Have you ever felt that you were not allowed to feel the emotions you were feeling? Maybe someone encouraged you to push your feelings down or told you not to acknowledge them. Maybe you just found them too big or too painful and tried not to feel them. Whatever it was, you have probably found out that emotions that are suppressed have a habit of coming out in less helpful ways. But when we are allowed to go through and come out the other side, we are able to do this in a healthy way.

It’s almost like when you lose a sneeze. You don’t feel finished. Well, feelings, especially big, deep feelings, are like that. If you don’t actually go into them, feel them, explore them, then they never really finish. Grief and anger are two major examples of this. They can feel too big, and because they aren’t nice emotions to have, we aren’t inclined to spend time feeling them if we can avoid it.

It makes sense that we should want these emotions to go away, just as we don’t want to feel physical pain on purpose. But both kinds of pain are there for a reason. They tell us that something is broken and needs to heal. If you cover up the pain and then start putting your full weight on a broken leg, you’ll slow down the healing process and make it worse. Same goes for emotional pain.

When you were a child, did you ever tell a grownup you were cold or tired and have them you that you couldn’t possibly be? How did that make you feel? In some small way, you expressed something of yourself, something only you could know for sure, and you were told that you were wrong about how you felt.

But your emotions are something that nobody else can actually ever know or feel or understand. They are what is going on inside you, and they are different from what is going on inside the person next to you, even if they are your adjoined twin who has experienced absolutely everything you have.

Even if you’re a very fact-based person, logical and precise, it’s been observed that you analyse the data, weigh up the pros and cons, and decide how you feel about the facts. Your emotions are real, and they change how you behave. They are part of the picture, if you feel tired or angry or upset or nervous them just your decisions won’t always determine your actions. Wishing they would go away isn’t going to work, so we have to take the time to sit with our emotions and see what’s happening in us, then find ways of working with or around them. Mostly, we need to learn to feel them.