“It’s all very well to be happy, when life goes along like a song, but the girl worthwhile is the one who will smile when everything goes all wrong.”
I found myself singing this song on my way to Taunton last week.
I was going to another networking meeting to talk about Horses as Teachers; how working with horses can help you ‘Take off your masks and reveal your Authentic Self’ and why it’s actually healthy to be authentic. I found it intriguing that I would be singing this song on that morning and you’ll hear why later in my blog. I feel that the words in this song represents what we aspire towards and what Linda Kohanov, author of The Power of the Herd; A Nonpredatory Approach to Social Intelligence, Leadership and Innovation calls ‘emotional heroism’; the ability to sit with challenges, our own or other people’s, to be compassionate, respond calmly and ‘smile when everything goes all wrong’.
The shame is that this statement brings with it an inference that if we can’t ‘smile when everything goes all wrong’ then we are not worthwhile or not good enough and that in order to be accepted and loved we have to put a smile on our face. Interestingly, evidence now suggests that ‘putting on a brave face’ or the suppression of undesirable feelings, over a prolonged period of time, can result in illness. Scientific evidence tells us that a massive amount of neurochemicals are required to suppress emotions, and it’s that which can cause some of the physical illness in our society today, such as headaches, stomach aches or even depression.
The irony is that when we are using our energy to suppress our true feelings, whether they be of frustration, vulnerability, sadness or anger and ‘putting on a brave face and smiling when everything is going all wrong’ it not only prevents us from receiving the intended information, but promotes the emotional state we are trying to avoid.
So what’s the antedote?
We can learn something from horses and respond to our emotions rather than suppressing them. When we allow ourselves to feel our true feelings we can acknowledge and accept what’s really going on, change something in response to our feelings and then our feelings dissipate on their own, our bodies calm down and our minds begin to clear. We are then able to make more authentic decisions and choices about how to move forwards.
But what if that process involves shedding a tear? Who is going to give us permission to cry, permission to be vulnerable, permission to show our true self, our weakness, our vulnerability and our gentleness to the world. In a society that’s encouraging us to suppress our tears, sadness, frustration, anger and grief it’s extremely difficult to get any outside approval to shed a tear and so the only person who can give you permission to cry is yourself. It is one of the greatest gifts that I have offered myself the freedom to experience. It’s okay to cry when we need to cry and feel the sadness many of us have stored within for so long. I’ve now learned to allow the tears to flow when I feel a sense of a block. However, it hasn’t been easy.
Last week, on the morning of my talk was one such occasion. I woke up not feeling great, I had a knot in my stomach, I had several things on my mind which were troubling me and I felt a block, there wasn’t any resolve that I could imagine and I could feel the pressure building. I went off on my morning walk with my dog Alfie, knowing that I would have to give myself permission to cry. I knew that if I pushed my feelings down and ‘put on a brace face’ to facilitate my talk that would not be aligned with my message of being authentic! And so I allowed the tears to flow.
Why is it a good thing to feel your emotion and allow yourself to cry?
In the words of Karla Mclaren, author of The Language of Emotions, when we acknowledge our sadness, then “the healing water of tears” will flow and we will experience a physical release as the tears literally “remove the logjams in our psyches”. Many of you have had times when you felt so much better after you had a good cry and that’s because there was actually a physical release. Karla McLaren writes that “if you resist your emotion or wallow in sadness and self-pity and refuse to let go then your sadness will intensify into despair and despondence”. Your thoughts go round in circles and you get stuck.
When you allow yourself to feel your true feelings you can let go and as you allow the flow of tears the energy literally shifts in your body. And this is what happened for me last week. By the time I returned from my walk with Alfie I felt lighter, more focused and I could feel my energy returning.You can imagine my amusement when I found myself humming this song and realized the relevance of the words, on my journey to Taunton last week. It was such a profound experience that I shared the sequence of my morning’s events in my talk as an example of the benefits of being authentic.
So, the next time you feel your energy blocked and you feel stuck in your emotions begin by allowing yourself to connect with your true feelings and if necessary let the tears flow. It’s not easy, and it’s important to find a safe space, where you won’t be disturbed. Or you might choose to be in the presence of someone who you trust and with whom you can feel totally safe and able to express your true feelings. Either way the benefit of giving yourself the space, time, support and permission to be your true self is that you can connect to your authentic self, feel more calm, peaceful and creative and become connected to what brings you joy, fulfilment and success.