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“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.” ― Helen Keller

“The emotion that can break your heart is sometimes the very one that heals it…” ― Nicholas Sparks, At First Sight

Many times for addicts or entrepreneurs our minds are racing 100 miles per hour. Many struggle to turn their minds off to go to sleep at night. For them, it is difficult to sit with their own feelings. Some medicate with substances or relationships. Others learn to use activities and actions to numb themselves when they feel uneasy. 

Many suffer from emotional intoxication. Flooded with intense feelings from the demands of every day—numbing out with a cocktail of experience becomes patterned behavior to avoid intense fear of emptiness, loneliness, and abandonment. 

Some people learned to live this way at such a young age they don’t even recognize their pattern of avoidance. Though successful in many life pursuits, they are unaware of what they feel because they have never been taught to recognize and express feelings. Essentially, there is a certain numbness experienced in their everyday life. They know fear and they know excitement and race toward one in an attempt to avoid the other. 

Why is it important to recognize what you feel? Emotions play a vital role in cultivating mental health. Recognizing how you feel is necessary to meet needs in your life. Toddlers are ill-equipped to meet their own needs. They need someone to wipe their runny noses, change their dirty diapers, or put them down for an afternoon nap when even though they protest. They need a wise-mind adult to teach them these life skills throughout childhood. 

However, it is common for a wise-mind parent to miss teaching a child to recognize and express important feelings because no one taught the importance of emotional expression to the adult parent. So they are unable to role model or give instruction for what they do not know. Feelings recognition is the window to healthy emotional self-care. 

If it is common for addicts or entrepreneurs to numb themselves from their feelings, what can be done to embrace feelings with healthy responses?

1. Practice sitting with your feelings and let it be OK. Much easier said than done. Meditation can be helpful. At first, your mind will race to a hundred different thoughts, things to do, people to see, etc. That’s ok! Just sift through it all by sitting still and noticing and allowing it all to be there. In time, you will slowly begin to recognize a feeling or two. Sometimes, feelings will flood your awareness with overwhelming alarm. Resist the urge to obsess about problem-solving and remain observing what those feelings are. Not easily, but simply sit and notice what you feel. This is an essential step. 

2. Become Vulnerable. It is difficult to admit that you are needy. Vulnerability feels raw and naked. Many addicts or entrepreneurs learned early in life that it was not safe or was useless to ask for a need to be met emotionally. They knew no one would be there to meet their need. They learned that caregivers and others would be untrustworthy to meet those emotional needs. So they learned to numb the feelings and therefore the need. They learned to live wantless and needless. Yet, without knowing and having emotional needs met, they never learn to fulfill their true selves. They practice doing rather than authentic being. The solution to this dilemma is to embrace vulnerability. 

3. Learn to upset the apple cart. Give yourself permission to feel whatever you feel when you feel it. There is no one right way to feel about something or situation. Allow yourself to be who you are. Recognize the role you played in your family of origin. Identify roles that you were assigned (hero, rescuer, scapegoat, lost child, black sheep). Trace ways in which you play those roles out in your adult environment. Roles are fine if you get to choose them. Assess the roles you play professionally and personally. Upset the apple cart when the role you play is not true to the person you are. Challenging yourself to be true to yourself and what you feel will require courage to go against the grain of other’s expectations of you. Upset the apple cart anyway.

4. Learn to feel your emotions without letting them control your behavior. You can learn to embrace sadness and attend the party anyway. To embrace one feeling does not mean you cannot have other feelings on other occasions. Learning to smile and celebrate when your heart is broken does not mean you are disconnected if you allow yourself space to feel all of your emotions. You can be pissed without it dominating your behavior. Learning to embrace your emotions requires adult management skills. You must know and express your feelings unedited in dedicated places and move the emotional energy expressed from the person to principle that was violated to a positive declaration that formulates self-care.

Cultivate authentic spirituality by cultivating an open heart. Embracing your emotional reality requires brave honesty and a willingness to sit with whatever feeling is present with no minimization. For me, core spirituality is anchored to connecting with what you feel. Once you recognize what you feel, you can practice navigating how to resource your legitimate need in a healthy way. It might be asking for help from a partner, friend, God, or Higher Power or Higher Self. It might be asking for help from all of the above. Open-hearted living is key to feeling recognition and spiritual connection.