On feeling what we’re feeling and the inherent movement of emotion

Last week I was feeling blue. I couldn’t pinpoint a problem exactly, but I knew I didn’t feel the way I wanted to feel.

Perhaps it’s the seasonal shift and the fact that the sun is setting in Portland, Maine, around 4:15 pm these days. Maybe it’s the slowing down I’ve been doing lately. Doing less allows things to rise to the surface that I’ve previously not wanted to let myself feel—hence my busyness to avoid feeling them.

I was feeling those things.

Some people find melancholy romantic and somehow bittersweetly satisfying. I am not one of those people.

Usually, I would push on through the depression and pretend it wasn’t happening. What I did this time instead was acknowledge it.

I told Mike I was feeling depressed. I took an afternoon nap on the love seat in his office. (His suggestion. I married a good one.)

I told my mom I was feeling depressed. We booked an afternoon of foot soaks and reflexology.

I let myself experience what it felt like to be depressed and not know why and not know how to fix it. And instead of getting busy, I got quiet.

After a few days of waking up in a funky fog, I awoke feeling bright and alive instead. I hadn’t had any major emotional breakthroughs. I hadn’t had a huge realization of any kind.

I’d just let the feelings do their thing.

I used to have seasonal depressions that would hang around for a couple of months. (Upping my vitamin D levels, exercising regularly, and having writing as a creative outlet have helped a lot.)

This one only lasted a couple of days. Why? Because I let it be what it was.

twitter_standingFeelings are meant to move. That’s why they’re also called emotions. (Tweet it!)

It’s called an emotion for a reason. Six of the seven letters in the word are about movement.

When we let our feelings be in their true nature without resisting, avoiding, or pushing them down, they tend to move.

The fear is that if we fully acknowledge a feeling that doesn’t feel good, we’ll dive so deeply that we’ll never stop feeling that way.

In fact, the exact opposite is true.

The deeper we dive into feeling a certain way, the sooner we feel a different way.

How do we actually feel what we’re feeling?

  • See what physical sensations you’re experiencing when you feel certain emotions. What does depression feel like in your body? What does anxiety feel like? Where in your body do you feel an emotion?
  • Get curious about the feeling itself. Sit down and literally feel.

Life is dull when lived in a narrow band of mediocre highs and ho-hum lows. Things get zingy when we’re willing to go to both ends of the spectrum.

twitter_standingThe deeper we feel things, the faster there’s a new thing to feel. (Tweet it!)

Whatever feeling comes knocking at your door, notice it. Let it in. Make space for it.

What we resist persists. Instead, welcome the emotion and you’ll give it space to move, which is exactly what it wants to do.

Over to you:

How do you give your feelings space to be what they are? What do you notice when you resist versus embrace your emotions? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!

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  • melody

    i started laughing (while crying) while reading this because i have been experiencing this over the last few days and no surprise this came today. while many years ago i’d do anything to distract myself from feeling, now i tend! to look for the bright side, the lesson, the grace, and really figure out why i feel the way i feel. last night it occurred to me that i just need to give myself a break and feel it without trying to pinpoint it and actually said out loud to my mom, “maybe i just need to be sad and cry and let it be and then it’ll just move through me!” so thank you reaffirming that. <3

  • So agree with this!! I support people living with Autism and ADHD and one of my mantras is that we have a physical response to emotion. For people that find identifying their emotions difficult, giving them an understanding of how they are feeling physically and noticing the changes gradually helps them identify them and learn how to rebalance. We teach them about being flooded with emotion and also about burying/being in denial and the damage that ‘holding it all together’ can do to them. Many of our children hold onto anxiety all day in School as they are trying to ‘behave’, then exploding on the way home like taking the lid off a shaken up bottle of fizzy drink with the consequences not being pretty. Many of our parents are dealing with the physical consequences of burying their feelings for long periods of time,such as gut problems or shingles, denying their own feelings to deal with caring for their child. Showing them that facing those feelings will make them feel better, and therefore be better able to care for their child, is a big step forward for many of them. Would love to teach what we do to everyone!!!

  • Love this Kate!! Spoke right to me! I moved away from my friends and family this summer and it’s been a lot more emotional than I anticipated and I cry – a lot – but I’m also really, really happy at the same time. It’s very strange! I was just telling my cousin the other day, “I just let myself feel emotions now. When I’m sad and I feel like crying, I just cry. I let it out. And I always feel so much better afterwards!” Thank you for sharing this with us!! Happy Thanksgiving to you and Mike! :)

  • Thank you for this, Kate. I find this all to be very helpful. I shared it with my college age daughters who have challenges with anxiety. I hope it helps them.

    I love the idea that feelings are e-motions and meant to move. I wanted to add that the “e” comes from the Latin prefix, “ex” which means “out”. So not only are emotions designed to move, they are also moving “out”. Thought you’d like that.

    I love everything you write, Kate. Thank you for sharing yourself in this way.

