Compassion

How to Feel Your Feelings (Without Feeling Nuts!)

I recently had a conversation with a client who’s spent a great deal of time running from her feelings. Not in a “let me drown them in booze/Ben & Jerry’s/boyfriends" kinda way.
She’s smart.
Too smart, in fact.
So smart, that she can outsmart herself.

“Amita, I just don’t have time to eat well. I’m too busy with my kids, career, being amazing.” (Yes, I edited in that last part, but it went something like that anyway)

After a long list of seemingly sensible excuses. I said:

“Wow! It sounds like you’re super busy. Maybe you’re just too busy to be human.”

Client: “Well, why would I want to be human when I can be better than a human? If I don’t do all those things and I just sat around and ‘felt things’ nothing would get done.”

Me: “If you think emotions are a poor use of your time. I have 2 things to tell you:
1) Your time management skills suck.
2) We need to teach you how to feel things gently.”

(I should note that I’m usually not this blunt with clients. But as Blogs require brevity, I’m paraphrasing.)

Many of us have developed intricate coping mechanisms. Ones that might not cause devastation, but keep us stagnant, nonetheless. Often the fear that we will collapse under the weight of an emotion keeps us “busy” with other things. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good distraction. I just checked my phone twice while writing this post. But let’s do a short-term/long-term cost-benefit analysis of not feeling emotions:

  • Short-term impact of not feeling emotions-Awesome! Don’t have to feel icky, sad, or scared.
  • Long-term impact of not feeling emotions- No Bueno. Results in self-sabotage, poor decisions, and anxiety.

The good news is that you don’t have to stay in bed for a week and cry. You can feel things gently.

Here’s How:

  1. Notice it. Bring your awareness off of your iPone and to yourself. Are you feeling discomfort? Don’t worry about the “why,” just notice it.
  2. Name it. So often we lump emotions into one big bag of crap. Take time to differentiate them. For example, before a big work meeting you might feel “bad.” Break that down into parts. Is it anxiety? Is it nervousness? Is it excitement?
  3. Accept it. It seems contradictory, but feeling an emotion actually helps to process it out of you. Notice it and allow it to pass through you, flowing like a river. You don’t need to “do” or “fix” anything, just feel it. Often, we jump straight to a distraction or solution to make the feeling stop. By avoiding the feeling, it gets backed up in us (emotional constipation.) 
  4. Be compassionate. Acknowledge the fact that it is completely normal to have ups and downs. Compassion isn’t the same as complacence. It’s a tool you can use to give yourself love. Whether that be through changing the words you use to describe yourself, staying present, or treating yourself like you’d treat a friend, there are many ways you can increase your self-compassion.
  5. Act on it. From a space of awareness, take action. It can be going for a walk, meditating, or calling a friend. Sometimes, action can be non-action. It can be not sending an angry text, having patience, or walking away.

Feeling our feelings isn’t something we’re taught in school. It makes sense that we suck at it.
We've emphasized learning skills that are “marketable,” and ignored the ones that make us happy.
Isn't it time we changed that?

My advice?
Be gentle. Be brave. Be compassionate. 

The Words That Seal Our Fate

I was talking with a friend last night who decided to give me unsolicited advice. I, like most people, don’t take kindly to this. In fact, it annoys the shit out of me. In an effort to change the conversation to more neutral territory, I decided to fall on my sword and say, “Yeah, that’s just who I am. I don’t deal well with stress. Transitions kill me, but at least I know that.”

Immediately after I said it, I had a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach. I felt like I had just sealed my fate. Let me explain.

One of our greatest strengths is the capacity to grow, to assess our current situation and make choices that align with what we truly want. But it’s hard to do that when we carelessly “accept” false notions of ourselves.

And that brings me to the subject of acceptance. I often think that self-acceptance is a funny phrase. It straddles two worlds: the world of self-love and the world of complacence. I’m all about accepting my true self, but I’m not okay when what I’m accepting is a self-imposed limitation that’s based on past fears or shit my mom told me.

Phrases like, “’well that’s just who I am” sound a lot like awareness until you hear the rest of the sentence:

  • “…the type of person who doesn’t follow though”
  • “…a girl who needs the trendiest outfit”
  • “…a jealous boyfriend”

Because ultimately, none of that is actually acceptance from a place of love, it’s complacence from a place of fear. Self-knowledge is the first step to taking personal responsibility, but if you quit there, you’re doomed to continue a pattern that doesn’t serve you.

Why?

Because until you truly own your shit, the words you use are a self-fulfilling prophecy. An incantation that says, “Hey world, this is what I expect. Don’t give me anything more or anything less. I’m determined to stay _____________ (the victim, the under-achiever, the pot-smoking-unemployed-lives-with-my-parents-type-of-guy)

The Takeaway: The shit you say is the shit you believe. Choose words that shape your future, not ones that keep you stuck. 

What are the words you choose that seal your fate? I'd love to hear from you! Email me or share with the community in the Comments Section below.