception.