Heavy Emotions


For quite some time I’ve thought about emotions and tried to understand them better. I can easily becom caught up and excited in learning about things and sensing things. I strongly consider emotions a sense. Some of the things I do to rewild like harvesting from plants and using peices of animals seem like they need a certain kind of emotion to make the actions meaningful and respectful of the actual interaction taking place. You can walk up to a plant and ask it for something, but if you don’t really ask how will you know how it feels about giving up the fresh leaves it works so hard on. Tom Brown Jr. talks about asking everything involved in something you do for it’s permission or blessing. It seems that to gain that you need to really feel and understand how sgnificant the gift you ask for is and express it. Sometimes in the midst of this understanding it’s easy to bring forward a proper heartfelt thank you and expression of gratitude, but emotions are sometimes fleeting. I guess something I have trouble with is carrying those emotions or at least carrying the realizations that they brought with me as I express them. Many other situations interacting with living things bring similar emotional challenges. In English it’s easy to just pass on information enough to suffice an interaction, but many cases the emotions carrying the words or other expressions give them their potency and meaning.
David Abram talks about animism and the aliveness of every single thing in his book Becoming Animal, going deep into the exploration of life in all the places we see, but forget to look. For me that was incredibley exciting…at first. I had already come to believe this as true, but hearing(reading) it and trying to understand all the implications and act upon them made me feel an immense amount of pressure to keep up a certain emotional energy throughout every interaction… or else I wasn’t showing the proper respect to these things that regularly gave their gifts to help me do what I needed/wanted to do. When I didn’t have that openness and emotion I felt like a failure, that I couldn’t hear the wishes or feelings of those non-humans surrounding me. Sometimes that even made me feel afraid that now that I was consciously aware that I owed it to different things to give them some kind of acknowledgement beyond just look at them or pick them up and use them. It seems like as an animal this interaction would come naturally and it did until I kept thinking about. Maybe that just shows that I have a little bit of paranoid thinking to deal with, but it also seems like a legitamate concern in the understanding of an alive world, where everything has emotions that matter, and no gift comes without a cost, so to speak. The knowledge that for a plant to give itself for a human to eat means just that, it literally gives up a part of itself. To pick the fresh acorns from the forest floor means the 5 plus families of squirrel that live in those oaks have less food to eat. Is it enough for them? If a half-hearted offering is all you muster have you really fed thanks to the things that feed your life? These consequences have real weight that something real feels. Do I feel that?
How do we carry this weight of our emotions into a world where we must take life and every single one has something prescious and irreplaceable in their every fiber?


I guess another question I have is, does anyone feel it difficult, for whatever reason, to express emotions and to keep them present in what they’re doing? Like sometimes knowing that you feel a certain way, means you have to put yourself out there. Or That to feel a certain something is so scary that we have to “disassociate” with it or supress it. And how do YOU let your emotions move you even when they have to do with uncomfortable truths and things of great consequence?
I realize this is an intimate topic, one that’s personally revealing to discuss. I just find it difficult as someone so emotionally driven to find myself in so many situations, where I feel I can’t act emotionally or that I’m too afraid to, or worst of all not wanting to do the work of feeling. I want to know if other people face the same problems and how they deal them.


The timing of my dipping in here just now and reading this feels pretty incredible to me. I spent some time this evening reflecting on my own flow of heavy emotions connected to the trouble that my brother’s in, and now, after finally crying, am fumbling around on the computer looking for some kind of distraction (or something else, I don’t really know). In any case I am very sad tonight. It feels heavy. My brother is a year older than I am, and we grew up close. He’s been an addict for years and has been through all kinds of horrors. The last couple of days have brought fresh stories of more horrors, and it feels likely that he is destined for either prison or death. I have some kind of internal structure that holds my brother-worries and brother-grief and anger and all of that. I don’t exactly remember constructing it consciously, but I remember a few years ago noticing its presence. When I think of where I usually keep my saddest, most frightened thoughts about him, I find myself pointing to the lower right side of the back my head, right near my neck. It’s like there’s a little house there for him. I imagine my heart overflowing with sadness and the sadness oozing upward until it finds that little house by my neck and goes in. So anyway there is certainly active suppression of emotion going on there. It feels necessary to me in this instance, because my brother’s situation is very long-term, and I feel pretty certain I would be a huge, immobilized mess if my emotions around my brother flowed completely freely all the time. I imagine I’d just sit crying into my lap half the day. So I let the sadness collect in the little house and just try not to let it sit there too long—when I feel really heavy with it, I find a way to get myself crying. Even then, though, there’s still something way down that hurts that I’m not really able to get at.


