Buried Alive

In the last column we talked about not running from a feeling and not covering it. When we run from or cover what we’re feeling, the feeling gets buried. Much of the trouble we get into happens when we bury our feelings – when you are feeling angry, for instance, and you say to yourself, "No, I'm not angry! Who? Me? Angry? Naah." Why does this lead to trouble?

It's troublesome because if you do not stay with the feeling, if you deny it, or run from it, the feeling won't have a chance to tell you how to express it, how to get it out. And if it doesn't get out, it's buried. And if it's buried, it's always buried alive.

"Buried alive" means that the feeling is never expressed. To be expressed is what a feeling craves; it's a feeling's reason for being. A fish swimming, a bird flying, and a feeling expressed are three things that are alike.

When the feeling is buried alive, it never finds its own life. Rather, it's stuffed away and ignored before it has the chance to do what it was meant to do, get expressed.

The energy created by that buried feeling, like any energy, cannot disappear; it has to do something or go somewhere. Because the feeling is frustrated, the energy it generates is strong and desperate. Have you ever held a fish out of water or kept a bird from flying? That's what the energy is like. The feeling is literally fighting for its life. The only difference is that the feeling never dies. Never.

What happens when feelings are not expressed in a healthy way by their owner, in other words, buried? They do damage. While it may be true that very mild or minor feelings tend to fade away on their own, the important ones don’t.

This damage can take at least three possible forms, none of them desirable: The first possibility is addictive behavior, like problem drinking or eating. The second possibility is that they turn on their owner in a bodily way, like a mad dog, and cause physical sickness. The third is emotional or mental illness.

Am I saying that unexpressed or buried feelings can actually cause serious afflictions like alcoholism (addiction) and cancer (physical illness) and depression (emotional illness)? Yes.

And too often these buried feelings are the root cause of more than one of these illnesses in the same person. It is not unusual to see a guy suffering from symptoms of physical illness, addiction, and depression.

The solution, as we’ve seen, is the Three Steps to Emotional Fitness: Notice what your feelings are; Name them with a specific name; Express them in some way to the world. These steps keep the gears humming and the guy healthy.

© 2010 David Kundtz

Related information: Issues, Feeling Books: anger, assertiveness, depression, fear, forgiveness, general, grief, joy, loneliness, shame

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We know too much and feel too little. At least we feel too little of those creative emotions from which a good life springs. - Bertrand Russell


David Kundtz is a licensed family therapist in Berkeley, California. He presents seminars, workshops, retreats, and conference presentations in the areas of men's emotional health, stress management, and spirituality. He is the author of Managing Feelings:  An owner's manual for men and has recently completed a second book, Nothing's Wrong: A Man's Guide to Managing His Feelings. He makes his home in Kensington, California and in Vancouver, British Columbia. You may contact David at E-Mail or visit his web site at www.stopping.com

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