Free in the Feeling

During a recent gathering with friends to share our latest achievements and family tidbits, one person removed their phone.  They flashed an image for us to see, commenting about personal fragmentation, political polarization, and societal demise.  They leaned forward in their chair, arms waving faster, voice escalating, and face reddening with each word.

I viewed the image.  Though I didn’t share its sentiment either, I didn’t feel our friend’s rage.  And as they continued, I observed that their intellectualizing halted our conversation and shattered our connection.  Where we’d been invited to celebrate some joys, now we were bystanders in a discourse about the world’s problems.

When I asked our friend how they felt, they paused.  They stared at me and repeated what they already said.  Then I realized: They couldn’t tell me how they felt (I imagined anger, horror, sadness, shock, among others) because they were disconnected from their feelings. 

Alas, this is true of many people, especially those in certain clinical, political, and spiritual circles who believe that personal feelings are mushy emotions we must eliminate and transcend as quickly as possible.  

However, when we analyze, criticize, and theorize, we keep life at arm’s length, pushing away such feelings as anguish, confusion, disillusion, grief, heartbreak, and sorrow.  Sometimes, to bypass the feelings, we make things about “someone else” or “another.”   Then the pain can root, grow, and fester in our bodies as headaches, backaches, bellyaches, limps, rashes, or ulcers.  Furthermore, our reactions can detach and disconnect us from ourselves and those we love most. 

When we’re willing to acknowledge our feelings as the divine messengers they are, we become free to experience life differently, even when we don’t like some of it. 

If we’re ready for such an adventure, we can contemplate these questions:

  • How do I feel about the particular behavior, circumstance, and/or situation I’ve experienced?
  • How are the behaviors, etc., different from mine?
  • What, if any, similarities do I see?
  • What am I willing to do to mourn the past and accept what I cannot change so I can heal, move on, and invest my time and energy elsewhere?
  • Where are the openings to get more of what I love by changing myself or my own perspective?

These questions aren’t easy to answer.  They require the introspection and sacred conversations which encourage us to grow in spiritual maturity.  They invite us to use the feelings we once believed would hinder us to discern what we need in our lives now, what we love most, and how we want to serve others by contributing our gifts in this world.  Especially, they free us to rediscover life’s simple pleasures as we embrace more of the beauty, joy, and wonder we find on our way.

© 2019 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.  All rights reserved.

Get the Feeling

In the movie classic, Tootsie, struggling actress Sandy (Teri Garr) is furious with her friend Michael (Dustin Hoffman) and distressed about her failing career. After trying to be sweet and “nice,” pretending that everything in her life is “fine,” she captures a truth about knowing oneself.  She rants and declares: “I’m going to feel this way until I don’t feel this way anymore.”

Finally, Sandy reaches the place which many on the spiritual journey do, when we realize that we can no longer maintain false poise or hold one more forced smile.  Instead, we choose to feel our feelings, accept and embrace them, and use what we’ve learned to transform our lives.

To say that we’re never afraid, angry, anxious, broken-heartened, disappointed, discouraged, embarrassed, overwhelmed, upset, or a myriad of other feelings, is to pretend that we’re robots.  It denies our humanity — and ultimately, our divinity.

Theologian and philosopher Augustine of Hippo asked: “How can you draw close to God when you are far from your own self?”  So he prayed: “Grant, Lord, that I may know myself that I may know You.”

Our awareness of ourselves and our relationship with God are inextricably linked.  If we deny ourselves sacred time for self-connection, through contemplation, meditation, prayer and reflection, we disconnect from God.

Furthermore, we struggle with life, believing that we’re emotionally healthy and spiritually mature because we deny our “negative” feelings and refuse to acknowledge them.  Sometimes we stuff them deep down inside where they begin to destroy us, in body, mind and spirit, from the inside out.

No matter where we are on our life’s journey, when we deny our feelings, we stall.  We avoid the divine messages our feelings provide.  We forget the truth: That God is always with us and within us, even when our candidate loses; we don’t get the job we wanted; we labor to release an addiction; our children or grandchildren don’t call or text; our “forever” sweetheart doesn’t love us anymore; an ailment doesn’t heal as we expected or desired; we have an accident; a friend moves away and forgets us; no one likes our social media posts; we watch a loved one die.

Yet, as we grow in spiritual maturity and emotional health, we realize that the feelings we believed would hinder us actually help us discern what we need and how we’d most enjoy living.  As we acknowledge the feelings, we also discover that they draw us closer to God, divine creator, unconditionally loving, infinitely compassionate, eternally grace-giving.

Ultimately, our feelings are part of our divinity, allowing us to know and embrace the truth of ourselves and others, too.  When we feel sad, confused, excited, joyous, or anything else, we’re feeling the life of God within.  We know that we’re alive – even when it isn’t fun.

Let us get the feelings.  Then, they won’t get us.

© 2017 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.  All rights reserved.