What if all of your feelings were "messengers?" Yes, even the uncomfortable ones.
A practice that has been useful to me, both professionally and personally, is that of receiving and acting upon the helpful “messages” of my feelings. I have encountered elements of the “feelings as purposeful messengers” metaphor in the work of psychotherapists Richard Schwartz, James Hillman, and Stephen Gilligan. Most recently, I read a passage courtesy of Jungian Analyst, James Hollis (Creating a Life - Finding Your Individual Path, p. 36), which reads:
...schools of therapy would try to remove the black mass (depression) by medication, behavioral modification, or cognitive reframing -- all useful tools for sure. But none really honors the depression for its insistence that one’s life be changed…
To thank depression as an angel, a “messenger” of attention and healing, seems bizarre to contemporary culture which pathologizes such manifestations and seeks their rapid elimination.
The specific origins of these helpful messengers and messages depends on your personal framework. The source could be conceived of as the unconscious mind, the Self, the soul, God, gods, Gaia, creatures from another galaxy, or another place of wisdom and trust.
A "feelings as messengers" view:
Honors the whole of our human experience instead of singularly exalting “positive” emotions like happiness and contentment
Naturalizes our inner experience as an ecosystem in which all aspects serve a role/purpose
Allows for us to approach our inner state with a curiosity that encourages reflection and self-awareness
Gives attention and respect to our emotions instead of retaliating against the feeling with dismissal, stifling, numbing, or avoidance
Provides a counter to western, medical perspectives regarding our feelings which are culturally ingrained, shame-based (should/should not feel) and pathologizing
Acts as a source of guidance related to our needs and beliefs
Suggests to us possible actions towards beneficial change
Frames our inner experience as an opportunity for personal growth
4 Steps to Receiving and Honoring Your Inner Messages:
1. Ask yourself the question “How do I feel towards this uncomfortable emotion?” It is important to know if you are pushing your “messengers” away or opening yourself to them.
2. Show a mindful curiosity toward the feeling. When does the feeling appear? What are you doing? What happened before/after the feeling? Where do you feel it in your body? In what situations have you felt this way before?
3. Listen for and entertain the possible messages that your feelings are sending to you. What are your feelings trying to tell you? What is the feeling's noble intent?
4. Consider ways to take actions on your feelings to achieve beneficial change.
If you would like to explore the messages of your feelings, please contact Ben at firstname.lastname@example.org or, to find out more about how Music Therapy may help you receive the wisdom of your emotions, visit us at www.keynotemn.com.