Thank you for sharing your story. it must be so sad and worrying to feel like someone so close to you has such things to face ahead of them. I’d feel incredibly helpless. I tend not to want to accept such things, especially for the people close to me. I always want to help them out. That’s incredible that he has someone who cares about him that much. It makes our problems easier to face when we know that people care about the outcome of our struggles. It can bring change even if only small things can shift. It’s that much more to live for. A reason to try just a little bit harder on a day when we see a slight glimmer of hope shining through all the pain, and mess, and memories.

Sometimes I feel my emotions manifesting physically like that. Especially in my throat and neck. It’s like when something is wanting to surface and I don’t let it, t builds up tension in my muscles and maybe other parts and unless I act it out or let it out somehow, it makes me stay tense and sometimes I get suffocating feelings, but when it does come out I feel it all over my body. I almost actively does this with a minor sometimes addiction(depending on how I use it at the given occassion) of smoking different plants mainly tobacco. I sometimes use it to avoid feeling these things and because of how I use it, the muscles pull with great resistence of themselves, and it’s a contortion to force myself to do this. It makes my neck muscles solid and irritatingly tense, effecting all my other movement. I want to feel what I need to, but I feel scared at the weight of these emotions and the unpreparedness of knowing how to handle them and the responsibility of making them part of my life and especially knowing that I might not be able to stop feeling enough to stop from essentially becoming debilitated from taking care of dfferent responsibilities and also the fear that my fear itself will interupt the flow. It seems ridiculous, especially saying it.


…But it’s also kind of like the place that I store some of the emotions that I don’t know if I can deal with.


I seriuosly hope things can change for the better for you and your brother.


Yes, so much physicality in what emotions are flowing any given moment. Why does sadness feel so heavy? Like you want to lie down on the floor as flat as a pancake. Meanwhile something exciting and joyful makes you light and jumpy.

Thanks for listening to my story and expressing concern, Kyle Ray. I appreciate your kindness. Meanwhile I’m looking back at your original post. “How do we carry this weight of our emotions into a world where we must take life and every single one has something prescious and irreplaceable in their every fiber?” This is such a sweet question, I love it.


Hello Kyle,
I’m touched by your ability to express your emotional connections to the natural world and your thoughtfulness in considering the impacts of your actions so carefully. I am also a deeply sensitive person when it comes to things that matter to me, and I’ve had similar thoughts as those you expressed here.
Regarding the need to consider, thank, respect, honor, express gratitude and so forth with each individual being that your actions impact: I have found that for myself, focusing on three specific things has helped me navigate these waters with less emotional confusion.

First, I try to maintain a state of open awareness. This allows me to connect with the beauty, purity, and perfection in nature, as well as to learn about patterns and connections and relationships within and without. It’s almost like seeing with the “child’s” eyes / mind / heart - full of wonder. Very energizing and empowering.

Second, I try to maintain a state of appreciation. This is easy with the spectacular or rare things we encounter, but can be more of a challenge with things that seem more mundane or common to us. By appreciation I mean trying to see the values of those things, whether that be to me personally, to the ecosystem, to the earth, and so forth.

Third is gratitude and its’ expression. Although I do at times feel moved to express my gratitude individually, sometimes I conceptualize it in a larger sense (gratitude for the forest, the sky, the water) and most commonly I express my gratitude in an even larger sense to my “pagan” concept of Earth Mother and the Universe.

