I am such a proponent and heavy user of the “I feel’s.” An “I feel” is the doorway into an exploration of self. It is where emotion meets expression, and what is more beautiful than that? Having been on my own counseling journey for two and a half years now, I have seen the impact of an “I feel.” It eliminates blame and it does not sugar coat the person expressing their internal emotion.
For a long time, I lived on the setting of explosive emotion. I was high, I was low, I was anywhere but the safe setting that an “I feel” creates. In retrospect, my teen years can be validated to have had that ride, but moving into the twenties and inviting Jesus into the messy chaos that was within, I would say I rode a fine line of being unkind to others and myself. Learning, practicing, and getting used to the “I feel” was an adjustment, but it was worth it. These two words made me pause, look within myself, hash out what the heck I was feeling and then move forward.
It’s like coming to an internal Yield sign, avoiding the oncoming traffic and waiting to proceed.
This does not mean that I have perfected this nor will I ever. What the “I feel” does do, most importantly, is transform the way I take care of myself. An “I feel” is a form of self care. With practice, it brings a level of fairness into relationships; a fairness that is willing to see both sides, weigh my right turns and my wrong turns and move onto what is next. Whether it is an “I’m sorry” and/or an offering of grace, those moments of pause allow all the little reactionary voices to cease.
Again, I’m not perfect at this. I still have reactions rather than responses, but it is something I hope to continue to get better at in order for my relationships to be healthy.
I am currently reading the beautiful writings of Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet. In it, he says this regarding self:
“What goes on in your innermost being is worthy of your whole love; you must somehow keep working at it and not lose too much courage in clarifying your attitude toward people.”
I think there is so much truth to what he says about this insight into our innermost self and how it is worthy of love. I interpret this to mean that once we learn to love ourselves, we are granted more awareness of how we see others. I have seen how the “I feel” helps me love myself better, and in return, love another well. Emotions serve a purpose, and I hope to always be aware of them but not controlled by them. An “I feel” is my way of seeking control.
Right now is an exciting time for the subject of emotions. Jaime Tworkowski’s collection of writings regarding what it means to “Feel Too Much” is huge for the mental health world. Following that, yet unrelated, the new Pixar film Inside Out delves into five specific emotions (Fear, Joy, Anger, Sadness and Disgust) through the lives of adults and a child. After years of research, the creator of the film had this to say about our emotions:
“Now here comes a movie that says, ‘No, emotions have an important role to play,’ he said. ‘They help us adapt and serve our well-being.’ More specifically, Inside Out suggests that even negative emotions have an important purpose.”
I will end by saying that we live in a world that can be an oppressor to an “I feel.” But I think if we, one-by-one, practiced and held onto the hope that the stigma of feeling “too much” is something to be embraced and not shunned, we would see an uprising of hope and empathy. And it always starts with one: you and me.