feelings8At St. Joseph Institute, we teach the four components of the True Self: feelings, reasoning mind, intuitive mind, and will. A genuine connection with our True Self creates the basis for intimacy, the practice of getting to know others and allowing them to know you. In a series of four posts, we will discuss each component of the True Self and how each fosters or hinders intimacy.

Feelings, or emotions, are the first component of the True Self. All feelings—no matter how “good” or “bad” they seem—are healthy IF they are acknowledged and used to direct us toward, rather than away from, relationship. Feelings guide our actions. Used properly, feelings can enhance intimacy by motivating us to connect and share with others.

When negative emotions rise up, they can impair intimacy; they can make us imagine an unbridgeable distance between ourselves and others. When we get stuck in these unhealthy feelings for too long, they affect our relationships in several ways.

  • Fear can prevent us from engaging in a relationship or cause us to exert too much control in a relationship
  • Bitterness and resentment can cause us to be suspicious of others, judging them unfairly
  • Anger can foster intimidation and prevent others from getting close to us
  • Guilt or shame can cause us to hide ourselves from others

When we sit in fear, bitterness, anger, or guilt, we will surely find intimacy difficult if not impossible. At this point, it may seem healthier to rid ourselves of emotion altogether; unfortunately, this drive to stop feeling is what leads to addiction. Addiction is an effective escape plan, and recovery leaves us exposed to that undertow of emotions that can so easily pull us in and drown us.

The good news is that the cycle of unhealthy emotions can be broken and that healing can occur. It’s hard work. It may require professional help. It will probably make you feel worse before it makes you feel better. But it will be worth the effort. Why? Because in the end we will see that there are only two feelings: fear and love. Fear leads to separation. Love leads to connection. No matter what we feel, we can use it to separate or to connect.

When we choose to connect with others, we do the following:

  • Identify their needs and our needs
  • Provide guidance, security, and protection
  • Share thoughts, feelings, and experiences
  • Give support and encouragement
  • Challenge things that seem unhealthy or unproductive
  • Respect healthy boundaries
  • Offer forgiveness
  • Help each other stay engaged during difficult times and trying issues
  • Work together to get a good outcome

No matter your emotional history, you can choose at any time to use any feelings to connect rather than to separate. Value your feelings, acknowledge them, and choose connection. Foster intimacy, and, when you’re feeling helpless or overwhelmed, intimacy will sustain you.