I am a non-theist who does not believe in the concept of a supernatural deity, however I have found that establishing the practice of saying blessings for the things that enter my awareness and that matter to me has been extremely helpful. Saying a little blessing in my own way, whether it be one of concern or gratitude, eases my emotional concern / distress greatly and keeps me aligned with my strength. It helps me remember to think larger than myself - to remember that I am doing the best that I can, as a flawed human being trying to find her way in a crazy-mad world, at that moment in time, AND that I’m not the center of the universe :wink:

All we can ever do is our best in the current moment, and our best changes from one moment to another. It is grounding and centering for me when I remember this concept, and I practice the same thing whether I’m expressing gratitude for a meaningful wildlife sighting or expressing my concern over a neglected chained up dog I see in my neighbor’s yard. It helps me to release my emotions “to the universe” if you will. (I hope that doesn’t sound too flaky - don’t mean to alienate you with my personal ways of relating)

One final thought, I have also found that using a “compartmentalizing” strategy with emotions is a useful tool at times when I feel like it’s all just too much. The idea is that you put each concern in a safe place - a “container”, acknowledge it’s validity and importance even if it’s UGLY, put the lid on it, and save it for a time when you are ready to address it. This strategy requires that we agree with our self and our concern that we will revisit it, but at the right time, and not all jumbled up into a big giant ball of shit with other feelings and concerns. Breaking it down into smaller pieces is my number one strategy when i feel overwhelmed by anything. Like unraveling individual threads from a tapestry and interacting with them one at a time…

I truly believe that it is not “if” we can deal with the emotions, it is “when”, and “when” is whenever we are ready. The process of envisioning their storage in a container can actually help us physically, since the “mind” is inseparable from the “body”, it can help us store those things in an appropriate vessel so to speak, instead of them causing us inescapable pain (literal and figurative pain).

Hope I haven’t blabbed on too much here :slight_smile: - Best wishes!


Not at all. I’ve been thinking a lot about similar things recently. I’ve begun taking talking to thngs more seriously. I’ve wanted to have real relationships with lots of different living things that surround me for quite a while, but it feels really scary some times. I tend to relate to things spiritually that I experience in my life. Which means that the greatest forces or spirits that I intentionally interact with I can experience physical contact with and do throughout daily life. This means that some of the things that I hold the most respect for I touch and pass through and use the power of with surroundings and my own body. And it doesn’t go away. It lives with me. This sort of belief took inspiration from elements of wicca, but also grew out of my own personal beliefs about the world, however riddled with uncertainty they might feel. These things I sometimes want to address in a more ritual way because I don’t really know how else to show the kind of respect I want to or feel necessary. With smaller things I’ve found that opening myself up to conversing in English has made a little less pressure in that I express myself in a way that I can say things that I mean. However flawed the english language might be, it does give a way to tell the story of how you feel. From simply giving thanks to things that I harvest from or meals that I eat or tools that I use and then respect them by trying to learn how they like me to use them(that can mean as simple as appreciating and utilizing a certain shapes unique advantages or a teas special flavors and ways of combining and acting within our bodies). Also, saying hello.
This sort of interaction and thinking feels much more satisfying and interactive. We may speak in different ways, at least working together we can learn how. I like having interactions with the plants in the garden or ones i meet going here or there. Though with some things I have a hard time differentiating enough the “where something ends” to know the extent of my who my thanks goes to, and then it becomes an open thank you to everything that made this possible.

Lately, using my awareness has made a huge difference. And not just using it now and then, but accepting all the things it brings me actively guiding it. Actually some of the stuff you bring up has a lot in common some of the practices that I’ve started to try using more regularly and allow as normal for my personal life. A huge step for me has been not becoming paralyzed by the feeling that I don’t know how to properly address something or that I don’t have words, or the right kind of respect. I guess I figure that I am who I am and even if I don’t know the preference of a certain entity to receive gratitude, probably giving what I can will mean more than avoiding the interaction out of fear. And also, the knowledge that I don’t know, means that things might be a little more open ended than I may have previously imagined. And that looks a little closer to what I want to believe in, what seems wonderful to me.

I think I have some more thoughts on this, but a lot of what you’re talking about is kind of in the happening to me and working through “phase”, if that makes any sense. Thank you for bringing these things up. The way you describe them makes some of my feelings and thought processes seem a lot more recogonizeable, which lends a hand in understanding them.


Kyle, thanks for your reply. Have you seen this thread in the FB forum? Peter shared a link I’m copying here that I thought was relevant to our conversation: http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/claire-wren-dunn/natures-wall-of-grief_b_8229816.html
He also recommended a book “Martin Prechtel’s new book, ‘The Smell of Rain on Dust’ for those interested in finding ways to move through this grief.” Have you read either?
I added a link to a reading list from the ecopsychology perspective - curious if you are familiar with any of those? I’m just getting started on this theme as far as reading plans, would love to hear your thoughts if you have read any of the above. Thanks! :slight_smile: