With all of the action and seeds of revolution occurring in the Western world today*, feelings are rampant and they are big for almost everyone. One of the harshest realities in all of this is that no one owes anyone listening to those feelings regardless of how big they are.
Feelings are a leading theme in our modern world and we are often saying that “all feelings are valid.”
If they are valid, what can it mean that no one owes you listening to your feelings? Let’s start with what a feeling is.
*I have an evolving page outlining my values if learning my thoughts and opinions on these is important to you.
What Is A Feeling?
First, feelings are not emotions. Feelings are the conscious results of physical (e.g., hunger, pain, adrenaline) and emotional sensations inside of our bodies. Emotions are the unconscious sensations that are expressed as feelings (or eventually repressed if left unaddressed).
If our emotions are our unconscious sensations and feelings are partly the representation of those, then they’re valid. We are all valid as people and these make up much of who we are.
No One Owes You Listening To Your Feelings
Validity, for each person, is a cornerstone. Many difficulties in our world today come from the fact (yes, the fact), that many people are not valid compared to people like me: A [typically] cis-presenting white man. This is different than feeling invalid because you don’t like everyone having a shot at becoming valid (e.g., most white people). It is also different from feeling marginalized for denying facts (e.g., 5G Covid folks & antivaxxers).
Imagine a world, different than one with 24 hour cable news, where folks that felt invalid had to deal with the feelings rather than express them in public forums or amongst their friends as if they were facts. It sounds good to me because we are then free to work with folks our systems and perspectives are actually invalidating.
So let’s literally bring this home:
Imagine you are at home and you have a bucket of feelings to express. You approach your spouse who’s been home from work a little longer than you and say “You won’t believe my day.” The thing is, your spouse was just about to say the same to you. If listening to feelings is an obligation, we’re now at a stalemate so who goes first? Whose job is it to go second?
And we can bring it to work:
Imagine you are newly promoted to a senior role you’ve been coveting for years. You walk into your lunch room with a big smile on your face. Then you go find your workmates to share the amazing news! You can’t contain yourself. Trouble is, your colleague was quietly pining for the role so they become ambivalent. They’re happy for you, but are heading home later to tell their spouse that that next bonus won’t be happening.
In both of these examples, we’ve taken for granted the opportunity to express our feelings. Is that bad? Not necessarily, but at home there’s confusion, perhaps also conflict, and at work your buddy received a gut punch.
Someone Listening to Our Feelings is a Privilege
If we seek consent before expressing our feelings, we receive the privilege of an invitation and the benefit of direct attention. There is no real fairness in “hearing all sides” when it comes to feelings. The fairness comes from our ability to consent to listening to feelings rather than being thrown into the fray. Even if consent is not sought before sharing, a listener has the right to bail on the conversation.
If no one consents to hearing our feelings, we must take that as fact. We may also perhaps make decisions about the role the folks we sought to connect with play in our lives. Regardless of that, we’re left to them on our own and that’s how it is.
Those that cannot handle what is so around being alone with feelings often need other support and/or therapy, which is beyond the scope of coaching. We are living in a reality that lacks support for those who have let their feelings, rather than fact, run the show.
If not for sharing with others, what are feelings for?
Feelings point us to our own needs. I am not you, but I’ll continue the examples above as if I am.
At home, you may have a need for support or connection. Or maybe you had a need for food and just hadn’t checked in that you skipped two meals, which dramatically improves the day. If food is the ticket, you’re now able to show up for your spouse without putting your feelings on them. Win-win.
At work, you may have a need for validation, joy, or communal celebration. Imagine if you’d parked those needs just a little bit and checked in: “I just got some great career news. May I share with you?” If your colleague is astute, they may exit stage left and take some space before the gut punch fully lands, but you’ve given them a chance.
Consent robs us of some spontaneity inside of our lives, but it opens the door to community versus the desire to centre ourselves. It opens the door to others spontaneously joining us in our lives rather than having them hold on tight for the ride. It goes without saying that a lack of consent can be a dire violation in many scenarios and is much more serious than “holding on tight for the ride.”
In the next post, I will tie feelings, needs, and consent together in a particular way. This particular way is a cornerstone of effective communication when it comes to feelings.
In the meantime, if you’d like a head start, book a complementary coaching session today.