A Deeper Look at Your Feelings.
Here’s the bottom line about feelings. Our feelings are always, always operating in us, whether we want them to or not, and, whether we actually feel them or not. They’re part of the human package; so we don’t have a choice about their existence.
What we do have a choice about is whether to fear them, deny them, or (the obvious best choice) be open to them and make our feelings our friends. Only in this way can we be responsible for our behavior with ourselves and with others.
Try this. Learn to recognize when your feelings rise. Concentrate on actually feeling them. Now, focus on them; be curious about them. No judging or minimizing or burying them. Now, learn to name them. Maybe there are several different feelings at the same time. Some primary feelings, like fear or hurt, often hide under the surface ones: anger and frustration.
Recognize that all feelings appear for a reason, and ask yourself why yours have risen. Or, analyze what’s happening in the moment that would create them. Perhaps you’ll need to trace your current feelings back to your thoughts to understand them. Remember, whatever it is you are thinking, is generating your feelings. When you think about the thoughts you’re having and you realize they’ve caused your feelings to come up, you know a lot more about you. And, not only do you have more valuable data about you, but it also gives you much more control over yourself. Just think: no more need to react; you can be proactive instead.
The other possible reason for your feelings to rise would be that you’re having a “feeling reaction” to something outside yourself. It’s often even more important that you be aware and able to know what you’re feeling in those situations just so that you do not react.
I promise: If you’ll use this process, over time you’ll put yourself in charge of your feelings. Believe it or not, when you aren’t aware of your feelings, they’re in control of you and the situation you’re in. This is because you’re often reacting to them, whether you know it or not. (Remember, feelings are alive and operating in us, even when we’re unaware of them.)
On the other hand, if you recognize your feeling and label it, you have the data to make a conscious, clear choice about what to do with it. Then, you can direct your behavior smartly rather than reactively. If you’ll use this process, you’ll rob your feelings of their power to make you confused and defensive. What a relief!
And, there’s more. You’ll realize other benefits as you practice learning about and expressing your feelings.
One, when you acknowledge your emotions, you lower your body’s level of physical tension instead of continuing to carry that tension around. Stress from negative feelings over time can damage your digestive tract, lungs, circulatory system, muscles, joints and your body’s ability to resist infections. People who don’t acknowledge and/or express their feelings often develop high blood pressure.
Two, acknowledging and talking about negative feelings also reduces anxiety that, perhaps, you’re not even aware of. Express negative feelings and both anxiety and its buddy, frustration, fall away.
Here’s a bit of homework. It’s not an easy exercise but it’s important and it will bring you huge dividends if you’ll stick with it.
The next time you find yourself feeling angry, frustrated, closed and/or defensive, try this. Be quiet. Why? At times like these we tend to rant, complain or even accuse. But, it’s because when we don’t know our feelings, we don’t know our own whole story.
- be quiet,
- feel your feelings,
- label them,
- think about why they’ve come up right now.
Now, there you go; you have valuable data about yourself.
If you’re making a decision, you factor the information you’ve just gleaned from your feelings into the decision. Whatever you decide, it’ll be a much better choice because you’ve included all of you, your feelings as well as your thinking center.
If you’re not making a decision, you will use your feeling data to take charge of yourself so that you can go from angry and frustrated to calmness because you understand your anger, where it’s coming from and you’ve put yourself in charge of it. Congratulations!
*** I’ve put a sheet of “feeling words” both positive and negative ones, to get you started matching names to your feelings. Good luck with these and any questions, please send me an email.
Until next time warm wishes
to you and yours,
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