As we all sat around the dinner table, he asked how my day was. So I listed the tasks that had made up the hours, one after another in rapid fire: the class party; the baking of mince pies; the washing; the playdate. I ended with, ‘… and then I said goodbye to my good friend who is moving away, so yeah it was a hard day’.
Then the tears came.
Then the reality of the sadness washed over me.
For a moment.
‘Cause we had to get the kids to bed and do the dishes and sweep the floors, etc!
We spend so much time doing the things on our to-do list, that often we don’t stop to acknowledge what is going on in our hearts. To examine our emotions. We sweep them under the carpet. We try to get them out of the way so we can deal with the things that have to get done in our days.
The problem with this approach is that emotions that have been pushed under the surface don’t get dealt with that day, or even that week. Before we know it, we have a pile of emotions that have not been dealt with for months or even years.
Brené Brown highlights two consequences of this squashing of emotion in her book Rising Strong. She calls them chandeliering and stockpiling:
One of the outcomes of attempting to ignore emotional pain is chandeliering. We think we’ve packed the hurt so far down that it can’t possibly resurface, yet all of a sudden, a seemingly innocuous comment sends us into a rage or sparks a crying fit.
Stockpiling starts like chandeliering, with us firmly packing down the pain, but here, we just continue to amass hurt until the wisest parts of us, our bodies, decide that enough is enough.
So if we take a high stress emotional situation such as, hmmm let me see … Christmas!
Is it any wonder that emotions spill out in uncontrolled and often damaging ways? Or that we find ourselves unaccountably exhausted and unwell?
These emotions that are under the surface affect our interactions and our stress levels throughout our days. A better approach is to actually acknowledge the emotion. But as Brené says it doesn’t come easily to us, we need to work at acknowledging and integrating our emotions.
Give yourself permission to feel emotion, get curious about it, pay attention to it, and practice. This work takes practice. Awkward, uncomfortable practice.
My friend is leaving and I feel sad. I’m going to sit with that and let that sorrow wash over me for a while. I’m going to give myself permission to cry for as long as I need. Because the alternative to acknowledging these emotions, is actually damaging to myself and/or others.
Join me for the (emotional) journey,