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Giving It a Name

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Last October in the early morning someone came to tell me how much it would cost to completely remove trees which had fallen in Hurricane Floyd. When I heard the figure he named I felt as if the universe (already at fault for the hurricane) was attacking me.

Still reeling, I hurried off to my painting class. There was more than a nip in the air, and I was sure we would be painting in the comfort of a studio, but I learned that we were going to paint outside. I felt cold and depressed.

I left my class early to get a haircut (at the fervent plea of my hairdresser, who had an urgent afternoon appointment), and ended up waiting twenty minutes for her. I came home, turned on my computer, and discovered that my modem wasn't working.

By now, my early-morning sense that the universe had it in for me was rapidly becoming a conviction, and I was beginning to feel deeply persecuted, a condition which included both helplessness and resentment.

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The Comfort of the Known

I did not consciously choose the terms, "persecution," "helplessness," or "resentment." Like most people, I categorize my feelings so quickly that I don't know I've done it. It's as if my mind has a search engine which goes to work the moment some unidentified feeling is experienced.

You may wake up feeling out of balance, and before you consciously wonder about it, your mind tells you that you're depressed. You say, "Oh, right," and once you've accepted that category your mind will give you a number of reasons to be depressed (just as I had strong evidence for being feeling helpless and resentful).

Now, you've gone beyond the vague world of feelings and have isolated a familiar emotion. You know how to do depression, and you sink into it -- and since your mind has helpfully supplied you with reasons for feeling it the odds that you are going to shift out of this emotion are further reduced. You are looking at the world through the filter of depression. If it's rainy, you say, "That figures." If it's sunny you say "What good does that do me? I'm inside all day working." Your filter provides you with even more reasons to be depressed.

From an anonymous and what might have been a fleeting feeling you escalate to full-blown misery.

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The Feeling Police

If automatically giving a name to our feelings, can, instead of helping us to repair the condition, make it worse, why do we do this?

As humans we are trained to name things. The child who is learning to speak is rewarded with praise when he can say, "cat," "chair," "tree." When that child gets a little older, if she starts to cry or fuss or generally not have a look of happiness, a parent wants to know why, and the child, already trained to name and label things, usually accepts without protest the idea that feelings, too, must have labels.

By the time we're adults naming our feelings has become automatic, and any other way of being with them seems risky. To find a simple and familiar answer avoids ambiguity; whereas to allow oneself to have a feeling without immediately and automatically giving it a name can take one into the dangerous unknown.

A conscientious sheep herder knows that if his flock is not tended by either himself or an alert dog, the sheep will wander over the hills and perhaps fall off a precipice. I think that we have similar beliefs about our feelings: that if they're left untended they will get us into serious trouble.

We think that they will lead us to panic or depression; they may rouse in us insatiable desires; they may even lead us to mental breakdown. The very best we expect to feel is uncertain.

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Being With Feeling

However, a feeling isn't as easy to name as a cat, and when we label our feelings almost before we feel them we're inhibiting their expression, which is not believed to be a healthy response. Ulcers, asthma, and other physical illnesses are believed to be related to emotional repression. Emotionally inhibited people have more difficulty being creative or even in knowing who they really are. The more accustomed we become to repressing the "negative" feelings the harder it becomes to feel at all.

The difference between labelling our feelings and actually feeling them is like the difference between speaking to someone by reading a script and speaking spontaneously. (I am not here referring to public events, but to one-on-one conversations). When you speak spontaneously you will make mistakes. You might not say everything you wanted to; you may not be as eloquent as you'd like to be -- but you will be yourself.

When you allow your feelings to be spontaneous you may not feel sophisticated, composed, or even terribly mature. You may worry about being "out of control," but when you're really out of control is when your mind goes on automatic search and comes back with results which limit your choices of response, which prevent you from being all you can be.

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My Story, Continued

About the time the modem failed I decided that it was time to take a fresh look at the day and at myself. I recognized that I was broadcasting some kind of "kick me" vibration, and that what had to change was me.

I reviewed how I'd felt when I'd first gotten up, and realized with some surprise that I'd felt happy and expansive.

These words are labels, but they were not delivered by the mental search engine. I chose them consciously, and in choosing them, stepped into danger. One of my challenges is to be expansive for more than a few minutes without becoming afraid of this condition and feeling vulnerable, a feeling I can sense physically. Because I don't like to feel vulnerable it was much easier to automatically tack on the labels of "persecution," "helpless," or "resentful." The events of the day reinforced these labels.

Now I decided to face my feelings of vulnerability and accept them. I told myself that I could change "vulnerable" to "open" whenever I wanted to. In the meantime, I decided that this was not a good time to call Apple Computers, as talking to technical support at the best of times can make me feel even more vulnerable (and less open).

Instead I ate lunch, and by the time I was finished I did feel open, both to whatever feelings I chose to experience, and to the possibility that I could solve the modem challenge. When I went back to the computer I checked the modem connection, which was loose. I plugged it in again, and the modem worked. So did the rest of my day.

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Tools for Feeling: Crystals and Essences

Because of the ability of crystals and essences to dissolve emotional blockages, the ones you choose as being most appropriate for your particular situation will help you return to elemental feeling. The ones I've chosen below are particular known for their relationship to feeling.

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Crystals

Sometimes we put the lid on our own feelings because we tend to feel drained by those of others. If you fall into this category I recommend the article on boundaries at http://www.rainbowcrystal.com/crystal/boundary.html

Hematite is the primary stone recommended for setting wise emotional boundaries. It is generally recommended to use it in meditation for a period of days and to carry or wear it.

For those who need to have their feelings revived, ruby, a stone related to passion and creativity, can be very helpful. This stone will help to bring feelings to the surface.

Opal is considered to be the most powerful stone in the area of feelings, an attribute which has caused it to be named as an unlucky stone. If you want to awaken feelings it is a special stone to have.

Moonstone is a stone which balances feelings, helping to calm those who feel overloaded, and to open up those who have deadened their feelings, either physically or through the practice of labeling.

Sodalite is another balancer, and one which is particularly useful when a state of emotional confusion exists.

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Flower and Other Essences

Pink Yarrow and Yarrow (both FES) help, as hematite does, in setting boundaries. Pink Yarrow is recommended for those who take on the feelings of those close to them; while Yarrow is advised for those who generally pick up others' feelings (at a party, in a crowded area, etc.)

Agrimony (Bach) is very helpful for those who are in habitual denial of their feelings. Characteristically, people who need Agrimony are cheerful on the outside, and secretly (sometimes it's even a secret to them) miserable.

Rock Water (Bach) is for those who conceal feelings through strict and rigid regimens which may also involve rigid belief systems.

Nicotiana (FES) helps to reawaken the heart to feelings, and is considered to be a particular valuable essence for those who have numbed their feelings in order to survive in a material world.

Dolphin (Wild Earth Animal Essences) helps us to learn how to flow naturally with our feelings; while Hummingbird (Wild Earth Animal Essences) is useful in helping to clear up emotional blockages. (In general, I have found the Wild Earth Animal Essences very helpful in enhancing feeling and sensory awareness.)

Beyond the Rainbow
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