Feeling Feelings

Taking the Risk, mixed media collage by Courtney Putnam

I’ve recently acquired a lovely little book called Meditations for People Who (May) Worry Too Much by Anne Wilson Schaef.  In her chapter called “Feeling Feelings,” Schaef writes, “There are no such things as ‘negative feelings.’ It is what we do with feelings that makes them positive or negative.”

When I first read that line, a part of myself screeched, “No way! Are you kidding?! Are the panic attacks I endured for close to two years emotionally neutral?  No, they were horrible, terrible, negative!”

Then I felt myself slowly calm down inside as I read further: “I wonder what would happen if we just stuck with anxiety? Anxiety is a feeling and, in general, I have come to believe that feelings are our friends. Feelings let us know where we are in time and space and often are the only clues we really have about who and where we are.”

Indeed, my two years of consistent and often debilitating panic attacks did give me feedback regarding where I was in time and space. And, truly, my anxiety did become a friend — a sometimes unwanted friend, but a friend that acted as a mirror for me.

Sometimes anxiety told me to crawl back into bed, sometimes anxiety told me to run to prove to myself that I wouldn’t die, sometimes anxiety taught me how to breathe when my body wouldn’t.  How strange to think that the very thing causing my lack of breath was also teaching me how to breathe. The very anxiety that would make me dizzy and paralyzed also taught me how to move, to find groundedness, and to face my fear of falling into an abyss.  Yes, Ms. Schaef, Ms. Anxiety Pants was my teacher — and continues to be.

What feeling in your life do you view as “negative”?  If you were to take another look, a more broad and expansive view of this emotion, what else do you see there?  Is there anything that this feeling has taught you?  How might you see yourself more clearly because of this “negative feeling”?  What if you made friends with your feeling? What if?


About Courtney Putnam

I first came to healing work through art and writing. Creating collage art and poetry in particular allowed me to deeply understand the benefit of self-expression in the healing process. But, I also began to see the benefit of bodywork (manual work in the form of massage and energywork in the form of Reiki) as keys to unlocking the emotional stresses we hold in our bodies. I became a Reiki practitioner in 2002, received an MFA in Creative Writing in 2003, received my massage license in the spring of 2006, and became a Reiki Master in 2010. In my practice I bring together these three areas -- the body, the mind, and the spirit (or energy body) -- so others may experience profound and positive change in their lives.
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