It is okay to have feelings (even messy ones)

If you were trying to analyze me based on the instagram accounts I follow, you might deduce that I’m a person who isn’t quite sure what she’s most interested in, who is curious, and who is happy to get little snack-sized pieces of wisdom to interrupt her mindless scrolling. Case in point: I follow @notesfromyourtherapist, Allyson Dineen, a marriage and family therapist, and her handwritten notes always stop me in my tracks. Some don’t feel relevant, some land really deeply, some just help me remember not to take the instagram reality seriously. As I once read, “don’t compare your hustle to their highlights reel.”

In a recent article in Forbes magazine, @notesfromyourtherapist and her new book were featured.

A few things that jumped out at me and felt worth sharing:

What human beings need when they’re struggling is another human being. Humans need to feel they’re having an emotional impact on someone. That someone appears to care about, and be affected by them.”

A note from her Instagram page showcasing how hard it is to talk about feelings.

  • You don’t need to stop other people from having painful emotions: Allyson says we grow up thinking that is our job to keep everyone happy all of the time, because our parents teach us that it is. But, quite simply, other people are allowed to feel bad.
  • Allow yourself to have uncomfortable feelings: Along those same lines, people often don’t feel grief, pain, or loss because they think they need to be happy all of the time. She says you can feel uncomfortable and you can feel sad. That is OK.
  • It is OK to have emotional needs, that doesn’t make you needy: Allyson points out that we have long been shamed for needing other people, especially for our emotions. However, she feels it is normal to need people and not be able to or want to figure it all out on our own.
  • It is OK if people are upset with you because you set a boundary: Boundaries often upset people and that is not your problem to manage. You are allowed to be treated how you want to be treated and to set your own boundaries.

“Knowing your emotions is knowing who you are as a human being, and also connects you to everyone else. All of our emotions are a universal human experience. They carry information on how we’re doing and what we need.”

An example of a note that says to feel your emotions, including sadness.

The piece reads, “Right now in the pandemic with death and grief all around us, thinking about her own grief process, Allyson feels people are still in the “numb period” after the bomb goes off, and in survival mode. Once life goes back to normal, and people start to process grief, that is when the shock will end, and the emotional shattering begins. That is when understanding and expressing emotions will be key, especially the hard ones.”

This is something that interests, and frightens, me a little bit. For those who are in survival mode, just trying to get through this challenging time, and expecting that on the other side, we can just revert to normal – we might actually be confronted with a lot of tough stuff. How might we begin to slowly tend to ourselves and build our capacity to process grief, feel the feelings, integrate what we’ve experienced, so we become more whole, as opposed to numb, shattered or in denial?

Is that the mighty ask of 2021?

A note that Allyson could have written to any therapist.
A note that Allyson could have written to any therapist. ALLYSON DINNEEN, @NOTESFROMYOURTHERAPIST

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