“In order to move on, you must understand why you felt what you did and why you no longer need to feel it.” -Mitch Albom
It was almost a year ago that I got word that my book, Sex that Works, was accepted for publication by Sounds True. Initially, I had offered that the subtitle of the book should be Learning to Feel, which instead became the introduction. It could have been the entire book, because no matter what aspect of our life we ponder- whether we are thinking about work, family, or our social or intimate life- what we refuse to feel keeps us separate from what we know to be true and affects how we can connect.
For me, the new year brought with it a tumult of change, loss, and grief. Working to stay with my current heartbreaking moment is teaching me all over again why it is so hard to move towards our feeling life and also why it is so important. Each time we come to what feels like a breaking point, all the heartache that came before shows up too. And, although it doesn’t feel like getting stronger to me as I cry out the pain that has been accumulating for decades, each day that I manage to stay with it, I know that something is changing in me.
The power of my grief is visceral, and in recent days it feels almost like I am getting the flu. The only place that feels safe is my bed. But, as hard as it has been to hold onto myself through my flood of tears, I know it is better than the hardening that happens when I try to not feel my pain. And slowly, little by little, the more I feel it- the more I let the heartache have the space it needs to be heard and move through me- the more it lifts a little each day. So, here is a little excerpt from Sex That Works about Learning to Feel, and a few questions about what feelings are waiting inside of you for you to experience.
My goal is to make this Making Love Sustainable space an interactive thought playground where we can practice feeling together. Please stay in touch and know that you are supported by the whole community as you dive into a more feeling life…
Maybe it’s no wonder we avoid feeling; learning to feel isn’t easy. Feelings are like weather patterns: they are changeable and powerful, and if they reflect the nature of the moment, they can also distract and even frighten us with their intensity. Small children are frequently shaken by the power of their feelings. When was the last time you witnessed a temper tantrum in the grocery store, a giant storm raging inside a little body? What happened when your feelings were too big to hold when you were a child? What could happen if you let yourself experience those feelings now?
…Our ability to experience and share our feelings in meaningful ways is one of the profound marks of our humanity. Our feelings, as my friend recognized, are what make us human. One thing that I have learned is that without a capacity to feel, we cannot build or sustain intimate relationships.
The truth is, the only way to true presence in our lives is through our bodies. This is the lesson I’ve learned. When we reach that place of true presence, everything, including sex, becomes vivid and interesting. But being truly present also means we continually risk feeling pain...
…We can’t selectively numb ourselves only to the unpleasant feelings. When we choose the route of avoidance and addiction, we end up numbing ourselves to all of our feelings, including the desirable ones. For too many people—millions, actually—a satisfying erotic experience is often inaccessible because they have abandoned their capacity to feel.
So, I pose these questions to you: What feelings are most frightening for you to feel? Where do your unresolved feelings live in your body? What happens when you feel like your feelings are getting out of your control? How do you stay with yourself when you are overcome by feelings?
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your thoughts-- I'd love to hear from you.