It’s something we hear and talk about a lot, but it’s hard to envision what exactly a fuller, more vibrant life looks like.
Does it mean we’ve received a promotion at work?
Does it mean we’re more deeply connected to our spouse and children?
Does it mean we walk around with a big grin on our face all the time?
Well, yes and no. Understanding what fulfillment means to you is an individual exploration.
Your fulfillment isn’t a picture I can paint for you or an idea I can give to you. It looks different for each of us.
What I can tell you is people who are fulfilled lead happier lives and are in touch, comfortable and expressive with their feelings. They’re good at identifying emotions. They’ve found purpose and meaning. They act with intention and focus on the larger picture. They nurture and love themselves.
Why are emotions important? How do we go about identifying emotions?
Probably one of the most challenging tasks is to learn how to love ourselves and get comfortable with our wide spectrum of feelings. It’s about accepting who we are, but also understanding our capacity and desire for MORE.
As we practice more self-nourishment and learn to love ourselves more fully, it’s likely we may need to alter our habits and beliefs about who we are and what we believe we deserve. We might have grown up believing we are “too little” or “too much.” We might even avoid certain feelings because they’re uncomfortable. In fact, sometimes we can’t pinpoint WHAT we’re feeling. We may struggle to identify emotions.
As we come to love ourselves more and seek to live bigger, more fulfilling lives we must change habits and beliefs that limit us. They will hold us back. Our limiting beliefs will whisper in our ear that we’re not enough. We don’t deserve our success. We’re too much. No one could ever care for us. We should give up.
Many of us may not feel we’re deserving. We may feel we’re unloved or unlovable. We may carry guilt and pain from our past. We may experience frustration on our journey as often as we experience victory. It’s hard to feel like we deserve more. It’s hard to believe we deserve success.
This is frightening. Even if we’re growth-focused, change is hard and the prospect and process of change is daunting. Changing our thoughts about who we are even threatens our very sense of self–the truths we’ve come to believe about who we are.
Change isn’t an easy task.
There’s no denying the importance of emotions in life. Identifying emotions and feelings can help us work through them and move past the beliefs keeping us back.
So, what do we do to cope? We check out emotionally.
We might slide into avoidance and soft addiction behaviors. We may feel like, life is tough and I “need a break.” Suddenly we’re binge-watching TV, eating junk food or spending money beyond our means. These behaviors are called soft addictions. We might not think of them like hard drugs, gambling or other “conventional” addictions, but they are equally as damaging to our lives and fulfillment. They keep us from living our lives fully. Soft addictions hold us back from change and growth they keep us from identifying emotions and shifting our limiting beliefs.
Change is hard work and changing our limiting beliefs is REALLY hard work…but it’s not impossible. Not at all! More importantly, change is worth it. Once we break out of our soft addiction cycle and stop our avoidance behaviors we will move forward. It’s important to first understand the “why” behind them so we start the process.
All our not-so-great, avoidance behaviors are rooted in our feelings.
Feelings are sometimes uncomfortable. Some are downright yucky, right? We all hate cringing when we say the “wrong thing,” or feeling intimidated, scared, fearful or generally “bad.” I personally HATE feeling embarrassed. I turn bright red! As hard as it is for me, I work hard to get comfortable with feeling embarrassed.
This means I do things to push myself out of my comfort zone. If I don’t want to do something, I ask myself why. I work on identifying emotions. Is it because I feel fear of being embarrassed? Yes? Well, then I push on. I’ve felt embarrassment before, but I identify the feeling and I know I won’t let fear hold me back.
When we backslide or fall into soft addictions, it’s often because our feelings are overwhelming or too much to deal with. We might long to avoid uncomfortable situations or thoughts. We might feel unprepared for emotional challenges or we might not possess the social support we need on our journey.
Our feelings drive our behaviors and push us to seek solutions to avoid, zone out or circumvent the uncomfortable. We even go so far as to seek out others who share our soft addictions, because it helps us feel justified. The friend who loves shopping and always orders dessert, the buddies on social media, and our spouses who might comfortably fall into the pattern of zoning out in front of the boob tube every night.
