Authenticity of Emotions

This blog post is inspired by a recent blog post by Dr. Alice Chan: Be Real, Not Positive.    Dr. Alice Chan and I connected through Twitter, and I have found her to be an authentic and inspiring voice who is passionate about the work she does as an author, a speaker, and a coach.  Dr. Chan’s words in her most recent blog post resonated with me, as I read and agreed with the thoughts she shared regarding the treasures in negative emotions and how we might allow them to “have their air time” as any and all other emotions.


I believe that all emotions are valid and welcome, if they are honest.  I think of Rumi’s poem “The Guest House” when I reflect on this.  (This is a favorite poem of mine.  I encourage you to read it and take in the message if you are not familiar with this piece.)


In my blog writing, I typically focus on my experiences as a creative artist.  As I relate Dr. Chan’s blog post to my art, I know that, as a musician, it is important to bring my real self to the stage and to the practice room every time.  I need to stand in honesty and in vulnerability before my audience and in the presence of fellow musicians.  I believe that acknowledging one’s humanity evokes beautiful music.


When we appear as our whole selves – not denying those pieces that we judge as “ugly” or “messy,” we allow for a sincere connection between those offering the music and those receiving the music.  It takes courage to do this.  It might seem easier to slip into Dressing Room A to find a mask to put on & then go out and pick up our instrument and exude an air of confidence.  We might reach for a script that includes the lines, “I have it all together.”  But those performances, while they might be technically flawless…don’t move us.  And making music that moves others is what it’s all about – that vulnerable sharing of ourselves with others through our art.


As a choral conductor, I could appear before a group of singers at an evening rehearsal, plaster a smile on my face, and say in a peppy, perky voice, “It’s so great to be here!  We’re going to have so much fun singing.  Let’s hear your pretty voices starting on page 1 of the score,”  …or I could say…  “I’ve had a tough day, but it’s great to be with you to make music.  Let’s begin.”  Which conductor would you connect with?  Which conductor would you want to sing for?  I believe that people are craving authenticity.  I find it refreshing to be in the presence of someone who’s not afraid to be himself/herself.


Dr. Alice Chan provides steps to guide us in the journey toward authenticity of emotions:  acknowledging our feelings, allowing our emotions to be felt fully, learning from our negative experiences, and releasing our traumas and pain.  I believe that these steps allow for a person to progress through a healthy emotional cycle.  It’s when we deny our “shadow” that it becomes bigger than life and eats away at us.  My study of Debbie Ford’s transformational work has affirmed my intentions to invite myself and those who surround me to fully allow and embrace those darker shadow emotions.


While it might, at first, make us uncomfortable to witness others in their pain…it becomes easier and more natural.  We stop judging emotions as “good” and as “bad” and come to realize that we all experience highs and lows and in-betweens.  I desire to walk with my family and friends and fellow human beings through all of these.  I want to see the real you, and I want the real me to be witnessed.


I believe that whatever degree to which we allow ourselves to experience these difficult and painful emotions…to that same degree, we allow ourselves to feel joy.  If we resist feeling the “negative emotions” to their full extent, we also put a limit on our joy.  I want to experience the full spectrum of emotions, and I want to have the capacity to express all of these emotions in my musical performances and in my daily interactions with others.  I honor you and all you are feeling in this moment.  I invite your reflections and comments.

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11 Responses to Authenticity of Emotions

  1. anita says:

    i resonate with all of this susan!
    thank you for putting it out there. may we all be inspired to be more authentic with one another.

    • Alice Chan says:

      Although I only know you from your presence on Twitter, you most certainly inspire, and your heart shows! Grateful to have connected with both you and Susan there. Best to you, both, and, yes, let’s continue to inspire authenticity in all we have the privilege to meet!

  2. Alice Chan says:

    What a beautiful post! I myself *love* “The Guest House” by Rumi. It really does such an excellent job of reminding us that no emotions are bad, as you pointed out in your post as well. And, I can so appreciate what you said about being vulnerable and real in your creative endeavors and performances. Very grateful and honored that my post has inspired this beautiful piece from you! Thank you for this gift, Susan!

