By Suzanne E. Harrill
An important part of inner strength is experiencing our feelings. In my life-long learning I have found the importance of practicing mindfulness as often as I can to notice what is going on within. I am learning to accept the reality of the moment as perfect for the expansion of my awareness and personal growth, and to not ignore what I am feeling. It is quite a big lesson to learn to go with the flow and not resist the reality of present situations as life unfolds in our day to day life. Of course it is easy when the lessons are joyful, fun, and life goes better than we planned.
It’s the challenging times that most of us are not prepared for, where we want to hide from the truth when painful and life presents the worst case scenario. Some people have trouble with happy, joyful feelings believing they will not last, however most of us have difficulty going with the flow and accepting fearful, unwanted feelings. I am sharing some things I do to help myself recognize and stay with my feelings. Please write me with some of your ideas, techniques, and methods to digest those challenging feelings.
1. Feel your feelings. This is a little different than feeling emotional and wanting to emote or do something, like run away or yell. Rather, it is recognizing what is going on within, such as feeling bored, lonely, betrayed, overwhelmed, or disappointed. It may be feeling satisfied, delighted, joyful, pleasantly surprised, happy, connected, or filled up emotionally, to name a few in the positive feeling direction. After recognizing how I am feeling, I now try to simply “be” with it for a while and not be in a hurry to do anything but feel them. There is usually a part of my body that clues me in that there is a feeling going on. I may have physical pain, tightness, or numbness that signals negative feeling emotions. I may find myself smiling or laughing or moving. There are many ways our body feels positive and negative emotions.
As I listen to my body talking to me, I’m learning to recognize what I am feeling in the present moment. It is easy for some of us to “mentalize” away and ignore what is being felt – “I can’t feel anger because s/he did the best s/he could at the time.” That kind of thinking keeps us denying our hurtful feelings and not taking care of ourselves emotionally. Our bodies store memories that we do not admit to and they eventually come out as physical pain or illness. New thinking says, it is true that another person did their best AND it hurt you emotionally.
2. Process feelings through talking and writing. Journal writing is a good way to clear what you are feeling. It can be remembering situations that hurt us in the past that we never admitted to ourselves until the present moment. Writing gets it out of us so we do not have to hold on to hurts. As we write we may interpret a situation through new eyes with one’s current awareness level, which may be very different from views held at younger ages. Writing can help us forgive ourselves and others. It can help us integrate significant emotional events that we have held at bay.
Talking to a friend or a therapist is another way to understand what we are feeling and to make sense of what we are feeling when confused or unaware of what we are feeling. Another’s questions can help us uncover things held deep inside. Sometimes as we verbalize we have realizations that were not clear when keeping feelings to ourselves. Not everyone needs to hear about these feelings and our process, so it is important to discriminate who we share with.
3. Ask yourself questions. When bored, unhappy, procrastinating, or unmotivated ask yourself what you are feeling. Learn to look within and answer yourself. If you are unmotivated maybe you need social stimulation because you have been by yourself too much. Look behind the feelings for thoughts that go with it. Maybe you think you should finish a project before you have fun with a friend. Become more aware of your true needs. In this case addressing the need is for connection and intimacy with a caring person. As you look you can move in the direction of balancing yourself so you will complete a task and not avoid.
4. Build awareness. Go to primary emotions behind current feelings. If you feel angry at another, consider going behind the anger to see what is causing the anger. Do you feel hurt, criticized or judged? Is it bringing up your own shame, embarrassment, and self-doubt? Maybe you feel abandoned by that person who was not there for you when you needed her/him, which taps into feelings of when you were a child and neglected by a parent. As you find the primary cause, you can forgive the person easier in your present because they are not the cause of your anger.
Consider creating affirmations to correct the hurts from the past and faulty interpretations of the people in the present. “I am a good person no matter what others think of me. I take care of myself and only spend time with those who truly care about me. I let go of unreal expectations of myself and others. I forgive my past for not providing the care I needed.”
5. Grow positive feelings in the garden of your day. We have the power to change our reality. It starts with our inner world with the thoughts and attitudes we generate within our minds. It is paramount that we intervene when we catch our own negative thinking or notice that we are attracting more than our share of negative people and situations. It is common to use “mind over matter” to ignore feelings and reactions to people and situations in our lives. Eventually this filters down to body pain and issues. The body records where we have been and negative feelings and beliefs do not die when we ignore them.
The next time you want to better understand your inner world of feelings consider these five ways to feel your feelings and process them, so they do not go underground, lay dormant, and pop out when you least expect it in a physical symptom or an emotional reaction. Become more conscious of what you feel in the moment as you go through the journey of life. Feeling your feelings to help integrate experiences and build inner strength and resilience. Write me about your own methods and techniques to recognize and process your feelings at Suzanne@InnerworksPublishing.