Maybe you have to know darkness in order to appreciate the light. ~Madeline L’Engle
By: Jessica Mahler
Somewhere in the story of our lives we decided that the only emotions worth feeling are the ones we deemed good: the ones that make us feel happy, loved, full of joy. We decided that they’re the only ones we want to feel because the ones that don’t feel as light or uplifting like to pin us down and we have no idea how long we’ll be there.
And I get it. We don’t like to feel the emotions that seem to drag us into darkness because they overwhelm us with their all-consuming force. It feels foreign—and scary—to be overtaken by such raw, intense sensations, so we do everything we can to pull ourselves out of it: We deny their existence, push through their hold to keep living as though nothing has shifted, reach for alcohol and drugs to numb the pain.
We tell ourselves that we shouldn’t have to feel this way, that it’s not fair that others are happily going about our lives, that we can ward off the darkness. So we do everything we can to hold the feelings back, stuffing them deep down inside ourselves, ignoring their existence and continue to move on as if everything is okay. And we keep holding them back and stuffing them down.
The law of physics states that energy can neither be created or destroyed, but it can change form. So that pain from your last breakup or the loss of a loved one, those feelings that felt too big and bottomless to feel that you decided you didn’t want to deal with anymore, they don’t just disappear because you don’t want to deal with them. When we hold them back and push them down, they have to go somewhere, so they find pockets in our body to make homes in, creating tightness in certain areas, tenderness in others.
They’re just lying in wait to be freed from the prisons we’ve banished them to. They want us to let go of them, the energy wants to move. Sometimes we experience emotional release in yoga (raise your hand if you felt intense anger or cried through Pigeon Pose), or something innocuous happens that hits us just so and opens the floodgates and we lose it over something insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
Here’s the thing: Our emotions are ours to feel. If we weren’t meant to feel them, we wouldn’t. Each emotion that runs through our body has something really important to tell us about ourselves, a piece of information that will help us grow stronger + live our lives more fully. It’s up to us to feel them within us + decipher their meaning.
And if we didn’t sometimes feel shitty, how would we even know what happiness felt like? There would be no barometer to understand what feels really great in comparison to those hard times. We’d be living a monotonous life if everything was just so gosh darn lovely and happy all the time. That shitty thing that happened to you last week, last year, 10 years ago happened so that you know what that emotion feels like—and to better appreciate when things are going really awesome. Things just wouldn’t feel so unbelievably fucking good if you had no idea what it felt like to feel so unbelievably fucking shitty. Ya know?
So let yourself be present for those dark moments. It takes so much more energy to hold things back then it does to let them go, so surrender to the waves. Let them wash over you and under you and through you. Resist holding back so that you can be present for all the wisdom your feelings are trying to bestow upon you and what it feels like to release things in the moment.