  3. Susan Featro says:

    Thank you, Anita and Alice. Being in connection with you and others who are open to all emotions and willing to sit and stand and write in vulnerability & let your real selves be seen is inspiring and helps me to stay the course.

  4. Thanks for the link to my blog, Susan. Your post connected with some of my own thoughts on emotions.

    Last night, I sat in a circle of men where one shared that he was reading a book on happiness. It was (of course) about seeking more happiness. Further around the circle, another man asked why there is no book or course on seeking more anger. There was much laughter in response to this. It was funny because it called to our shadows which don’t see the difference between feelings nor the sense of labeling them as positive or negative.

    While I understand what you mean by feeling “painful” emotions as part of what will “allow ourselves to feel joy” since I ascribed to this for many years, I no longer hold this. I think that I’m aligned with Dr. Chan’s thoughts in this regard. For me, feelings are not a balancing act. They are energy in motion. I can choose to hold on to them or let them flow like the energy they are. The way Dr. Chan puts it is “(f)eelings exist for the sole purpose of being felt” and I agree. When I allow them to flow in this way, I do not hold on to them and they do not grip me. That is when I am “real”.

    Of course, “thinking does not make it so.” And that is where the balancing act comes in. As emotions ebb and flow, I continue to find myself choosing to drown in the feeling of the moment or let them flow through me (much like Dr. Chan’s 4-step practice). So, let’s flow on to becoming real. 🙂

    • Susan Featro says:

      Thanks for your comment, Stan. The conversation about the book title definitely points to the common and sometimes unconscious practice of labeling emotions as positive & negative – I’m glad you shared that example.

      Now that you refer to feelings as “energy in motion,” I remember that you talked about this previously in a guest post you wrote on Carolyn CJ Jones’ blog I think you raise a great point. It is very easy to get stuck in our feelings…to ruminate in an unhealthy way…and not allow them to flow through us, not making room for more living and feeling. And that’s not being “real,” either. Who knew it was so much work to be real? 😉 Being real absolutely requires us being honest – with others and with ourselves…acknowledging what we are feeling & then processing these emotions & responding in a way that allows us to learn, grow, and be open to what comes next. Thank you for continuing to help me to deepen my thoughts on this. I’m all in, as we flow on to becoming real. What a ride! 🙂

  5. Mauricio says:

    I agree completely. As I’ve mentioned to you, this is precisely what lies behind some of the music I prefer.

    One of my favorite bands always ends with a particular song that expresses the hurt that comes from rejection. Hardly a perky way to end a concert but the singer will pull people up on stage to celebrate in this emotion and the end result is cathartic. Here is a sample of some of the lyrics:

    I don’t understand
    why you’ve done these things to me
    I can not comprehend
    your lack of loyalty

    For you I would have shaken down
    the heavens from the sky
    But it seems my love was stronger than
    this love of yours that died

    Did you think it wouldn’t hurt
    Did you think I wouldn’t feel
    when the world came falling down
    or maybe you didn’t think at all
    and that’s why I feel what I feel now

    Did you think I wouldn’t bawl
    Did you think I wouldn’t cry
    Did you think I wouldn’t beg you to stay
    One of these days you’re gonna realize
    just what you’ve thrown away

    Now I lie here in this empty bed
    and all I think about is you
    and I wonder if you miss me now
    and if your bed is empty too

    The singer is now happily married and has a lovely daughter but this is still how he ends his concerts. I am sure his joy is heightened after experiencing such a low.

  6. Susan Featro says:

    Thank you for your comment, Mauricio. I love how music allows us to express the full range of emotions. I also find that hearing words & notes that convey emotions that we are feeling or have felt helps in processing emotions.

  7. Kim says:

    I’ve been thinking about masks and honest emotions, too. Reading this post and the comments adds depth to my ponderings; for this I am grateful. I look forward to getting acquainted with you, Susan.

  8. Susan Featro says:

    I thank you for your comment, Kim, and I’m honored that my blog post inspired you to blog today, too. I want to share a link to your blog post with others here:

  9. Pingback: Voice Lifted to New Heights - by Susan M. Featro, Voice Lifted

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