The Spectrum of Emotions: Embracing Gentle and Subtle Release
A few weeks ago, I combined two of my favorite luxuries: massage and pedicure. As per usual with my foot hygiene and pampering routine, I requested an additional 10-minute massage. If you soak my feet in a bubbling tub of hot water, cleanse my toenails of excessive cuticles, release my heals from rigid dryness, and massage the depths of my calves and feet, I am utterly, unequivocally, and unabashedly in heaven.
The pedicurist cleaned, scrubbed, and scrapped my feet as I eagerly awaited her fists to dig into my calves, ankles, and heels for a magical 10 minutes. It’s important to add I like both full body and foot massages to be strong, firm, and hard. Two reasons: one, I have a high threshold for pain; two, I’m almost always unnecessarily stressed, carrying the weight of my emotional woes – both legitimate and excessive – in my back and neck whereby my entire back torso and posterior region is typically solid as a rock. It takes a fierce push into my muscles to make anything simmer down. Usually, without asking me, pedicurists sense the situation and dive right in – strong, firm, and hard.
But on this special day a few weeks ago, the pedicurist began massaging my legs and feet with a gentle undertone. I thought to myself, “Maybe she’s just warming up?” She wasn’t. I thought, “Maybe I should tell her to go harder and deeper,” which was really just a euphemistic way of thinking what I was really thinking, which was, “Let me prove to you what a high tolerance I have for suffering and pain. Jab your thumbs into my muscles until I feel it in my bones and all of my tension releases!”
But, I didn’t. I didn’t say – or shout – any of these things. Instead, I sat there, feeling – and embracing! – the sensations of this gentle, subtle offering of touch and release. I realized how similar this physical release was to emotional release, and thus, my emotional thresholds for pain and suffering.
I am so used to an overabundance of emotional intensity in my life. In addition to having had a decade-long eating disorder, I have also survived a plethora of additional traumas. While I am recovered from the eating disorder and healed from these additional traumas, it is impossible to overlook how much these experiences have stretched my emotional tolerance and threshold.
I have withstood and survived deep, deep pain and trauma. Yet, sometimes, I feel that even in my recovered and healed state, I need deep pain and suffering in order to fully experience, embrace, and justify my feelings. I keep repeating this narrative: I need deep intensity in order to find release. In doing so, I overlook the beautiful lessons subtle feelings and gentle emotions have to offer. I forget to revel in the more subdued layers of life.
When the pedicurist finished the 10-minute massage, my calves were tingling. They felt refreshed, relaxed, and rejuvenated in a way deep tissue massage rarely achieves. I thought to myself, “Hey, maybe I should test this out with my emotions!”
And so, I have. It hasn’t been easy. I keep catching myself yearning and craving for deep emotional pain in order to experience heightened healing. But it’s so exhausting. It’s not a way to live sustainably.
One of my ongoing fears in being recovered the last seven and a half years has been that I will stop learning the spectrum of my emotions. Silly me! There is so, so much more beauty to learn. There is a whole palette of subtle and gentle emotions with which I have yet to paint. I cannot wait!