Feelings just want to be felt… and expressed

Tenzin Has A Tantrum

Image by Shawn Econo via Flickr

Have you ever had a chance to express your feelings, even your ugliest, most heart-wrenching, messy feelings with someone who was able to truly be there with you, without getting affected or involved, without judgement or the entanglement of taking it personally? They just witness your process. It can be very powerful, cathartic.

Kai and I have both experienced this and given it to the other, as a gift. We are not a perfect couple, of course, but we do give each other a lot of room to be and for anything and everything to come up.

Some time back I read a (rather magical if unusual) book called ‘The Right Use of Will‘ which put me on the path of doing what I call ‘expression exercises’, which are just about allowing anything that wants to come up and out to do so, in a safe space. Kai has often born witness to this process.

I, in turn, have stayed there with Kai, for Kai as his feelings come up, in whatever form. Mooji, my spiritual teacher, once told me “there is a great freedom in knowing you can be angry and the other person will still love you” or words to that effect. It is true… and isn’t that what unconditional love is about?

So, could this conceivably not be true for children also that at times they just want their feelings to be heard – not changed, not ‘improved’, just acknowledged and accepted as they arise.

Well, that is exactly what this article I just came across explores, the possibility that even tantrums are not ‘bad behaviour’ to be avoided but instead emotions desperately seeking expression. With that, as parents, comes the question of whether you step in and try and avert the impending explosion of feelings or, whether, you do more of a service to your child, in the long run, to stay there with them as the feelings push through, teaching them a valuable lesson in how to manage the energy of feelings as it wells up inside you. Should they be taught these feelings are wrong and should be repressed or can we safely teach them to stop, feel them and express them fully, trusting that as they grow up they will learn to internalise this process in a healthy way?

For me it is about disentangling the emotions from the behavious and showing your kids that emotions are innocent, they just come – it is what we do with them that counts. And how do you best teach that it is okay to be angry, it is okay to be sad, frustrated, jealous, etc… but that we must remain aware and sensitive to our own and others’ safety and wellbeing even as we express what feelings come?

This is a very different approach from what we are used to hearing – that tantrums are something to be controlled, ‘nipped in the bud’… and nobody is saying we should encourage them, of course, the only question is what to do if/when they do arise… What would love do?

These are interesting questions for me. I don’t know the answers, yet, but I loved reading the article and urge you to do the same if this subject is one that pulls you. Let me know your thoughts, if you do.

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3 thoughts on “Feelings just want to be felt… and expressed

  1. I am with you on the emotions part. It really seems to me like everyone’s reaction to a kid not knowing how to handle something is to punish the emotion or something. I am constantly pointing out to my husband that adults are allowed to get upset, to make a mistake and yell and be forgiven, to essentially throw temper tantrums too, and mature adults typically do this and apologize and talk out their feelings, ideally at least!

    It’s like people hold kids to a different standard than themselves. I think that is the basis of my take on parenting.

    • True. I always feel that, like in management, you should never ask your kid to do something you are not willing and able to do yourself… everything else is hypocrisy, albeit well-meaning.

      • … uh maybe that is harsh… let’s just say I believe in, wherever possible, leading by example and modelling the behaviour you want your kid to emulate. After all, that is how they learn.

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