I do understand the importance of “feeling our feelings” in the process of emotional healing. I DO value the part of the process that recognizes and releases emotion; feelings are energetic impulses that act like messengers whose job is to report to us the state of our current vibrational frequency, and to show us the unhappy thoughts we are believing!
I worked in addictions/co-dependency treatment for years where we facilitated anger/shame/grief work with our clients, and I was well-schooled in the popular idea that only by releasing childhood suppressed emotional material can we move past our emotional stuck-ness.
That said, however, I have come to question the widely-held assumption that drumming up an emotional response helps us unload accrued emotional pain. I have not found that doing this sort of emotional venting actually eliminates, or dissipates the emotional energy being regurgitated. Instead I've seen that the more we drum up feeling, the more feeling we generate for release. This was confusing to me. If the feelings are old, stored up emotion in need of release, then why, in the releasing process, do we seem to generate even MORE of it?
Such inner seeking and questioning allowed me to develop a radically different way of understanding what the role of feelings is in the healing process; that shift in the way I see feelings served to transform the way I work with others. What I realized was that feelings come from thoughts, or from old imprinted belief patterns – only every time.
What we feel is determined by what we think and believe! This understanding prompted a huge turn around in me because I realized that, until and unless we begin to intervene at the level of what we believe, the grieving(shame/anger) NEVER ends. Initiating feeling work without addressing the beliefs behind those feelings will not bring true clearing. It cannot, because we will just go on generating the negative emotional states we are trying to eliminate! We must question the beliefs and thoughts that produced the feelings in the first place if we want real relief!
It is in the amygdala, that tiny gland located in the temporal lobe of the brain, where thought impulses convert to emotion, which are then transmitted to the rest of the body, producing the physiological responses associated with the feelings generated there.
Please do not misunderstand. I do not mean to undermine the emotional body. It is very important. Our feelings DO play a critical role, and therefore need to be experienced. But what happens when we understand the true relationship between thoughts and feelings is that we work differently with those feelings.
Once we understand that our thoughts, not our life circumstances, cause our pain, we stop feeling at the mercy of life, of other peoples behavior, and of our own feelings! We come to see that the only thing that can possibly victimize us is our own thinking.
Understanding that our beliefs are what causes our feelings allows us to use our feelings as the messengers they are meant to be. Feelings alert us that we are thinking painful thoughts. By questioning those thoughts our feelings can TRULY shift (we're not talking about denial or stuffing feelings here, but genuine emotional shifts). Misery dissipates as we reframe our perception of a situation. This is what I have seen happen, over and again.
Of course, this is for you to discover for yourself. I recommend that you experiment with the concept that feelings come from our unhappy thoughts, rather than the old idea that feelings come from what happens “to us.” Try questioning your troubling thoughts about your life happenings, rather than blaming them as being the cause of your unhappy feelings.
To learn more about how to do that, read, Guiding Principles for Life Beyond Victim Consciousness, as well as, “Loving What Is,” by Byron Katie (www.thework.com).