I was with a group of business facilitators yesterday, and we were discussing how to best communicate to the participants of the workshop this message: it is ok to feel.

Many of us are afraid of our feelings, especially the ones we perceive to be uncomfortable, such as grief, anger, sadness, fear and rage.  We think if we open the proverbial Pandora’s Box, it will never close; that somehow we will ‘drown’ in our feelings and not be able to turn them off.  Really?  Has that happened to you before, ever?  Unlikely. 

When my late husband Nigel died, I cried more in the day than I didn’t, for about 2 months; not only did I cry, I screamed, wailed and ranted, expressing my anger at his death.  Deep down, I knew that expressing those feelings was imperative to getting through that excruciatingly difficult time.

Expressing your feelings is the most natural human response to pain.  Just take a look at children: when they hurt themselves or are unhappy about something, they don’t spend time rationalising with themselves and trying to get on with things as if nothing happened; they feel and express themselves!  And they don’t care who hears it.  As adults we have the social skills to vent at appropriate times and in appropriate places; I often have a rant in my car when I’m angry, if anyone sees me, they might just think I’m singing!  Children will cry until they’ve had enough, but as adults we turn the tap of feelings off before they’re fully out.

But here’s the rub: if you don’t allow yourself to fully feel your feelings, particularly the uncomfortable ones, it’s likely you won’t allow yourself to fully feel your other feelings too, such as joy, passion, energy and happiness.  The other day I got some really good news about work and spent at least five minutes leaping about my living room, yelping with joy shouting thank you, thank you, thank you as I felt deep gratitude for what had happened.  Sometimes I do think it’s a good thing I live alone!

If you give yourself permission to feel fully, your body knows exactly what to do.  You don’t need to think your feelings out, just allow them to flow through you.  They will pass; all you need to do is allow yourself to feel. 

So next time you feel upset or angry, resist diving for the tub of ice-cream, alcohol, sex, shopping, or any other coping mechanisms you might use, and just breathe; breathe deeply into whatever it is that you are feeling and give yourself permission to feel and express whatever it is that is there: cry, scream into a pillow, beat the mattress, have a tantrum; whatever it is you feel is ok.  Go ahead and allow your body to heal itself in its most natural way.