The Ponder Effect | What do we do with painful feelings?
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What do we do with
painful feelings?

I want us to build on a shared idea from last week. More than one person wrote that they wanted to feel all of it. Inspired, connected, free, peaceful, productive—yes—but also bored, exhausted, sad.

Why? Why might we seek to feel all of it, the “good” and the “bad”? Why would we willfully sit in boredom? Sink into our exhaustion? Even abide in the very sorrow, anger, and anxiety that hurt us? The answer, I think, lies in a desire for wholeness: a desire to experience the fullness of what it means to be human, both that which lifts us up and that which brings us down.

And yet, even as we desire fullness, we often numb ourselves to those hard feelings. We deny them outright. Or we dump them onto others around us in an attempt to rid ourselves of them. We may try to tidy our hearts, briskly sweeping our sadness under the sofa. Drink or eat our way out of fear. Turn on Netflix. Postpone dealing with that for another day. What happens to feelings that aren’t given air? Over time, do they rot us from the inside out?

What happens, instead, when we feel them fully?

If I want, ultimately, to feel at peace, is any anxiety I experience a failure on my part, or is it merely an inevitable part of the journey, something I must witness and explore in order to let it go? This sounds good, but who wants to weep when instead we can self-medicate with instagram and ice cream.

Where are you in this? Do you want to feel all of it this year, by which we mean—of course—this month, this week, this very day? How would you benefit from letting yourself embrace the painful emotions inside you? How might doing so endanger you? Are there people or practices that could help you as you go along?

Last week, a fellow ponderer resolved to “feel each emotion as it arises” and also to “run every decision through the lens of my desired emotions.” What about you?

Share your thoughts [All posts are 100% anonymous]

9 Ponderings
  • Anonymous

    January 14, 2019 at 1:14 pm

    Lean in. Feel them fully. Hold your fear in the sweet embrace of your chest. The only way is through, and the freedom on the other side is extraordinary.

  • Anonymous

    January 15, 2019 at 7:25 am

    I am reading the Psalms each morning, and a verse from Psalm 4 struck me in the way it relates to this question. It advises us simply to “Be angry, but sin not.” It then goes on to say, “Commune with your own hearts, and be silent.” That seems a reasonable approach for what to do with painful feelings.

  • Anonymous

    January 16, 2019 at 6:41 pm

    Talk about them. We have to talk about them.

  • Anonymous

    January 16, 2019 at 6:45 pm

    I agree with the person who wrote that we need to talk about the painful feelings. I had a meltdown a couple months ago, and I took to my bed. I knew that even as I was hiding, I was also waiting to be found. When my husband found me, I was able to share what I was experiencing and begin to cope. Sometimes it’s him. Sometimes it’s friends. Sometimes it’s a professional, but talking through what I am feeling is vitally helpful for me in just processing it and then in starting to heal.

  • Anonymous

    January 17, 2019 at 6:29 am

    What a beautiful idea and sentiment to wake up to today. I thank you for these thoughts. This gray weather, also mourning loss, it is difficult to look at beauty around you for inspiration and general feeling lightness. Setting up my home and wearing clothes to promote “cozy” is all I’ve got. I’m going to turn to these psalms as well.

  • Anonymous

    January 17, 2019 at 9:03 am

    Holding in painful feelings seems to be my instinct, but on the occasion I’ve actually been brave enough to share them, in that vulnerability I’ve found deeper connections with friends, family members and my spouse. Sharing the painful feelings leads me to feel better understood, too, and even if the person I’ve shared with can’t change whatever has caused the pain, there is real comfort in being seen.

  • Anonymous

    January 17, 2019 at 11:41 am

    I have found that I need to take all pain and all joy to God.

  • Anonymous

    January 17, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    My therapist once said that there is no such emotion as anxiety. She said that there are only five emotions – happy, sad, scared, ashamed, mad. And that anxiety is what we feel we we haven’t identified and sat with – and maybe through, but especially with – the actual emotion that we are feeling. I feel anxiety in every bone of my body when I feel it, and in my stomach, and in my head, and in my breathing. And I tend to equate anxiety only with fear. And I let myself just feel the fear. But a lot of times, I’m not just afraid, I’m mad, and sad, and maybe also ashamed. If I take the time to name those feelings, to sit with them, I don’t necessarily feel better. At least not right away. And I don’t really like feeling bad. So…I guess I’m not really sure…but I do think naming what I’m actually feeling is probably not a bad start to feeling better….

  • Anonymous

    January 18, 2019 at 10:04 am

    I believe emotions are in a very deep way intrinsic to our humanity. We are created in God’s image who is emotional as well (can be pleased, displeased, grieved, wepted…) I am encouraged to journey through a painful experience -once on the other side I see God’s hand and His provisions, I feel my soul deepening in awareness and contentment, my faith is increased.
    Journeying through it at times has been extremely short or excruciating lengthy, in both I credit God and His plan or method to draw me nearer and develop fruit within my soul. I think back on when I journeyed well or not so well and can see a consistency or inconsistency of my focus and intentionality of obedience. Focusing my mind actions and thoughts on gratitude (even for the issue and person(s) that caused the pain) and directing my mind, actions and thoughts to “where from Here Lord?”
    I know God affirms me in this and directs me from Vengeance, to a place of Peace seeking with others. My pain often reminds me My heart is not yet healed-but it will come, press on. I love Elizabeth Elliot’s explanation of this journey (paraphrased)”grieve the loss for “5 minutes” and then lift it to God and ask what do you want me to do with this”. So I weep and process What Happened Here?! then adjust my mind to embrace and seek God’s power to journey on.
    He is faithful even when I fail in this. In my earthly mind I want this life to be without pain. But I keep getting reminded that Jesus said “in this world you will have trouble…” he is the balm