For a long time in my life, I mistook talking about my feelings for actually feeling my feelings.
There’s a big difference.
I was good at labeling and identifying my feelings.
I could tell you all about how I felt about something that was going on.
I could explain what memories and narratives were being activated around my feelings.
But, actually slowing down to feel those damn things?
No, thank you.
The idea of actually allowing the pain, the sadness, the hurt, the disappointment to move through me was categorically unappealing. I didn’t see the point, honestly.
I’d sooner zone out on social media, eat chocolate, drink wine, or go “window shopping” on various online sites than turn inward to feel things that I didn’t enjoy feeling.
Over time, however, I’ve come to appreciate the bittersweet relief and freedom that come from allowing emotional weather to pass through me, instead of getting stuck inside of me.
This week, if you – also – find yourself avoiding emotions, I’m sharing a step-by-step guide to help you drop inward and feel your feelings too.
How to Feel Your Feelings
- An unpleasant feeling arises.
- Your mind generates core beliefs and fears that accompany this feeling. (For example: I’m not good enough, I can’t do it, I always fail at this, I’m unlovable, I’m unworthy, I don’t matter, I can’t get my needs met, etc.)
- STOP: You are thinking your feelings!
- REDIRECT your attention away from thinking, analyzing, interpreting, and feeding old stories of wrongness, and put that attention into the sensations in your body.
- Mentally name and track the sensations you’re experiencing in your body. (For example: My chest is heavy, my throat aches, my stomach is fluttery, my hands are cold, etc.)
- BREATHE into the sensations and feelings and allow them to just be there. Watch them, notice them, and track them. They will move and shift and change. They might disappear like a feral cat, intensify like a burning fire, crumble into pieces, and shudder through you. Cry. Shake. Shudder. Laugh. Follow your body and let it move.
- Your mind will want to hijack your attention and rescue you from feeling. It will want to alleviate your pain by pulling you back into story-interpretation-meaning-making mode. When this happens, gently redirect your attention and awareness back into your body.
- Breathe deeply. Relax your body. Tell yourself it’s safe to feel these things now. Keep feeling into your body. Allow your feelings to exist.
- Trust that your feelings will move, metabolize, and leave once they’ve been seen, heard and felt. Watch them change and shift and subside. They always subside.
- Notice that you’ve survived. Notice how quickly the feeling moved through you once you brought your presence and compassion to it. Notice how you feel now that it’s moved through you. People often report feeling more spacious, relieved, relaxed, exhausted, grounded, present, whole.
When we actually feel the feelings in our bodies, without intellectualizing them or moving into our minds, they last on average for about 90 seconds in our bodies. But, when a feeling arises and we find ourselves trying to figure out where it came from or what the root cause might be, we’re actually intellectualizing them, not feeling them.
Intellectualizing our feelings may be an attempt to meet needs for clarity and understanding. Avoiding our feelings may be an attempt to meet needs for safety, comfort, or ease. Feeling our feelings, however, actually meets our needs for self-connection, healing, presence, and integration.
And now it’s your turn: What makes it difficult to feel your feelings? What has helped you settle inward more?
I’d love to know, leave a comment below.
Makes sense, for sure. But I think the thing to remember is that there’S no “PERMANENT destination”. I may find mySelf doing this over and over agaiN. But the practice DEFINITELY helps me to move through these difficult feelings much quicker. And I always am the Wiser afterwards. I also tend to make better choices with regard to how i react.
It’s hard too feel a feeling when I want something to happen in a relationship that can not happen. Wanting it instead of enjoying what is.
Its really helpful to recognize it DOESN’T work to THINK myself out of a feeling.
Spent 4.5 years in psychodynamic therapy intellecualising all of my emotions. wish my therapist had been equipped with more than one modality as I feel that this method mentioned here will take just as long to incorporate into my life. Such hard work all the time, it’s exhausting.
This is so helpful–i expect this will be a game changer for me! as someone who has struggled to “know” or be able to access what I am feeling, I always thought naming my feelings was doing myself a huge favor, and I have spent a lot of time and energy learning how to name my feelings. I love the invitation to think about that as intellectualizing and keeping myself distant from actually feeling the feelings. Thank you, Yvette.
Thank you, Yvette, for this sharing! There is lots of saddness in my life at this time of year.I appreciate your encouragement to just sit with it. Feel it. And let pass through. Your step by step process is very helpful, Throughout the year I have read many of your postings and also, shared many with friends working on building awareness. Many thanks for your gems of wisdom!