Disappointment has plagued me all my life. I was raised in a household where the adults in charge rarely nurtured or even paid me much attention, as they were locked in mortal combat most of the time. As a tiny tot, I remember being disappointed—a lot. My parents would make promises to me, and then promptly forget about them. I was a whimsical child, who would build a promise of, say, an outing for ice cream into fairytale proportions, only to be crushed when the ice cream jaunt, or the doll, or the new book for being patient never materialized.
During my life coach training I was introduced to the power of acceptance, but that, too, was vaguely disappointing, as it never seemed to solve the problem of the ever-present emotional itch that couldn’t be scratched. My expectations were rarely met in reality, probably because my imagination was a little too fanciful for my real life. Last week, while on a trip to NYC, I found a better cure for disappointment…absorption.
My Hubby and I were walking around the Cloisters, an amazing Metropolitan Museum which houses a collection of medieval art in a building that looks like a castle. I’ve wanted to visit the Cloisters for about 10 years, but there was always something else more “important” to do. This time, our whole trip was about meandering around the city, so the Cloisters was on the agenda. I was told about the breathtaking view of the New York skyline and surrounding Hudson River Valley from the cafe on the top floor. I was all giddy with the anticipation of seeing the fall colors laid out before me like one of the medieval tapestries I had seen on the floors below. You can imagine how my heart sank when the museum dude told me that they closed the cafe a day early this season. I wanted to punch him, and yet it was so not his fault.
Anger gave way to a feeling of nausea and an impending migraine. I’m not kidding, I was literally sick with disappointment, to the point that I had to sit down with my head in my hands. I know this seems dramatic, but just hang on, here comes the good part. I told my hubby that I needed some time alone, and I just sat there and breathed. Instead of “accepting” the situation, which is a mental exercise, I just breathed it in. I kept absorbing the feeling of heartbreak while saying in my head, “just absorb it—you’re okay. You are just fine. The pain will fade.” And just like that, it did. The emotional and physical pain passed right through me like wind through a wind chime.
I let the mental exercise of acceptance give way to a physical and soul-deep feeling frenzy. This is what it means to feel your feelings. It takes a willingness to open yourself to the experience and be vulnerable.
I couldn’t do this when I was little, because feeling all that pain wasn’t safe. I had to wall it up to survive my cray-cray childhood. But I’m not a kid anymore. I’m a powerful adult who is in charge of my own safety. And I get to feel my feelings if and when I want. All of this happened in the 5 minutes it took me to come back to equilibrium. Right then Hubby poked his head around the corner, and looked the question, “Everything okay?”
Everything was just fine
If you are afraid of feeling your feelings, you’re not alone. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me all about it. I am a reformed feeling avoider, and I can help you feel again!