A friend recently told me that he loved the material here at A Clean Mind, but he felt like I was suggesting that we suppress our feelings some. This is not exactly what we’re talking about. (See Feelings 101 and The Sedona Method.) So I wanted to address this in case there are others who are thinking the same way. And it’s a great question.
It’s true that there are times when suppression is appropriate and even beneficial.The Sedona Method book talks about this. One such case might be when your boss criticizes you at work, either constructively or not. You might get really pissed off or even afraid you might lose your job. It’s not the best idea to show him this if you can help it, though. Try to keep up a confident, healthy front and deal with the feelings after work. A meltdown, big or small, would most likely not help you keep your job. So this is smart suppression. To not deal with these feelings when you get home from work, though, would be real suppression – the kind we don’t want. This is how feelings just get stuffed down. And they’ll come up later, because it’s the law.
I believe what my friend was saying was that I’ve been describing a way of living in which we’re always super chilled out and nothing bothers us. And he wasn’t having this experience all the time. So he should suppress when he’s bothered and just pretend it’s not there and nothing is wrong.
Let’s be clear – almost nobody on earth now is always super chilled and never bothered by anything. And that definitely includes me… And that’s fine! If you’re mad as hell, then just allow yourself to simply be mad as hell… but without the story. Take several breaths and tell yourself that “there’s temporary anger in my body now” instead of “I am really angry because (fill in the blank).” HUGE difference. And the former is more accurate than the latter. This is true even if there’s a ton of anger – no anger has ever been permanent in the history of humans.
Also, when there’s lots of anger in my body, and I’m just using anger as an example, then it’s really not the best time to try to solve problems or interact with other people. My goal is simply to not express the anger (i.e. yell at someone or throw something). Instead, I want to bring the anger to present moment awareness and let it be there, but without holding it. Just feel it. Any feeling is temporary by law, and that will never change. It can’t change. When the anger or other feeling has moved on to your liking, then it’s a much better time to solve a problem or interact with another person. Now I can talk instead of express. And the tone in my voice will immediately tell me which I’m doing.
In the name of “therapists who disclose lots of personal information,” I fairly recently found myself feeling very, very angry. It was like I was wearing a cloak of badness for like three days. I felt like a friend had let me down at the last minute instead of giving me a heads up. I couldn’t believe how much anger was in my body. And let me tell you that it’s pretty wild to experience this when you do what I do for a living! But that’s cool, because I do this because this stuff works. I was practicing long before I was preaching. The practicing worked, so I got a new degree and started preaching. I had to simply allow that cloak to be there. It wasn’t moving, either. I had to let it be there and remind myself that it was temporary. After a few days, I decided to email my friend just to explain exactly why I felt that way. It wasn’t a nasty email at all – I was very careful to make it as clear as I could. And I wasn’t blaming anyone for anything – just explaining. This was a friend, after all, so I felt it was important to do this. Otherwise I might still be holding onto it a year later. And I wanted to resume being friends without that poison. The point of all this is that Mr. Blogs About Living At Peace was really pissed off for three days! As best I could, I didn’t suppress. And I think I did a pretty good job of not expressing, too. I let it be there and did my best to not hold it or tell a story about it. And eventually it moved. And it totally sucked before it moved, but that’s how it works when there’s that much.
So to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with any feeling or combination of feelings. Nothing at all! They’re all temporary, though, so let them pass and then interact with people. Then solve problems. Your life will change a lot if you do things this way. As you practice, the process will become much faster and more automatic, and you’ll gain more and more control of your emotions. It just won’t be as big a deal when they’re there. And if you look back and realize you were suppressing as you began this new way of living, that’s fine. This is all about repetition and practice. We get better with practice. And when you catch yourself suppressing, you’ll just bring what is being suppressed to presence and move on.