What Happens When We Hide Our Feelings
I've been told through all of the various personality tests and leadership courses that I've taken over the years that I'm a feelings-first, heart-forward kind of person.
For the most part, it's very true.
I try hard not to overthink things, mostly because I dread "paralysis by analysis." Also, I tend to be at my best when I'm feeling passionate about what I'm doing, and also feeling exhilarated by having to innovate in the face of challenges.
The story I've told myself for a very long time is that as a result of this "feelings-first" label, I'm the kind of person who leads from the heart, empathizes with others, and is sensitive, emotional (in a good way), and not afraid to be vulnerable.
But that's not the full story.
In fact, what I know about myself is that while I do live heart-forward, and vulnerable from time to time, the feelings that I choose to share aren't always the ones I'm actually feeling.
I've got to think that there are more than a few of you out there who resonate with this. You know what it's like to fear your true feelings, to push them down, and find substitutes that seem like a better fit for your public persona.
The problem with living this way is that repressed feelings tend to force their way out of us, and they do so in ways that are hard to control, and almost always in ways that leave us wondering if we really are who we think we are.
For example, you might be dealing with a lot of repressed sadness or grief, but because you don't want to be the kind of person that walks around feeling sad all the time, you shove that feeling down.
And then it erupts at some point as anger, compulsion, or self-loathing--spewing destruction all over the place.
I read a quote the other day that hit me like a ton of bricks:
Some of my feelings have been stored so long they have freezer burn.
Ouch. That line got me thinking how hard some of us will work to keep from feeling pain, or confusion, or a broken heart---even if it means causing damage to ourselves.
Anne Lamott once wrote about how her efforts to keep from feeling her true feelings caused her to create a bodyguard to keep them under control. She writes:
When you meet me, you are meeting my bodyguard... I realized that the bodyguard protects other people from me, from my saying what I honestly think about them and their decisions.
While that might seem well and good (who doesn't need a good filter now and again, right?), Lamott goes on to describe how her bodyguard does a number on her own spirit as well in the process:
But the bodyguard also protects me from me, both from seeing how damaged my mind is, how terrified and angry and shutdown, and from letting too much of my loveliness show.
In the end, even though we might be trying to keep our true feelings from wreaking havoc on others, trying to repress them all the time eventually wreaks havoc on our souls.
If you have been struggling with these things, maybe it's time for a reset. Maybe it's time to start learning to see yourself as God sees you---as loved, cherished, claimed, accepted... just as you are.
I John 3:1 tells us: How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!
We have nothing to fear from our feelings---God knows who we are, and what we are feeling, and loves us unconditionally, always, and no matter what. Live into the truth of this today and every day from this day.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.