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Making Space For All The Feelings


You only have so much room in your brain and your heart and your body. When your body gets clogged with emotion like fear and anger, it seeps into your heart and your head, leaving less space for things you actually want. I spend a lot of my time clearing space. I cry at least three times a week. I do that free write thing where you sit down for ten or twenty minutes and keep your fingers typing constantly, so that whatever is choking your brain can be laid out on paper for you to delete or burn. If something is pressing on my throat or my chest, I determine what it is and what it's trying to tell me.

In my younger days, the manic pixie dust of the mantra made me scoff, but I'm learning how deeply valuable a good mantra can be for reframing situations and popping my brain out of its habitual negativity. Like when I catch myself worrying about some new relationship possibility and why he hasn't called, I've trained my brain to call up what I want instead, using a phrase that reminds me that he doesn't need to call, that's not where we are now, and all I need to do is hold a light, curious space for both of us to discover what this is. Usually, when I dissolve whatever is knotting up in my chest, he calls. Or I call and he picks right up and says he was just thinking about me.

Using whatever causes pain - often a thought your brain is convinced is the most deeply true thing in the universe but has no real truth in anyone's world but your own - as a trigger for investigation rather than a trigger to shut down can change your life.

Investigation allows you to instill new habits. New habits can shift the Pavlovian response of your brain so it tips toward positive thoughts rather than negative. In the end, your brain just isn't that smart. It's a tape recorder that only knows what has gone before. In order to expand and create and experience new things, you need to move out of your brain and into your body. Because your body registers emotion in a very physical way and that emotion is where change happens. When you dive into an emotion and feel it until it shifts and dissolves, space opens. When you track a negative thought and reprogram your brain to shift toward how you want to think about a situation rather than how you've thought about it in the past, space opens.

When you create that space, you get to decide how to fill it. Love and joy and progress need room. You can't try to paste good stuff on top of bad and hope it all works out okay. Sometimes it does. Sometimes the good stuff dissolves the bad. But keeping it good requires cleaning. Your emotional life needs just as much attention as your career and your relationships and your home. At first, this pissed me off - the last thing anyone needs is one more place to tend. But when you tend your emotions, everything else gets exponentially easier.

The more space I create, the less cynical and more creative I become. When I'm not so bogged down in fear, there's more room for wonder and awe. When I'm not constantly dodging how I feel, I have the space to notice that it truly is an amazing world, full of tilting giraffes and ballet dancers and people who strap wooden boards to their legs and go spinning off cliffs. Humans flying through the air on wings made by hands. Music that can touch the emotion you didn't know you had. Words strung together in just the right way. Actors who reflect feelings you recognize and offer them up from a different place, a place of story, so that maybe you can understand yourself in a new way.

Our favorite things - movies, music, books - often evoke our own emotion. Because they're a safe space where our feelings can be reflected back to us and maybe begin to heal.


This post came from watching this video. My favorite part is at minute six where everyone starts dancing. My least favorite part is where the dude at 6:41 punches a stuffed giraffe.