I’m going to be honest here: for me this article is a manifesto inspired by personal therapy (yes, I have a therapist, too). A manifesto about legitimising one’s feelings and accepting all sides of one’s personality.
Probably like many others, I tend to use rationalisation as a defence mechanism. To put it simply: sometimes I think instead of feeling.
What is the source of this defence? As a therapist, I can answer that it comes from our childhood. When we fall from our bike and graze our knee, and the pain and the indignity of it fill our eyes with tears, there is bound to be a wise adult who says: ‘Are you crying for this, a mere scratch?’ Or when at the ripe age of twelve we suddenly begin to be afraid of the dark, and our parents declare, bemused: ‘Why, don‘t you know that there is no-one there? Who could it possibly be?’ Or when we’ve ruined our favourite dress, and Granny says sagely: ‘No use crying over spilled milk’. Haven’t we all had such incidents in our childhoods, when the adults told us authoritatively that our feelings were not rational?
Years have gone by, and now this voice lives inside us, too. It follows closely our every move and makes sure that we don’t start wailing for nothing, or have ridiculous fears, or get up to any such nonsense. And ever since the voice has taken root inside us, these feelings haven’t been given any acknowledgement – they were ignored as if they’ve never existed. Problem solved, you’d think – but wait! We might do our best to rationalise and to ignore our feelings, but they are still there. Only now they result in a different kind of symptoms, starting with psychosomatic complaints and ending with chronic guilt and hypertrophied responsibility. Deep inside we still know that the feelings are there, even if we believe them irrational. So it must be our own fault, we conclude. Instead of behaving like adults, we still stick to this childish nonsense.
So here comes my manifesto for the adults who have pushed their feelings deep inside:
– You may understand that there is nobody behind that door, and still be afraid.
– You may know that you have switched off the oven, and still want to check once more.
– You may know that your joy won’t last, and still feel glad.
– You may know that your husband, children, and friends are nearby, and still feel lonely sometimes.
– You may understand that your girlfriend is late for the date through no fault of her own, and still feel cross with her.
– You may know that the separation will be short, and still miss the other person awfully.
– You may know that changes are for the best, and yet feel sad.
– You may think that there is no reason for rejoicing, and still feel happy.
– You may love your parents very much, and still be upset with them occasionally.
– You may feel all your feelings, even if they seem irrational.
This is not silly. This is not weird. This is perfectly natural.
What matters is to figure out what exactly you are feeling, what you are thinking and understanding, and what you are going to do with all of this. Accepting your feelings doesn’t equal abandoning yourself to them. It doesn’t mean you have to yell at your girlfriend, hide under the duvet, or spend the rest of your life in tears. Just don’t be afraid to look inside you and to admit: ‘Yes, this may not be logical, but this is how I feel’. It is all part of who we are.