Anytime we deny our feelings we set ourselves up for a victim perspective. Feelings are real. They are “energy-in-motion.” When we discount or undermine our emotions we end up overtaken by them, becoming impulsive reactors. We can’t take responsibility for ourselves when we refuse to acknowledge our feelings, which means that these disavowed “inner tyrants” will go on driving our behavior from behind the scenes.
Although it is true that our feelings are generated by what we believe, feelings are nonetheless important. They alert us when we are thinking unhappy thoughts; feeling “bad,” for instance, lets us know we are thinking a most unhappy, possibly distorted, belief. Instead of denying the feeling, we learn to follow the feeling in to the belief behind it. This is where true intervention is possible. The feeling dissipates once the belief behind it is made conscious and addressed. We learn to recognize that our feelings are what point us to the limiting beliefs that are keeping us stuck on the triangle.
Parents who never learned that feelings follow thought and who grew up without permission to acknowledge or express feelings often deny their children the same right. They may have decided early in life that certain feelings are wrong or bad, so they deny and repress them without examining the ruling thoughts behind the feelings.
Telling ourselves that our feelings are unacceptable does not make them go away. As long as we continue to attach belief to painful stories about ourselves and others we will go on generating these same negative feelings. When suppressed, these denied emotions become secret pockets of shame within the psyche. They only serve to alienate us from others and sentence us to a life on the triangle.
Sometimes we deny feelings in an ill-fated attempt to avoid feeling bad. Perhaps we tell ourselves that we can’t handle our feelings, that they are too much for us. We may think we are at the mercy of our own misery because we don’t know from where these feelings come or what to do with, or about them. Maybe it is better to stay away from these messy inner states under such circumstances.
But when we know that it’s our thoughts that produce painful feelings; that indeed our unhappy feelings act as gateways into greater understanding of ourselves — then we no longer have the need to suppress uncomfortable feelings. Until we are able recognize and grasp the implications of these simple truths however, we may go on trying to escape pain using various suppression tactics. These attempts at avoidance only keep us stuck with dysfunctional behaviour patterns where the guaranteed outcome is suffering and misery. Getting honest with yourself is the basic requirement for getting unstuck from dysfunctional patterns of behaviour.
Of course, when feelings are denied, honesty is impossible. Remember that denial comes out of negative self judgment. If we have decided on some level that we cannot accept our thoughts, behavior or feelings then, chances are, we will not be able to admit we have them. It’s too painful to admit something about ourselves that we have judged as unacceptable. We must practice self acceptance if we are truly going to be able to be honest with ourselves and others.