THE COUNSELOR'S CORNER: The feelings beneath

By Fred Cavaiani

Three of the most common psychological struggles are the feelings of depression, anxiety and emptiness. Yet none of these are feelings. They are the reactions to avoiding what we need to feel. Depression and anxiety are two sides of the same coin. When we feel depressed we are really pressing down (depressus) on feelings that need to be experienced. When we are anxious it is because we have pushed our feelings so far down that they want to surface but we won't let them so they became locked into some part of our body where we experience intense physical agitation. The result is a multitude of physical symptoms like chest pain, intense beating of the heart, headaches, upset stomach, a sense that we can't breathe or feeling like we are about to have a heart attack. Emergency rooms are very familiar with people suffering from anxiety disorders or panic disorders. The third pillar of poor emotional health is a feeling of emptiness in life. It is a sense of having no belief system to fall back upon. It happens when people stay so much in their heads that they neglect their hearts or their feelings.

Beneath depression are feelings that need to be experienced in order to heal. Beneath anxiety are feelings that need to be experienced in order begin healing. And behind emptiness are the feelings that have been neglected for years by staying in our heads and attempting to think everything through only with our intellect and minimizing the feelings inside.

The feelings beneath the feelings are the wounds of life. When we have been hurt by someone we need to admit, accept and feel that pain. Depression is pushing the hurt away and as a result we deprive ourselves of psychological and spiritual energy that helps move us forward. Anxiety is avoiding the feelings beneath and locking them inside of our bodies. We then began to deplete our bodies of the necessary energy to move forward. Everyone experiences emotional wounds in life. But so many are afraid to own these emotional wounds and heal from them by experiencing them. We need to feel in order to heal.

The emptiness so many people experience can block a person's desire from having an experience of God or even a belief in God. This emptiness comes from intellectualizing everything away in such a manner that listening with the heart about Love, about God, about the fundamental foundations of life becomes a foreign language. People discover joyful foundations in life because they have embraced their own brokenness and their own pain with wide open hearts and arms.

It is so important to realize that there are feelings beneath depression, beneath anxiety and beneath emptiness. Depression, anxiety and emptiness are simply a superficial though very intense reaction to block what we need to feel. No one ever "falls apart" as a result of feeling too much emotional pain. We "fall apart" from fighting against our emotional pain, running away from it, and avoiding what is in our hearts by attempting to stay in our heads and rationalize or intellectualize it away.

The Feelings Beneath want to be set free so we can become free. The great Carl Jung, a brilliant psychoanalyst once said, "I know God because I have experienced Him." When we experience our own pain and our own brokenness we began to get a glimpse or even a powerful experience of what it feels like to have meaning in our lives. We begin to realize that there is a God who loves us and that we are not this God. We begin to emotionally let others come closer to us. Physical symptoms begin to disappear. What once seemed confusing starts becoming simple. We have left our heads to experience our hearts. Tears pave the path to joy. Emotional agony turns to a sense of emotional peace. And that feeling of personal emptiness changes into a path toward experiencing a profound sense of meaning and a powerful experience of a loving, wise and compassionate God who is embracing us at every moment in life.

When totally embraced, the Feelings Beneath help us to stop being judgmental and condemning toward those who seem different. We stop condemning the world and start loving the world because we now know the way to peace and love. Our greatest desire is to help others on their journey through life by embracing them with our kindness and love. There are no enemies. There are only hurting people who have put such walls around their personal selves. We live our lives in such a way as to melt those walls by the warmth of our compassion, our kindness and our disarming humility. Pay attention to the Feelings Beneath. They will bring you into a glorious journey.


Fred Cavaiani is a licensed marriage & family therapist and psychologist with a private practice in Troy. He is the founder of Marriage Growth Center, a consultant for the Detroit Medical Center, and Henry Ford Medical Center. Fred conducts numerous programs for groups throughout Southeastern Michigan. His column in the Legal News runs every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 248-362-3340. His e-mail address is: and his website is

Published: Tue, May 05, 2015