Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Permission to Feel

Last night I talked with my little sister. Well, we're not biologically related but she's my little sister in every way that counts. It felt good to connect, but my heart broke for her.

She'd recently experienced the loss of someone near to her heart. Due to circumstances, she hadn't had a chance to say "good-bye" to this person and it was eating her up on the inside. She was dealing with a storm of emotions in the way she'd learned as a child, which is basically not to deal with them because the emotions she has are not considered good.

One of the reasons she's my little sister is that we're similar in many ways. I understand where she is on the road because I've been there. I'd suffered a sudden loss where I didn't have the opportunity to say "good-bye" and I had a lot of anger and guilt as a result.

It took a long time for me to process my feelings at the sudden death of my father. There were things I wish I had done or said, and I felt like I'd been a poor daughter, though I did the best I could. Telling myself, "you did your best," didn't help me deal with my feelings. I had to give myself permission to feel what I felt.

Emotions aren't bad or good, they just are. We have them. As much as we might try to control them or keep them under wraps, we really can't. They're just there. What we can do, what I had to learn to do, is give ourselves permission to actually feel them.

It might sound odd, this idea of needing permission to feel, but there are a lot of people who, like me, were taught that only certain emotions are acceptable. Or that only certain emotions are allowed to be expressed.

In talking with my little sister, I asked her if she could give herself permission to feel what she feels. I asked her if she could give herself permission to be okay with what she feels, because those feelings are real and normal. I reassured her that being okay with where she is now and feeling what's there does not mean that she will always feel this way. Actually, by giving herself permission to be okay where she is now, she's taken the first step in processing through them so she can get to the other side of them.

She told me that she hadn't even realized the load that she was carrying in refusing to allow herself to simply feel what she feels. By giving herself permission to be okay with her feelings, a weight was lifted from her that she hadn't realized she was carrying.

Have you ever been in a place where you needed permission to feel? Where did you get the permission you needed?

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