Love, Health & Happiness: Got Health?
Feeling healthy? You should be but only if you’re doing some healthy feeling. HUH?!? At this time of year, it’s “healthy” for your love to overflow…lots of good feelings, giving and receiving and…oh, my, get your mind out of the gutter!!
No, seriously, the holidays tend to be a time when we are feeling joyful because we are celebrating with family and friends, we have some time off (usually) from work to relax and/or, just maybe, we are snuggled up with love. It is also healthy to feel some mixed emotions with one year leaving and another arriving to take its place. This holiday, let yourself feel the range of your emotions this holiday without filtering or apologizing. Take a moment to acknowledge the way you feel, and just feel…what it means in your mind and your body. Now, I’m not telling you to allow your actions to be controlled by your emotions, be the stereotype and, let’s say, go off on your boss like you’ve always wanted to…or immediately jump the bones of that person you’ve had a crush on. I’m asking you, for just a moment, to stand in your emotion, whichever emotion it is, claim it, know it and FEEL it – don’t just push your feelings (especially, as we Black folks have been taught, your painful feelings) aside.
We have so much to learn about ourselves from the way we feel. To be emotionally healthy, we must be willing to embrace our feelings (all of our feelings) as a unique part of ourselves. Our feelings are a perfect reflection of who we are and the product of our experience. When we claim our feelings, we claim ourselves. Of course, painful emotions (fear, grief, despair) are the hardest to embrace; emotions like love, joy and inspiration, much easier. And, typically, if you feel one end of the spectrum (for example, love) deeply, you will feel the other (e.g. grief) as deeply. This range of feelings is a reminder that we are beautifully and perfectly human. And, both extremes have a great deal to teach us about what we respond and react to, what we are sensitive about and how we can move forward and grow.
A wise psychiatrist friend of mine told me she overheard her 13-year old son praise her to a friend of his, saying that he loved his mom because she always allowed herself to express her feelings and never apologized for it. When she told me how touched she was by that story, I was inspired. As you can imagine, the mother of the boy who would make such an enlightened statement is a wonderful mother. As a living, breathing, feeling human being, like the rest of us, she goes through a lot from day to day, week to week and moment to moment. At the same time, as a psychiatrist, she has developed an awareness and ability to healthfully experience her emotions for growth.
In that same vein, another friend of mine told me recently that, when working with her therapist on the anxiety she was experiencing around her job and her son’s illness, her therapist suggested that she really allow herself to feel that anxiety. In that, her therapist told her she would be better able to channel the emotion and act positively if she was not afraid of the feeling, and subduing or denying it.
I know for some of you – some men especially – this sounds pretty touchy-feely and you’re not quite sure what to make of it. At first, I was having trouble writing this because I didn’t want to come off too New Age-y. But, the more I thought about the opportunity and potential in the Black community and for Black love that can come from through acknowledging, affirming and re-channeling our emotions, the words (and emotions ;-)) just poured out of me. Our history teaches us to deny the power of our emotions because of the fear of the crippling pain that has resulted in the past. At the same time, one of the most important parts of being healthy and human is to feel. AND one of the most beautiful emotions we can feel is love. AND our entire range of emotions is our reminder and reflection that we are human, can be vulnerable and literally and figuratively have a heart. By healthy feeling, we reaffirm our health, our heart and our shared humanity…so, let’s start really feeling healthy, y’all!