The Way to Self-Honesty
Nobody explains getting in touch with suppressed emotion like Geneen Roth. She’s my favorite nonfiction writer. Geneen is candid and engaging as she takes readers through a roller coaster ride of experiences offering viable solutions to hidden problems. Although her books are primarily aimed at weight-loss and overeating, the concepts she presents are applicable to all forms of coping and addictive behaviors that stem from suppressing emotions—whether the individual is aware of the emotions or not.
In her most popular book, Women, Food and God, Geneen shares a process called “Inquiry” that helps uncover the hidden feelings that drive compulsive behavior. Instead of trying to change coping mechanisms, she encourages readers to simply start noticing what is right in front of them, and to pay attention to what they are actually feeling in that moment—don’t think, judge or have an opinion about it—simply get curious and explore the feeling itself. She writes:
“..unmet feelings obscure our ability to know ourselves….being with feelings is not the same as drowning in them. With awareness (the ability to know what you are feeling) and presence (the ability to inhabit a feeling while sensing that which is bigger than the feeling), it is possible to be with what you believe will destroy you without being destroyed…when sadness is explored it may turn into a lush meadow of peace. Or that when we allow ourselves to feel the full heat of anger without expressing it, a mountain of strength and courage is revealed.”
She’s right. This way of exploring emotions in lieu of burying them is new, but worth the effort.
The process of Inquiry helps me stay in the present moment even when I feel uncomfortable and want to grab a chocolate bar instead of being honest about what’s going on. I learned at a very young age not to express uncomfortable feelings—so that everyone else could be comfortable around me. But suppressed emotion is a tenacious slave driver.
Now that I know about Inquiry, I no longer have an excuse to not acknowledge what I’m feeling (my poor husband!). It’s very freeing to know that whatever I feel—it’s ok. Period. Good, bad or ugly, feelings are just that…feelings. By acknowledging them I am free to make choices in the present moment that are in alignment with my core values and principles: like eating healthy, watching less TV, and drinking less alcohol.
Quality of life is based on what I do with the hand I’ve been dealt. When I deny emotions instead of acknowledging them—they become a hidden engine that drives my choices in unhealthy directions. Honest reflection and expression through Inquiry sets me free to choose life.
What’s not to like about that?