So, I’m big enough to admit that I have non-healthy tendencies when it comes to feelings. As a kid, I “made” myself feel and act thrilled to do math when my real feelings fell more along the lines of “If I stick each of my fingers into the pencil sharpener, could I make it look like an accident?”
But I never wanted to admit how I really felt about, well, anything, really.
My siblings used this trait of mine to get out of things they had no desire to do. I remember one time, a couple of my siblings and I were driving to Buffalo with this family who offered to take us to see a big speaker. My siblings all sat in the very back of the van because they didn’t feel comfortable talking to the grandma, so they stuck me next to her. Being me, I acted like I was happy to take the hit and that I had a genuine interest in talking to her when what I really wanted was to hideout in the backseat with the rest of them and toss cheese puffs in grandma’s hair to see if she’d notice.
Long story short, I smiled and nodded politely for hours as grandma talked about how clouds look like low-calorie mashed potatoes.
As a young adult, I’ve either faked being in love (feeling guilty for not ACTUALLY being in love) or feigned complete disinterest and annoyance (feeling guilty for really being ridiculously and obsessively head-over-heels for a complete asshole). And when I don’t actually feel the way I want to feel, I try to MAKE myself feel that way, and I become unbearably frustrated with myself.
I’m about to tell y’all a story that I’ve never told anyone before… In college, I was totes goo-goo eyes for this one guy. We were good friends, but I always acted like the idea of dating was all “Ew, gross, cooties! Who wants that??” As a result, he started to drift, paying more attention to floozies who were ready to go for a quick humpity-hump in the dorm before heading to the cafeteria.
I wanted to spend time with him again, but I didn’t want HIM to know that. I had to keep my cool; because, after all, I “didn’t care.” I wanted him to chase after ME, not the other way around. I had this weird philosophy that love stories were supposed to be like Anne and Gilbert in Anne of Green Gables: the guy loves the girl from afar, even when she treats him like shit.
I’m not proud of it, but I made every flippin’, pathetic attempt to run into him… EVERYWHERE he went. I knew his work and class schedules better than my own. During his Spanish class, I knew the door was always left open, so I’d walk by every few minutes, acting like I just so happened to be in the same building… to go pee in the bathroom… on the third floor… every two minutes. I even followed him between classes and pretended to just be SO INTO whatever was on my wimpy retro tracfone, only to immediately turn around after he passed by and run across campus to the ACTUAL building where my class was taking place in 2 minutes…
Basically, I was trying to pretend I didn’t feel the way I felt and tried to force situations in which I thought I could MAKE him feel the way about me that I ACTUALLY felt about him…
You know, normal girl stuff… no big deal…
Spoiler alert: we didn’t end up together. (In case you couldn’t predict the ending.)
Whether it would have made any difference or not, in retrospect, I see now that I should have allowed myself to honestly feel what I felt. Sure, it would have hurt to be vulnerable and not have someone return my feelings, but it would have relieved the internal battle of denial I had going on inside my head day after day. It also would have helped me accept that I can’t FORCE anything happen, and that I don’t have to, which, as someone with OCD, lifts a major weight off my shoulders.
Instead of feeling guilty for actually liking the guy, I should have let myself feel, and acknowledge that my feelings were real. Feelings are all part of our bacon. Turning a blind eye to them is like throwing your bacon into the sewer. IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT, KAREN?? POOPY BACON??
Facing my feelings head-on probably would have helped me get over the guy a lot sooner, too.
How to Set Those Feelings Free
Everyone has the right to feel. Your feelings, even angry or bitter ones, are real, and you can’t control them. But you CAN respond to them, digest them, allow yourself to feel them, and then subsequently face the issue or situation accordingly.
If you’re feeling frustrated or guilty about any feelings you’re having, thinking you have to control them or force things to happen, here are some tips that I have personally found particularly helpful.
Write It All Down (And Be Honest)
Are you feeling so angry that you want to slap your cousin across the face with a fish? Write it down. So sad because your crush doesn’t like you that you pull out onions just to produce more tears after your tear ducts are dried out? Write it down. The key is to be very specific and brutally honest (even if you think it sounds creepy or insane).
Allow Yourself to REALLY Feel It
Be kind to yourself. Give yourself permission to feel whatever it is you’re feeling. You may not particularly enjoy the feelings you’re having, but ignoring or pretending not to have them at all is just going to give you a massive headache (or have you running across campus just to stalk some dude in Spanish class).
Meditate in Your Feelings
Once you’ve accepted how you feel, allow yourself to turn off the ole’ thinking tank and just FEEL, in complete silence. Focus on your breathing, but allow yourself to hold onto the feelings. If you need to cry, go ahead and cry your pretty bacon head out.
Sorry, I gotta say it: STRETCH OUT WITH YOUR FEELINGS, YOUNG SKYWALKER.
(Phew, glad I got that off my chest.)
Thank Yourself For Your Feelings
Yup. For reals. Because your feelings, no matter how dark, ugly, or irritating, help make up your bacon. You feel them for a reason. Thank your bacon for your heartbreak. Thank it for your fantasies about stabbing your Uncle Billy with a fork. Thank it for the grieving period after your sister snagged the last strip of (literal) bacon at breakfast.
Thank it hard. Appreciate your bacon for giving you these feelings, as they are what make us human.
Give Yourself Permission to Let Go of Control
With my OCD, whenever I have feelings I would really rather, you know, NOT have, I go into obsessive overdrive, thinking I have to fix or control the cause of the feelings to make them stop or to change them. (Cue the Anti-Bacon.) Taking a moment to say to myself very directly that I don’t need to do that, that some things are out of my control and that’s okay, gives me major relief. I may not like it at first, but the more I give myself permission to let go of that control, my head feels a helluva lot lighter.
Write Down the Best Way to Respond to Your Feelings
You probably shouldn’t actually slap your cousin with a fish, so once you’re honest with yourself about your feelings, you should think about the best way for your bacon to respond. If you’re angry with someone, should you (kindly and calmly) tell them how they make you feel? Would forgiving someone once you’ve felt the pain from a past trauma help you move forward? Could talking about your feelings with a therapist help? Write out all the small but significant responses to your feelings. You may find that a particular feeling doesn’t necessarily require a response, other than acknowledging that you have it and feeling through it until it passes.
Just as important: write out the ways that you WANT to impulsively respond, but probably shouldn’t. For example, during my dark stalker days, in my impulsive “need” to make the dude like me without actually saying that I liked him, I would post passive aggressive Facebook posts, trying to get a reaction out of HIM without directly calling him out. But I always regretted the silly post the second after I posted it. So get it all out of your system in your journal. You’ll thank me later.
As icky, annoying, disruptive, or depressing as they may be, feelings are an inevitable part of being human. Don’t be ashamed of them. Respect your bacon by allowing those feelings, appreciating them, and letting them go once they no longer serve you. When you do that, you will be a force to be reckoned with.
May the Force be with you. (Sorry, last one.)