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Whenever I lead a stress management workshop the one of the themes I talk about is feeling your feelings. The theory is that anxiety creates it was “a buzz” that keeps us protected from our emotions. We convince ourselves that feeling anxious, worrying about the to-do list or how to be a better person is WAY better than dealing with the actual pain we are feeling. Anxiety masks what is going on; it allows us to ‘get high’ on the safe, numb aspects of our life and keeps us blissfully unaware of the real pain that is there.hop ourselves up. You can read more about the theory here: detoxifying from worry.
Inevitably, I will get resistance from the audience about the idea of feeling our feelings it goes something like this…”If I paid attention to my feelings all the time and talked about them all the time, my conversations would be nothing but loss and depression. And I don’t want to get stuck there.” I totally get it. It was just a few months ago I said to my nearest and dearest, “How am I suppose to feel all these feelings AND live my life!?”
There is no absolute in feelings. There is no RIGHT. If you look at psychology advice around feelings, you will hear everything from you have to feel all your feelings all the way through to their end, to don’t let your feelings control you. And I believe that advice comes out of the two extreme ways that people deal with their feelings:
Type 1: Lives in denial, they appear happy, content and tend to have a smile on their face most of the time. If you look deeper, denial tends to be the name of the game. They rarely express an emotion and tend to be anxious using many numbing devices to deal with said emotions (drinking, eating, TV watching, playing video games, etc.
Type 2: Lives in their emotions. They express how they feel whether through constant sharing, bouts of anger, or crying jags. They are very aware of how they are feeling and tend to get stuck in one emotions or the other (e.g. anger or sadness). Their emotions tend to control them, so they lose control in meetings, or have trouble getting things done due to fear or sadness.
The danger comes when you ping between the 2 extremes of Type 1 and Type 2. Sometimes when individuals stay in Type 1 for too long, they will bounce to Type 2 for a period just so the feelings have a way to express themselves.
So to the people that live in denial about their feelings we give the advice, “Feel your feelings” and to the people that feel everything, we say, “take action, get out of your feelings”. And what tends to happen is we take the advice that we are already doing. So Type 1 continues just to take action, and Type 2 continues to feel their feelings.
So what should you do? Pay attention and breathe. Know yourself. Which of these two extremes is your preference? If you are a denial fan, then start taking the time to listen to those feelings more often. If you give too much awareness to your feelings, then start putting them aside to take some small actions.
You can learn to deal with your emotions in a healthy way rather than making the choice to expressing them inappropriately all the time. We can get stuck, either way, stuck in feelings or stuck in denial. The point of living happier is to get unstuck.
Here are ways to deal with your feelings:
- Throughout the day, acknowledge what you are feeling–just notice it, you don’t have to express it or share it, just be aware of it. When we bring awareness to the feelings, they lose some steam, which is helpful for both types.
- After you acknowledge it and notice it and it has lost some steam. Ask yourself is there something I want to DO to express this emotion e.g. lovingly confront someone, write a letter, talk to a friend, do something physical.
- When the feelings get too much. Do something physical–if you are happy; dance, if you are angry; throw some old dishes, if you are sad; ask for a hug or cry.
- Have safe people you can talk to about your emotions.
- Remember there is no RIGHT way. There is just knowing yourself. If you are being honest with yourself and accepting of yourself, you are doing an awesome job! Remember you are doing the best you can with what you have right now.
What are some ways you deal with feelings? What is some advice you have heard about feelings that has resonated with you? What is some advice that hasn’t resonated with you? Do you tend to be a Type 1 or a Type 2?
Thanks to StephenPHampshire for the great pic!!