Yet, even though we’re zoning out, there’s still an underlying feeling of unrest. We know we’re avoiding. We don’t feel good about ourselves when we spend hours on the computer, in front of the TV, shopping for items we don’t need, or binging on a bag of chips. We’re actually making ourselves feel emptier rather than getting the nourishment and fulfillment we’re seeking.
To break out of this pattern, we need to shift our beliefs about what we deserve and our place in the world. We need to surround ourselves with others who are seeking to do the same.
Do you know allies who will help guide you, advocate for you (and call you out on your crap)? Many of us have friends, but how many of us have allies? How many of us have people in our lives who stand side by side with us, support us and empower us?
Our allies help us face our feelings, even the frightening ones. They keep us honest. They keep us looking inward at what we’re feeling and why. They help us realize our feelings. We should embrace ALL feelings as part of the richness of the human experience.
A few years ago, I went on a spiritual journey to France. I meditated and prayed at ancient cathedrals. I discussed philosophy and divine worship with monks. Bob and I explored the countryside and took in the experience.
As I was sitting in a Parisian café, the idea of Four Loving Truths came to me in a moment of what I like to think of as divine inspiration. (I wrote about them in my book, The Soft Addiction Solution.) I’ve come back to these Loving Truths time and again, whenever I’ve struggled or needed inspiration. They guide me on my journey and enhanced my quality of life. These truths open us up to the possibility of MORE in our lives.
While all the truths are important, the one most applicable to identifying your emotions and shifting your limiting beliefs is the third. The third of the Four Loving Truths I explored is “Feelings Are Divine and to Be Honored.”
Encoded within you is a deep sensitivity, designed to provide you with exquisite information to guide you to the right action, to protect you, to lead you to pleasure, to experience intimacy. Your feelings express the deepest truth of your soul. It is through your feelings that you experience spirit, the greater essence of life. Feelings are the universal human language, a conduit from heart to heart, transcending our outer differences and connecting us to all.
We become most human and alive when we cry our tears, laugh our amusement, you out in anger, shake with fear, reach out with love and bubble over with joy. Feeling these feelings, naming them, and being in a relationship with them in the here and now is the way to a full, vibrant life.
Our emotions guide us to pleasure, alert us to pain, divert us from danger, and lead us to fulfillment. When we deny our emotions, we become depressed, anxious, and even physically ill. We may act out inappropriately rather than expressing our emotions responsibly. Being hurtful, mean, ill-willed, or irresponsible are all examples of our dark side’s misuse of feelings. Even worse, such a feeling-avoidant attitude causes us to miss the wisdom and aliveness encoded in our emotions. We miss the flow of energy within us. We miss the connection to our heart, to the hearts of others, and to spirit. When we misuse or cut off our feelings, we miss their ability to lead us to the next level of exploration.
Expression of a feeling often leads to a new discovery of who and what we are. As we ride the wave of our feelings, we arrive at new understandings, and we express things we never knew. Sometimes we don’t know what we think or can’t define what’s inside until we begin to express the feeling Our expression then leads us to new territory where we become something that we weren’t before. This process keeps us from being stagnant, from repeating the same thoughts and reactions, it is how we grow. It is what helps us create ourselves.
Without our emotions, we would not be human. Our emotions connect us to every other person. Through them, we understand ourselves and one another. We may not share beliefs or have the same thoughts but our emotions are the language of all humankind. They transcend culture, beliefs race, age, sex or any artificial division Al of us hurt, hope, love, sorrow and rejoice in the depths of our hearts.
Our feelings express truly the deepest parts of ourselves. They reveal and define us. They guide us to express, to heal, to connect, to worship, to love and to become our most human and our most divine selves.
As we work on embracing a life of greater joy and great fulfillment, our feelings are an integral part of the beautiful tapestry of our human fabric. Identifying emotions and embracing feelings expands the capacity of our hearts. The more we allow ourselves to feel, the greater our capacity to feel becomes. I can’t overstate the importance of emotions in life.
For more on moving toward your best life, finding greater fulfillment and a higher capacity for joy, please visit us at The Wright Foundation. Join us for a Foundations Training Weekend, where you will learn to embrace your emotions and let go of what’s holding you back.
Dr. Judith Wright is a media favorite, sought-after inspirational speaker, respected leader, peerless educator, bestselling author, & world-class coach.
She is a co-founder of The Wright Foundation and the Wright Graduate University.
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The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Foundation performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.