I recently had an aHa moment when talking to a client about this idea of being able to ‘tolerate our feelings’. Feelings make our life alive.

What do I mean by that? Well, let me explain. 

We are all capable of some degree of ‘feelings’ and we all have varying degrees of awareness about these ‘feelings’.

At the most basic level, as living creatures, we are attracted and move towards pleasant feelings, and we are repelled or move away from pain.

You can find this behavior in single-celled organisms such as an amoeba in relation to its environment. 

So, biologically, we are attracted to what we conceive of as pleasurable feelings. And repelled by feelings we interpret as painful or difficult. As human beings have evolved way beyond the complexity of a single cell.

We have overlaid this simple attract/ repel movement with more nuanced responses.

We can stop ourselves from moving towards pleasure for instance. Or shut out feelings of pain.

We can reorganize our nervous system to recognize certain types of abuse as familiar. And therefore less painful than the unknown, so we stay put.

We can become attracted or addicted to things that mimic pleasure.

Perhaps once gave us pleasure but has become more painful as time goes on.

Yet we hang on to the memory and still go towards that thing anyway. 

Humans are complicated! 

So why might this be important in relationships

Well, there are many ramifications, but for now, let’s say that you did not get much comfort or ‘regulation’ by your primary caregiver as a young child.

For an infant, the feeling of hunger, tiredness, tummy pains, or a dirty diaper is overwhelming and often painful.

If we are left to self-soothe or cry it out, we sometimes learn to shut out the unpleasant feelings. Pain becomes intolerable because we don’t know if it will ever end.

We don’t tolerate our feelings well as an adult. And we don’t want to be aroused to any sort of intense feeling. Since we never had the predictable co-regulation of a parent to learn.

That feelings pass and move through our bodies without damage. 

If our caregivers provide ‘good enough’ care. We learn that discomfort becomes comfort, through an interaction with another. We also learn that our pain can be dealt with and tolerated for short bursts.

Because we know it transforms to a feeling of pleasure and security in equal measure. We get good at tolerating different states of feeling. Because we learn that nothing lasts forever, and in the end, it’s all okay. 

For those of us who were not as fortunate in our early lives to develop healthy nervous system regulation. It can be very stressful to experience ANY intense feelings, and relationships are full of big feelings.

Love, jealousy, ecstasy, desire, fear, intimacy, vulnerability.

These can all be intolerable to our nervous systems if we aren’t able to contain the feelings and all of it can just be experienced as stress. 

Stress often kills intimacy, so becoming more resilient. And tolerant of big feelings helps us maintain healthy relationships. Learning how to tolerate feelings is something we work within our bodies.

We can practice and gain skills with increasing and decreasing the energy charge in our body. Learning that this charge and discharge can be managed, even enjoyed.

As an aside, on an energetic level, an orgasm is basically a build-up and release of energy. We gain the ability to feel more of our feelings.

Without falling over the edge into stress. 

The more we can stay with or ‘tolerate’ our feelings, the more we are likely to be able to stay present to someone else and be in a relationship with them. 

Interested to work with this?

Book a free consult with me and let’s talk. We can work online or in-person (as restrictions allow and are lifted due to the pandemic). 

With feeling, 

Ailsa