Your sister calls to ask if she can borrow that sweater that looks so good on her: you know, the one you save for special occasions? The one you had to take to the cleaners after the last time she borrowed it? Well, it’s hard to say “no” to your older sister, and besides, hasn’t she fed your cat when you went away for the weekend, taken you to the doctor for that test, not to mention had your back on numerous occasions?
So, you let her borrow the sweater, but then all those old resentments get stirred up, that have nothing to do with the sweater, and by the time she brings it back, this time in perfectly good condition, you feel bent out of shape, and she doesn’t understand why, and neither do you—it doesn’t seem rational.
Here’s a possible explanation, and it’s not some Dr. Phil recommendation to be more assertive or to communicate your feelings. t’s simpler than that. Maybe all really need to do is actually feel your feelings.
This might seem like a strange recommendation: you might think, don’t I already feel my feelings? And, perhaps you'd rather not feel them, when they are feel confused and overwhelming.
Here’s why: when those resentments for events from last year, or ten years ago, start to pop up, it’s painful. It hurts to feel that you were treated unfairly, or that you didn’t get the recognition you deserve, or simply to remember a time when your feelings were hurt. And so, if you’re like most of us, when those feelings and memories get stirred up, you avoid feeling them (which makes sense—they’re painful!)
Instead, you might end up thinking about who is to blame for causing those feelings; about how you can orchestrate events differently in the future so that those painful feelings don’t recur; or about an explanation for why you feel that way, which is often a story that leads into blame and resentment anyway.
You might be asking, what does this have to do with PMS and PMDD? How is this going to help cramps or bloating or mood swings or irritability? What do emotions have to do with hormones? Those are all very good questions. The connection between hormones and emotions, and between PMS and your feelings, can be summed up in once word: Stress. When you bottle up your feelings, or try to suppress them, they end up coming out in some other way anyway, plus they increase your stress level. And, as the blog post above makes clear, stress makes PMS worse.
Most of the time, the anticipation of painful feelings is much worse than the feelings themselves. But when you directly feel what is really going on in your own heart: sadness, anger, joy, or fear—sometimes referred to as “mad, sad, glad, or scared”—you may then find it easier to assert yourself, or to express your feelings if you need to do so, or to hold them back if you don’t. It can even make it easier to apportion blame if that is necessary, or to avoid unfairly blaming someone who didn’t know any better.
Once you really feel your own feelings—the mad, sad, glad, or scared ones—you may also find yourself feeling more compassion and sympathy for others and their feelings, plus you’ll be a lot more clear about what is happening inside of you. For your overall emotional health, and to release the stress valve that builds up with PMS, feeling your feelings is a good place to start.
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