Until recently I was in the habit of thinking of my emotions as good or bad, right or wrong.
Honestly, despite all my years of spiritual practice and mindfulness training, I’ve continued to spend a lot of effort on trying to stay in the “good” feelings and release the “bad” ones. And while my life was steadily manifesting all the things on my vision board, I still wasn’t feeling happy. In fact, I noticed one morning that I wasn’t feeling much of anything at all.
It helps to put it in context.
For the last 1.5 years I’ve been grieving the loss of a relationship. It wasn’t a traditional marriage (and no, it wasn’t an affair) but it did span 35 years of my life, beginning at the tender age of 18. This man was my first love, and over the years I had built up a huge cache of hope that we would create a life and grow old together. But after giving it an earnest try, and even consulting with a therapist, we both had to admit that the romantic relationship between us wasn’t going to work.
Some relationship experts say that it takes one month of grieving a romantic relationship for every year that you’ve been together, while other experts say a year is enough. For me, it’s taken these 1.5 years to get past all the sadness and anger. Now I’m in the midst of something completely new — the first time in my entire adult life that I’ve been single for more than a few months. With singlehood has come a sort of identity crisis, and this peculiar numb feeling.
I guess it’s easier to notice the absence of feelings when most of the hours of the day I’m alone. Without other people in the mix I finally have more time to notice myself. As I spoke with one mentor about this void, I realized that I’d been imagining my feelings as shades of grey. In my mind, there was the white of happiness, the black of sadness, and then everything in-between, a sort of grey-ish no-man’s land.
I realized how extremely limiting that was. And furthermore, as a therapist in training myself, I realized that it was time for me to walk my talk and explore this thing of emotion more deeply. Because why did Spirit give us such a range of emotions if only one is “good”? That makes no sense.
And then it hit me — what if I stopped thinking of emotions as shades of grey — and instead embraced them as more of a rainbow?
If sadness, fear, and anger aren’t “bad” and joy, love, desire, and serenity aren’t “good”, then I was free — free to feel EVERYTHING that exists in my emotional spectrum. Free to simply be. Free to explore. And what better time to explore than during a phase in my life when I jokingly refer to my cat as my “furry boyfriend”?
You see, I’m what’s called an “ENFJ” personality type (See Meyers-Briggs personality typing for more information about this). This means that I value harmony above all else. And for me the way that manifests is that in the presence of others I value their comfort and well being above my own.
Yes, I’m well aware that many people would simply dismiss this as codependency. But it’s more than that. It’s a powerful desire to help others be happy and healed, a powerful urge to do good and make a difference in the world. But while I’ve learned to value this trait in myself, I also am realizing that it’s time to value MY feelings and to ride that rainbow.
So I made myself a little chart (I find charts and lists comforting), with the major emotions I could name, and what color I associated with each one. Yes, I know this is something they do in children’s books – let’s just say for the record that I never got that memo.
So without further ado, here is what my emotional rainbow looks like:
Red – Anger
Orange – Desire
Yellow – Joy
Green – Love
Blue – Sadness
Indigo – Fear
Violet – Serenity
What I noticed right away is that some of the “good” emotions are right next to “bad” emotions on my rainbow. This validates what the tantric masters say – all emotions are acceptable, and we can move between them in a heartbeat. But even more astounding, we can feel more than one thing at a time. What if I am both sad AND joyful? Then I’m mixing blue and yellow, which can turn into the green glow of love!
Just for now, I’ve stopped repressing the bad feelings, and instead I’m letting them roll right through me. Once I say “Hi there sadness”, it just waves at me and moves on along its dolorous way. And then another feeling comes to visit. Just like that, there’s a continual flow — and I am truly riding the rainbow.
All My Love,
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