I keep talking with people this week who are … who are feeling conflicted about feeling ambivalent about feeling whatever they’re feeling.
There’s got to be a better way to say that but I don’t know what it is.
It’s as if we forget that it doesn’t really matter what other people think we’re supposed to be feeling — or even what we think we’re supposed to be feeling.
What I think.
Ambivalence is absolutely legitimate. Always.
And yet there’s this weird societal thing* that comes into play when we think we know what we’re “supposed to be feeling”.
* I should mention: this does not happen to everybody. My gentleman friend, for example, does not doubt his feelings. It’s pretty cool. But it happens to me. And to a lot of my clients and students.
We put pressure on ourselves to feel a certain way when a certain something happens. Or we feel frustrated and anxious when the emotion we’re feeling doesn’t match the one we think we’re expected to feel.
Like this: we think that when we get the thing we’ve wanted for so long, we’re supposed to feel gleeful.
We’re supposed to feel overjoyed. We’re supposed to turn cartwheels and throw confetti and run into the sunset, kicking up our heels like Christopher Robin. And there will be jazz hands. Jazz hands!
It just doesn’t work like that.
At least, it doesn’t always work like that.
Because, you know, we’re complex beings.
We have mixed emotions. We have complicated and nuanced understandings of situations.
And we have our own personal history and relationships with different aspects of whatever situation we’re dealing with.
But here’s the really important part — and I’m saying this as much for me as I am for anyone else:
You are allowed to feel whatever it is you’re feeling.
If it’s something you’re feeling, it is a legitimate thing to feel.
No one gets to say, hey you’re feeling it wrong!
- You’re allowed to feel fearful and happy at the same time.
- You’re allowed to not know what you’re feeling.
- You’re allowed to want to feel something else than the thing that you’re feeling.
- It’s pretty much all fine.
The one thing that I am absolutely sure of is that ambivalence is totally normal.
It’s what’s for breakfast.
You don’t always feel sad when someone dies. You don’t always feel free when something ends. You don’t always feel happy when you do the thing you’ve been waiting to do.
One of the hardest parts about getting divorced (for me) was everyone going oh nooooooooooooooo. And not wanting to explain that what I was feeling was relief and fear and freedom. That it was complicated.
And you don’t have to feel happy when you get what you want.
True story: whenever I make any sort of big life change (or something that feels like a big life change), I start throwing up like crazy. Lovely symbolic body stuff.
When I stopped being a bartender and transitioned to full-time yoga teacher? Oh, the vomiting.
When I met my gentleman friend? I threw up all over the place. In fact, every time I’ve fallen in love that’s happened.
It’s not because these aren’t good things. It’s because processing change is scary and weird. Which is okay.
So feeling conflicted or confused or a bunch of mixed emotions doesn’t mean the thing isn’t actually what you want, or that you’re not grateful to have it.
And just because a decision doesn’t result in you feeling over-the-top elated doesn’t necessarily mean that it wasn’t a good decision.
It just means that you’re processing.
The only stuckified part is the guilt.
This is where I get stuck. I find myself saying things like, “Why am I so tired?” or “Why am I so sad?”
And I forget that … the thing you’re feeling is the thing you’re feeling.
So I’m really trying to work on rephrasing that stuff so that I can say things like this: “Wow. I seem to be really tired right now. I’m going to find out what I need.”
Or: “I don’t know yet what the reason is behind this sadness that I’m experiencing, but I’m sure it’s a good one, and that this is a reasonable thing to be feeling right now.”
Also, giving legitimacy to feelings is a really weird practice. And definitely not one that gets modeled a lot.
So. Here’s to not having to feel what you think you’re supposed to feel. And to not worrying about whether other people might take issue with whatever it is you’re feeling.
And feeling however you want to feel about that, dammit! Ha. Jazz hands!
We all have stuff. We’re all working on our stuff.