Watched a typical Hollywood movie with my kids this weekend (Mr. Popper’s Penguins)–you know the story, guy initially hates something and then by the end of the movie, winds up embracing the very thing he fought so hard to push away. In this particular case, Jim Carey fights against ownership of six Arctic penguins and eventually embraces his new life as the kind caretaker of these birds. We see this theme time and again in movies, and while our lives don’t neatly follow a Hollywood script, I wondered if this idea of embracing the thing we habitually resist could possibly be helpful when it comes to our poorly dressed emotions-you know the ones–anxiety, worry, striving, over-control. So, you might be asking, why would I want to embrace these feelings? They stink!
Well, try this on for size. Typical Newton home on a typical school morning and my elementary-school aged children are dawdling instead of getting ready. Frustrated by the looming realization that we are going to be late (and the fear that I’m not doing a “good enough job” with them), I’m ready to blow a gasket. Instead of letting these uncomfortable feelings wash over me and then letting them go, I grab hold of the feelings and begin to “act out”–I find myself yelling, threatening to take away playdates, and yelling some more. By acting out, I’m not really feeling the feelings. Instead, I am resisting the feeling and moving right to action. Though there is nothing “wrong” per se with acting this way (we all yell from time to time), it may detract from a deeper and more meaningful experience. What would happen if I simply acknowledged that I was feeling frustrated or angry or worried etc., and then inhaled a deep cleansing breath and slowly exhaled it out? I know when I manage to access this calmer state of mind, I feel more in control, I don’t model behavior that I wish my kids wouldn’t learn, and I don’t feel guilty after I’ve dropped them off at school.
At the end of the movie (spoiler alert!) we see Jim Carey releasing the penguins back to their natural habitat in the South Pole—releasing them not with fear or anger, but with a sense of caring, expansion and love. Wouldn’t that be something, if the next time we experienced a feeling we didn’t like, we embraced the emotion, felt and acknowledged it, and the let it go from a space of love and healing? Using the breath as the key for this, it just might be film-worthy!