Thursday, April 3, 2008

Feel What You Feel

I've previously posted some of Doug Manning's excellent work on grief and pain. Tonight I'd like to share another great article he wrote on the importance of allowing yourself to grieve. I have an index card directly underneath my computer monitor with the following written on it:

Everything is in flow. I am letting go of all resistance to Life.

I'm reminded when I read it of Guy Findley's similar quote:

Stress exists because we insist!

Too often in grief, we are encouraged by friends and family to change how we grieve, mostly to suit them and make them more comfortable. Usually, the concern is about the length of time it takes to grieve, and how we are taking longer than "normal" (whatever the heck that means!). But grieving is a selfish time, a time for looking out for ourselves first and foremost. And the easiest way to grieve well is to surrender to grief, to go with where grief wants to take us. Our bodies know how to grieve, and they will guide us through successfully, if we get out of the way and fully immerse ourselves in the experience. And yes, it is hard, it hurts, and it is exhausting. And it must be done. And the rewards are there. It helps knowing that we don't experience all this pain for nothing, that we are being reshaped and reformed into a new and stronger person.

Here's the article. I hope you find it helpful.

Feel What You Feel - By Doug Manning

The healthiest thing we can say to someone in grief or pain is, "Feel what you feel." I always say, "You can't change how you feel so just feel it." Somehow that is a hard thing to say to folks. There seems to be some force within us that just must tell people they should not feel the way they feel. Far too often we try to change how they feel by trying to change the way they think. The tendency is to tell them a new way to view their problem with the hope that a new way of thinking will lead to a new way of feeling.

Unfortunately a change in thinking does not always produce a change in feelings. Feelings must be understood, accepted, and worked through before they can change. When the feelings change the thinking will follow. It is far more important for us to accept the feelings and give the person permission to feel what they feel than it is to try to cheer them up with some positive statement about their dilemma.

A friend said, "First my son died and now I have cancer. I am angry at the whole world and at God. Every time I see someone who is whole, or who has not lost a son, I get livid. Everyone tells me I should not feel this way, or that I just can't let myself get angry. All that does is make me angrier. I guess I am going crazy." I simply asked her how someone who had lost a son and then developed cancer was supposed to feel. She thought for a moment and said, "They should feel angry. Thank you; I feel such a relief already." When we let folks "feel what they feel," the freedom and permission begins to change those feelings. That is how healing happens.

I met a man in New Zealand who had sunk his life savings into a business. He told me he was waking up every night plotting murder and wanted some help in getting over his anger. After each sleepless night he would feel guilty all day because of his feelings and because his nightly tirades kept his wife awake. To complicate matters, when he became aware that his partners were ruining the company, he left and went into business for himself. His new business prospered and he was making more money than he ever could have made in the other business.

When he would tell anyone about his anger, the response would always be, "How can you be angry? Look how much better off you are." While we were talking, his wife told him that at least four times. I had to bite my tongue to keep from telling him myself. He may have been better off, but he still was angry. I asked him how he was supposed to feel when someone cheated him out of his life's savings. He thought for a moment and said, "Mad." I then suggested that when he woke up in the night he should say, "I am angry right now." He should give himself permission to be angry instead of fighting his feelings. I told him if he stopped fighting, the feelings would work themselves out and they would pass. The next morning he came by my room to say, "I slept like a baby." When we feel what we feel, what we feel changes.

(In-Sighter Newsletter, Summer 1996)

No comments: