I’ve lived in my head for most of my life. The last four years, it’s been treading the path of diving into my feelings.
The deep work has been all about feelings.
Starting to actually feel them and not numb or void them.
Then the work of processing them. And eventually accepting them.
In the midst of this, I’ve realized I’m really good at thinking processing. And too often, I haven’t done much of the feeling processing work. Which creeps up and causes all kinds of issues for me.
For instance …. here’s my thinking processing when I sold my company five years ago, which I got to talk through and share with lots of people:
- I saw the market change a lot and big companies with big resources come in. I realized quickly we would have a harder time competing and that eventually, they’d come after our products. David might have fought Goliath and won … once. But how many times could we do that as a bootstrapped small team. I didn’t like our odds. And I didn’t want to come to a point where we couldn’t keep up and have to lay off people. That was the simple “cognitive” rationale. We sold to a company we thought was the best fit for our company, products, customers and most importantly our people, at an amount that sounded reasonable.
I could go on, but I’m been down that path a lot, even publicly, and it’s not the work I need to do more of right now. I’m good with that decision and the justifications.
HOWEVER …. the feeling processing side was so much tougher and longer and arduous and deeper and nuanced.
It’s taken me 5 years just to be here today and don’t think I’m through all of it, or if I ever will be.
In fact, those “business” decisions and events triggered the deepest emotional work of my adult life that I’m still grappling with.
This part of my reflection is going to be vastly different. It’s going to look and feel messy … because it just is. It’s feelings and emotions with complexity and interconnectedness. It’s not always in a nice, tidy box. “Oh, I made X decision because of Y.”
And if I’m honest, I’d prefer more objective, reasoned processing of life.
Thus, warning, this won’t fit at all neatly in an MBA case study, but where my life is and I’m thankful for it because as painful as it’s been … it’s been the best work of my life.
Simply put: much of those events were and are connected to emotional pain in my past that I realize now I hadn’t fully processed, or healed from.
As life tends to do …. we keep repeating lessons until we learn from them and move to the next stage of our inner evolution.
Here is one of the biggest emotional themes that event triggered in me …
I realize my team wasn’t my genetic biological family. But my heart didn’t see it that way. They were part of my extended family.
That’s the way I cared for them. The way I led them. And how I loved them.
Just like family.
To that point in my life, I had been able to create — warts, fights, hurts and all — the family or family atmosphere I wanted.
I had what I always craved …. a group of people who simply cared for one another, despite our differences, and had a lot of fun together and coming together to do something bigger than ourselves.
I thought of myself as the shepherd of our team. I loved being a nurturing, supportive, encouraging leader and coach. And I enjoyed leading and sharing the vision of where we could go as a group.
Somewhere deep inside of me, I thought of myself as a parental figure.
So when the day came to sell the business, to turn it over to others and eventually leave that business and team vocationally … emotionally it felt like a divorce to me.
One I had been through early in my childhood. The emotional cocktail it triggered was loss and sadness, and guilt.
Loss and sadness that the magic we dwelled in for so long, the incredible experiences we shared together …. I wasn’t a part of any longer.
It had ended.
And I didn’t want that part to ever end.
Eventually I came to realize I was grieving. I was mourning loss. And it wasn’t just the loss of separation from that team … it triggered past loops of families separating and marriages ending in that loop. Big moves, drastic change and loneliness.
Guilt then would show up as I thought … “hey, no one died here.” In fact I was being congratulated for my professional “success” and financial gains while grappling with my personal inner “loss.” Not to mention the team I felt I left behind.
So even if I wanted it … I wasn’t going to get a lot of sympathy or empathy.
Except my fellow entrepreneurs.
In my personal life, I had witnessed and supported others going through profound personal grief. The kind where someone has died. But hadn’t felt like to that point, I hadn’t, to my understanding, experienced that kind of grief.
Bur really, truly and deeply … my heart hurt.
Untangling all these emotions with my counselor, mixed in with many other emotions and experiences, was and still is and always will be my work. The processing part, the catching up part, the healing part.
If the only certainty in life, as. the saying goes, are death and taxes … I know I’m not done with it.
I know it’s a deep and necessary part of the human experience.
In my head, I can observe nature and life and say, death, loss and endings are part of it all. Even essential.
If I look and compare most things in life, with emotional distance, I see why and how, it’s for the best. Eventually. Ultimately. Sometimes beyond my awareness.
It makes spaces for the new, for rebirth, it spurs on to the next way of being.
But ask me how I felt about it then …. and I’d say it just fucking sucks.
What I feel today upon reflection and doing this work is that I cared and I loved deeply. For those people and those experiences. I can see my capacity for love simply by the hurt and pain I felt.
And today, and with each passing day, I mostly am just really really grateful for those experiences.
This of course is not the full story.
I used this experience and what it triggered to share the difference between my thinking and feeling processing and to try to practice steps in processing them.
My thinking process is relatively fast. I made the best decision I could with the knowledge and resources I had available. And still believe it was the right decision.
My feelings as you can tell were not clear cut of concise. I see there are two parts to processing though. I need the thinking processing. But often times, the feelings side or part is a much longer road.
Writing some of my feeling out like this is tremendously clarifying. I noticed as I wrote this how nuanced my feelings are as well as perhaps unfinished.
I avoid the emtional work like this because it’s tough and painful. But putting it off only makes it worse.
But in this phase of life, I’m paying a lot more deserved attention to them … as they are the critical elements to my growth.