Feeling your feelings

Generally, we try our hardest to push negative emotions aside as quickly as possible. We want to be happy and cheerful. In fact, we have to be happy and cheerful, because one can choose to be happy and nobody likes a whinger. And there’s always someone who will say: It could be worse!

When we experience negative emotions, we often blame someone else, or a situation, or we feel guilty, because, after all, we’ve got a good life. We don’t want to be afraid. We don’t want to be scared. We don’t want to be angry. We don’t want to be sad. So we distract ourself with food or drink or scrolling on social media, by arguing, by working, partying or working out even harder.

Eventually, we become so used to suppressing our emotions or blaming them on someone else, that we do not know if and what and why we feel, and why we do certain things.

It’s useful to know that our emotions are not caused by certain people or situations. If that were true, everyone would think and feel the same about certain situations and people. Our emotions arise from the thoughts we have about ourselves and the world around us. And that is what causes our behaviour.

Positive thoughts

In 2018 I was not doing well. I contacted a psychologist, forced myself to keep working, to work out, and do “fun” things, and I meditated daily. Whenever any bad memories and thoughts about certain experiences from the past came up, I did my best to get rid of them as quickly as possible. I tried to replace them with positive thoughts and to distract myself. Sometimes it worked, but only for a little while.

It came to a point where I felt so distraught and helpless, that I thought to myself: alright, then! I cannot feel any worse than I am feeling now! And instead of suppressing them as quickly as possible, I allowed my memories to surface. Instead of defusing them as quickly as I could, I allowed the feelings and emotions that come up to rush through my head and body.

Be kind to yourself

It sounds simple, and it was, actually. That doesn’t mean it was easy. It was quite frightening! But it didn’t take long for me to realize that I did not need to be afraid of my feelings and emotions. As soon as I stopped fighting them, the fear, anger, self-hatred, guilt and aversion ebbed away. And I learned to accept the past and myself without judgement.From that moment on, slowly but surely, I started to get better. I was able to enjoy life again and laugh at myself. I cannot change the past, but I found a way to let go of it. And I learned a lot. I live more mindfully now and I have gained more peace from regulary checking in with my feelings and looking for the reasons why I have certain feelings.

Check in with your feelings more often. And be kind to yourself and others.

About me…

My name is Luisa. I have got one daughter, and I live in central Portugal together with my husband and our 6 dogs and 2 cats.

I love vegan food and am allergic to chickpeas (I know! No more hummus for me…). I am a passionate and idealistic person, with both feet planted firmly on the ground. I used to feel angry and insecure and blamed others for my unhappiness. Now, I look at myself and the world in a different way, and am more in touch with my thoughts and emotions. And yes, I am happy!

I used to teach English, I translate books, I am a certified holistic coach. I have done all kinds of different studies and trainings: English, Yoga, Ayurveda, dance, plant-based cooking and more. Some of my hobbies are reading, crochet, cooking and making jewellery, and I love to binge watch series on Netflix. My favourite: La Casa de Papel (Money Heist). The book currently on my nightstand is The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. I am a big fan of Stephen King.

Let’s go back in time for a bit…

I was born in Amsterdam on December 21, 1963, daughter of a Dutch mother and a Portuguese father. I spent my primary school years and the first year of my secondary school in Zaandam, a city about 25km north of Amsterdam. I have always loved to read, and I spent most of my free time reading books.

When I was 13, my mother and father got divorced. After my mother married again and had another daughter, my second sister, we moved to a small village in the south of the Netherlands where everything was different. I had to go to another school, where I had a hard time adjusting. I felt like an outsider.

From a very young age I thought of myself as stupid and ugly, which resulted in a long search for love and validation. So, for a large part of my life, all my decisions were guided by my romantic relationships.

When I was 32, my life seemed perfect on the outside: I was married and had a child, we owned our own home, and I had a job and an active social life. Then I started suffering from anxiety attacks. It was awful and scary… I didn’t understand what was happening to me or why! I was at a loss so I went looking for help. That was when I found out that I was far from happy. I didn’t know who I was and learned that I was living a life that I didn’t really want.

With the help of a psychologist, I managed to overcome this major life crisis. I became an English teacher and later went on to university. I met my now husband, became a Zumba instructor and yoga teacher. In 2012 we moved to Portugal, where we had bought a piece of land with a ruin. My husband built us a beautiful wooden home and we lived a quiet and secluded life.

On June 14, 2017, a fire started in the village where we lived. Everything that happened on that day and the following days, had a major impact on my life. You can read about the fire here.

Although our house, me and all our pets were unharmed and people around me even regarded me as a hero, I became depressed. I hated myself so much, that I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror. The fire worked like a catalyst and brought other traumas that I thought I had long since overcome, to come back up.

In October of 2017, we moved to England for one year, for my husband’s work. One day I found myself sitting on the bed staring into space. I felt empty and dead inside and wondered if there was any sense in continuing with my life. I don’t know how long I sat there. At some point I forced myself to get up, walk downstairs and went looking for help on the internet.

For a month, I sent long stories to a psychologist in the USA, contacted a gym where I then started working as a Zumba and yoga teacher and started a course in plant-based cooking. The psychologist said I suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder and survivor’s guilt. She also said that she couldn’t do anything for me, because I was already doing all the things I needed to do to overcome my problems.

With the help of dance, yoga, meditation and mindfulness – living mindfully – I managed to climb out of that deep dark place. It was a hard, painful and difficult journey. Not just for me, but for the people who love me as well.

In the last two years I have followed a number of courses and trainings and have developed my business. Apart from various yoga classes and meditation, I now offer coaching sessions as well. I decided to become a coach, because I want to help people who have been or have been through similar circumstances, to heal themselves, to become who they want to be and live a meaningful and happy life.

I get a lot of joy out of helping other people to get more out of themselves and their lives. And through my coaching sessions, I keep learning every day.