  • Belen

    Reading this today really hit home. I have been experiencing seasonal depression for the past 10 years and it’s through reading articles like this one that are honest that have helped me connect with what I’m feeling and what I can do to create a space of inner peace and joy. I would always go outside myself to find the fix and it would work for a day or two and then away I went again looking for something out there to patch me up temporarily. My seasonal depression was so bad that at one point I started to lose my hair. That’s when I knew that I needed help so I consulted with a psychologist and started to meditate and read, but my breakthrough was when I truly connected with the why and realizing that if I just acknowledge it and I embrace it instead of looking for the fix then I move past it in a peaceful way.

  • I wrote a blog about this very same thing in the Spring. Holy cow it makes a difference! Thanks for the confirmation and beautiful reminder to allow myself to feel my feels. xo

  • Paula Vale

    Thanks this came in the right moment! Details of my story apart, the only thing that gives me some peace is, “let me be depressed, please don’t push me to react or feel good” this is me, this is my pain! It hurts but I know that it wont kill me.
    Sometimes we just need this ” love chair” where we can cry or feel blue without anyone pushing you to be ok.
    Got to find my “love seat”
    Thank you! Love

  • this gave me a big shift! I didn’t even realise it as I read. Sometimes we do feel wonky and your post was a reminder that’s ok and actually, it’s just natural. Thankyou!

  • Needed this today Kate- I’ve been in this space for 3 days now! I go from beating myself up about feeling down for no reason, to just staying quiet, journalling and being patient. The more I lean into to softness and open up to loved ones- the sooner the pain eases. Thank you x

  • I think I just realized something, thanks to this! I’ve been feeling annoyed for the past few days, no idea why, but now I am pretty sure I had a few days of depression prior to that that I hadn’t let myself acknowledge and so the annoyance was a cover. I am comfortable with sadness, but depression, especially unexplained depression, I don’t like to acknowledge out loud because I don’t want to worry other people. But if I’m not worried about it, they won’t be either. So thank you. For this. It felt like a giant love-filled permission slip.

  • Cynthia

    I also have been feeling blue. I’ve noticed my body wants rest, so I’ve been allowing myself to shut down earlier at night. I don’t know what the feelings are, but I’m just giving myself the space to allow it to come if it needs to. This is my longest depressed period and I hope it ends soon.

  • I love this post so much Kate!!!

    Yes, our emotions are our best resource and if we stop resisting them they will guide us in the right direction. Emotions are information and data and our ability to interpret them will be the difference between being overwhelmed or being empowered by them.

    A few years back when a dealt with deep chronic depression, I discovered that the healing lays in my emotions and when started to allow myself to feel the pain, suffering and desperation I moved away from it.

    Our emotions are so powerful and I believe if we let them, they can become our best ally. However, our society teaches us that emotions are bad and being emotional is bad. This is why this post makes me so happy!!!

    Thank you once again!!!


  • Deeply resonates! Thank you, Kate! I’m just a bit disappointed that I have never put it in words as nicely as you did. ;-) That’s the thing with universal wisdom. I’m glad though the message found the way through you, so lots of people can read and hear it! When we want to create a deeper level of human connection, people have to connect with their emotions and also be willing to share them. This way we can live and experience true aliveness, love and belonging!

    And love the “love seat”. :-)

    • And exercising and writing are nice ways to keep the feelings moving, to move the emotions out. I believe that is why they work. Speaking to someone, singing or playing an instrument might also work. Not sure if it is the same with Vitamin D, but I believe you and I’ll try it!

  • I love this, Kate! As a holistic voice teacher and life coach, I teach this same thing. Along these same lines, tension is actually unexpressed emotion. So when my students are struggling to release their shoulder/neck tension in particular, we examine emotions. It’s amazing every time! Thank you, dear one!

  • I love this post. I’ve always been an emotional person — the kind that parents tell to toughen up and stop being a crybaby — and I’ve become very proud of it. I’ve always allowed myself to feel what I’m feeling and to share my feelings/emotions with others. It has always felt healthiest to me to allow those things to first come in and then to let them out.

    But I’m also realizing there are certain feelings, emotions that are just the result of poor response on my part to external circumstances. For instance, I get very upset very quickly when inanimate objects don’t function the way they’re supposed to.

    And I’ve been feeling fear each night when I lay down to go to bed. Last night, I tried the Emotional Freedom Technique to ease my anxious mind before bed and it worked. After doing the tapping while voicing the problem — and saying I accept myself anyway — I was able to fall asleep peacefully in just minutes.

    So, sometimes I think you need to weigh the potential benefit in feeling something like a seemingly inexplicable depression versus being kept awake at night with worry.

    I love that you’ve started this dialogue. :)

  • Though different from depression, having down or off days is just part of life. I’ve tried to teach our kids there is nothing wrong with them, just to acknowledge them and know that they will pass.

    Sometimes it just is and to learn that’s okay, that we don’t need to be perpetually up or happy, can be a big relief.

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