I thought I would like the Disney movie Frozen since I never had a sister and I love watching my own girls interact with one another. But I was wrong.
Three words: “conceal, don’t feel” made me feel uneasy.
Yes, I know it’s an animated film. But I kept thinking, “This family needs a therapist. Not a group of trolls.” (If you’re unfamiliar with the storyline of Frozen, you can read more here.)
In contrast to Elsa’s forced denial of feeling her feelings, I love Olaf. He doesn’t hold back. Everywhere he goes, he declares, “I’m Olaf, and I like warm hugs.”
A snowman who loves warm hugs. Awesome. Feel your feelings, Olaf. Do your thing.
“Well, I’m Becca. I like long naps and Netflix binges.” At least I do these days.
There’s a deep imprint in the cushions of my couch. I’ve spent a fair amount of time there in the last year. I blew through Scandal, Mad Men, and I’m a good way through Damages. A couple weekends ago, I was on a Nicholas Sparks movie marathon.
My couch has been a place of refuge recently. A place to feel my feelings. I wish it wasn’t true but I’ve felt I can’t get off it very easily. This is not the kind of woman/mother/wife I had envisioned but this is where I’ve been. On my couch, eating Pringles and letting myself be sad when I need to be.
This last year’s theme of hard is related to relationships. I am wondering if this is just part of adult life—like a seven-year-itch in friendships. An overhaul of sorts that happens as we move through the decades of change. We all have friends who wander in and out of our life based on seasons or places we live. I get that. But for some reason, this has been like every “bump” along the way is a seismic wave. Crash against my heart. Back to my couch.
I’ve even been paranoid in this last month, wondering if people are “out to get me”. It might seem silly that I would assume people are wasting that much time plotting against me. But it’s true. I made a request of someone and they did the opposite of what I asked. So then my mind goes between “Did they misunderstand me or did they do that on purpose? What is happening here?!”
Not long ago, so much happened in the course of two days, I was on the couch again. This time it hurt so much I couldn’t even move. Like I was paralyzed from pain. As much as I wanted to will myself from that place, I chose to let it be. I chose to feel my pain to the deepest level and let all the hurt of the days, weeks, and months wash over me. I didn’t want to deny the emotions. I knew that if I stuffed it down it would come out in unhealthy ways later. I didn’t want to hold it in anymore. I heard the phrase, “Feel your feelings” several times, like a permission. Like the Holy Spirit was curled up with me there.
The next day felt like a bit of an emotional hangover. Ever had one of those? Like after a day of crying when your eyes and your head still hurts. But there was also a release. A new beginning. And for the first time in a long time, I’m feeling hopeful about the gift of those who are most supportive in my life. I see how God is letting some light into the darkness.
I trace it back to that evening on the couch.
In A Beautiful Mess, Kristin Ritzau writes, “So often our culture operates with a results-based mentality instead of seeing the Holy Spirit sitting there with us in the pain, holding us while we cry, grieve, or cough. The Lord is saying, ‘This sucks,’ just as I am.”
A few pages later, she goes on to say, “Meeting God in our emotions is sanity, real sanity, not pretend stability. This real sanity does not mean that we will always be happy. More accurately, we will be able to stay with our emotional states and deal with them with care instead of dismissing them, erasing them, or exploding or stuffing them.”
I realize emotions are scary things. They are unpredictable. What if they take over? But I believe the God of the universe who gave me the emotions can handle them. He can handle us feeling deeply. He sits with us in our hurt. We can trust Him in those moments.
I also believe that feeling is a form of self-care. It’s a way to honor every part of us as we were made. God can work in these moments to bring healing and show us more of His love for us.
This week I was still pondering the phrase “Feel your feelings” and wondering where it originated. Did I make it up? Did God just put that there for me that evening? Nope.
I was almost sure someone along the way had said it to me at another time. I was right. As I was messing with my “Spiritual Formation” board on Pinterest, I spotted an old post by Jen Lee: What to Do when It Still Hurts. And #13—Feel Your Feelings.
My name is Becca. I feel my feelings. I’m also open to warm hugs.
*Note: In A Beautiful Mess, Kristin also notes that many people do not handle their emotions in healthy ways and the result is actually bodily harm such as cutting. These are serious matters. Please seek professional help for yourself or those you know who are dealing with unhealthier aspects of emotions such as self-inflicted pain and mutilation.