There are no good or bad feelings, on healthy and unhealthy ways of expressing them.
And if channeled in a meaningful way, every emotion can be of service.
Dayton coined the term emotional sobriety, which means being in charge of our own inner world and able to experience deep feelings, understand them and talk about them rather than act them out in destructive ways.
In the spirit of that concept, here is a list of some feelings, in no particular order, for no particular reason.
If we are going to feel guilty, let us feel guilty for not working harder to understand people earlier.
If we are going to feel fear, let us feel fear for judging others before knowing the full context they’re coming from.
If we are going to feel sad, let us feel sad for all the times we tried to fix people instead of just loving them.
If we are going to feel jealous, let us feel jealous of those who give us a lifetime pass despite our past life.
It reminds me of a line from a movie about artificial intelligence. The man complains to his computer that sometimes he thinks he’s felt everything he’s ever going feel, and from here on out he’s not going to feel anything new, just lesser versions of what he’s already felt.
It’s a valid thought, but that’s the beauty about emotional sobriety. The longer we stick with it, the more expanded our palette becomes. Once we learn how to actually feel our feelings rather than ignore, suppress or medicate them, we can step back from ourselves and feel proud of having our own feelings about the world.
Even if they’re dark or bizarre or unpopular, they’re still ours. Nobody can take them away from us.
On most days, there are certain thoughts and feelings that course through my mind and body that take me by complete surprise. Like feeling sad and lonely and afraid while imagining the death of a loved one.
That happens all the time as I get older. Whether it’s my wife, my parents or my friends, the absolute gut punch of loss just overtakes me sometimes. And in many cases, it compels me to make a phone call, offer a compliment or even give a gift to one of those very people in that moment.
It’s my profound gratitude for having them in my life right now, and my deep fear for knowing that one day they won’t be.
None of those are good or bad feelings. But they are of service to me anyway. And the fact that ten years ago, they didn’t exist as much as they do now, that makes me proud.
My emotional sobriety continues to deepen. Still a long way to go, but my progress isn’t insignificant.
Considering how many taboos against genuine feeling are in place in both childhood and adulthood, this feels like a worthy accomplishment.
Remember, when we regard certain feelings as good and others as bad, we build inner barriers that prevent us from processing and understanding our emotional reality.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
What if the only thing to do with our feelings was to receive them completely?