The Right to Feel

Approaching Your Experience with Acceptance and Compassion

"I have a right to every feeling that I experience.”


What would look or feel different about your life if you could internalize this belief? What happens in your body when you repeat this phrase out loud or inside your mind? Some may feel calm and peaceful, while for others, this suggestion sparks fear and anxiety.  


Most of us have an internal critic that stops us from offering ourselves unconditional acceptance and comfort. This critic may want to make sure that we take ownership of our actions, or may want to help us avoid being like people who have hurt us in the past, people who lacked self-awareness and accountability. We may also fear that we are “bad” and feel the need to stay on high alert to catch any “badness” that bubbles up or sneaks through. All of these tendencies can stop us from accepting our feelings. 


Yet, however we respond to them, our feelings are what they are. They are emotional reactions that manifest as physical sensation in the body. They are not judgements or condemnations, nor are they expressions of who we are at our core. You are not wrong for having a feeling any more than you would be wrong for feeling pain when you stub your toe.


Most often, it is not our feelings themselves that create the most pain, but our reactions to those sensations. Because they are uncomfortable, and because we are socialized to believe they are bad, we condemn, distract, and try to fix or change the way we feel when hard feelings come up. We may also blame others and outwardly project what we feel in an effort to place the discomfort elsewhere.


Accepting what we feel doesn’t mean that we green-light any and all reactions to our feelings. It simply means that we receive what comes without judgement and allow it to be. When we take a compassionate stance toward our feelings without trying to fix or numb them, this unconditional acceptance actually allows us to move on more quickly. This is because the parts of us that were in pain feel seen, accepted, and validated. It may help to imagine your feelings as little ones inside of you that need your attention. When we treat our feelings with acceptance and compassion, we also avoid latching on to them or over-identifying with them. From this place, we are able to interact with others with more understanding, empathy, and love.


Today, experiment with greeting your emotions with acceptance and empathy. Do not try to change them, judge them, figure them out, or make them go away. Treat your feelings as you would a beloved child, and notice if your thoughts, actions, and subsequent feelings feel different as a result. The love that you offer to yourself is a powerful force.

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