Don’t drink at the water’s edge, throw yourself in.
Become the water.
Only then will your thirst be quenched.
– Jeanette Berson
Sometimes we throw ourselves into the metaphorical water and get in over our heads, drowning in failure or loss. Sometimes, even from the water’s edge, circumstances beyond our control wreak havoc in our lives.
When faced with feelings of mistreatment, rejection, or loss, I’ve usually soldiered on.
With a kid care for and a business to run, who has time to lash out in anger or curl up and cry? I’ve sometimes done the same for big wins too, moving on quickly without celebration.
Can you relate? Have you done this in your life? What about in your leadership?
Sadly, when we soldier on, our feelings don’t magically dissolve. This happens instead:
We repress a feeling→ our feeling hardens into a mood→ our anger becomes bitterness/our fear becomes anxiety/our sadness becomes apathy→ our beliefs about the world change without us realizing it (i.e. people are not trustworthy)→ we start living our lives according to our new (hidden) belief(s).
It doesn’t have to be this way. There’s another path. It’s may seem completely foreign to most of you, as it did to me. This new path calls us to feel our feelings all the way through.
The next time something “bad” happens, take this path instead. Don’t forget to try it when you feel joyous too:
- Name the feeling: As soon as you catch yourself thinking about your situation, ask “What am I feeling right now?” Anger, Fear, Sadness, Joy, Creative Feelings? Don’t ask why you feel this way. Simply notice and name the feeling.
- Locate the feeling in your body: My chest feels tight. There’s a lump in my throat. My heart is racing. My face is hot etc.
- Breathe and allow the feeling: Instead of pushing it away, breathe in the feeling and appreciate yourself for being able to feel sensations and stay with them.
- Move and make sounds: Get your body into the shape of the feeling. Maybe it’s fists up ready to fight, hunched over in grief or jumping up and down in excitement. Now make whatever sound the feeling would make. Growl in anger. Cry in despair. Scream in delight. This part might feel the strangest; this is also the step that cannot be skipped in order to feel your feelings.
The good news is that most feelings last 90 seconds at most as they move through the body. Of course, they may occur wave after wave and keep happening until they are felt and released.
As I learn to feel my feelings all the way through, I realize I won’t be insulated from future hurts. But I will have the courage to throw myself in the water again and know that I can feel my way through whatever comes my way in life or leadership.
After all, who wants to live life (or lead) drinking only from the water’s edge?