November 6, 2016
This week I want to talk about feelings.
It’s true that every time I talk about feelings, I have a little voice in me that starts singing “Feelings.. nothing more than feelings…!!” I try really hard not to sing it in session, but there are a few of you out there that may have had the privilege of witnessing me break into song!
I want to sing about feelings because my perspective on them has a certain levity that helps balance to the heavy outcry from my clients: “Oh no.. feelings?! I don’t want to have feelings!”
Oh, but you really do. And I am going to tell you why…
This week’s theme is: Top 4 reasons to feel your feels! (“Feels” is how the all the cool kids are referring to feelings this days!)
But first, why wouldn’t we want to have feelings?
What I have gathered is that many people fear their feelings. The most common response I get when I encourage someone to feel their feels is “I am scared I will feel this and I won’t be able to come back.” They fear if they allow a feeling of sadness, then they will be sad forever. If they allow feeling angry, they will be angry, always. The other really common response I hear is “Well, I am not a depressed person” or “I am just not an angry person,” as if your feelings define your personhood.
If this sounds familiar to you, I sure would like to help you “feel your feels.” I would like to help you see that feelings are GOOD! That’s right, I said it, feelings are good! And I am not just saying that because people’s feelings are what keep me employed, I am saying this because it is true. You were given feelings for a reason. We all have them, without exception. Not only do we all have feelings, we all have the capacity to feel the same ones. Now this is pretty cool, and I am going to tell you why in just a minute, but first, more education on feelings..
Feelings are temporary states of being. Did you hear that key word- temporary! In all my 16 plus years of working with people, I have yet to see a person have a feeling and never come back. I have a silly image in my head when I hear about the fear of having a feeling and never returning form it, a scene: client falls down a deep well of a feeling. I try to go spelunking to find them, only to realize its a lost cause. “Yup, she’s a goner. She felt sad, got lost in it, and she never came back. Rescue attempt tried and failed. Time of departure into feeling, 9:45am.” See? Levity can help! Talking about feelings does not have to be so heavy!
So, to be clear, there has been exactly zero times that I have lost someone into the cavern of feelings never to return again. Even those with clinical depression have variation in their days and their feeling states. So let’s get the fear that you will get lost forever out of the way first and foremost.
Ok, so here is where I convince you with compelling arguments as to why you want to embrace your feelings. Here we go, here are the top 4 reasons you will want to feel your feels:
Reason Number 1. Feelings are helpful. Yup, all of them. Not just the “good” ones (you know I dislike black and white statements like “good and bad” but we will use these terms here to help make a point). Feelings were given to us as a tool. Feelings help guide us and allow us to continue to grow and evolve- and dare I say, I might just love the difficult feelings the most! Not only do they help us grow even more then the positive ones, they are key tools that help us on our path.
When we are happy, the feeling signals to us, “Hey you, you see this here, yah, this! This right here, keep doing things like this! This is nice!” ..and then when we are disappointed, it signals something to us like, “Hey, that kind of stunk. That didn’t turn out the way I wanted or hoped.”
If you are willing to look at this as an opportunity for growth, you may ask yourself, “How could I have shaped that differently?” Maybe you come up with really cool information for your growth as you self-reflect, such as .. “Well, I didn’t really communicate clearly what I hoped I would get out of that, maybe next time I will be more assertive so that this situation could meet my needs.” See how that works? Now you are armed with new information that will help you evolve and grow just from having what some would call a “negative” feeling. If you feel disappointment and then tell yourself, “Oh, I shouldn’t be disappointed, I mean all in all it was fine, what am I complaining about” then you have also cheated yourself out of a great opportunity for growth and it creates a new problem as outlined in Reason Number 2….
Reason Number 2. Trying your darnedest not to feel your feels, is the sure fire way to keep your feels around. I mean, you outright know that they are they and you say to them, “No, I am not going to feel that.” This is a problem…
Let’s talk about why people try not to feel the feels they know they have:
Fear- as we stated above, worrying about never coming back from the feeling. I hope I have sufficiently debunked this concern above.
Self- judgment- as in, you think there is something wrong, bad or unjust in you having the feeling you do. For example,“I shouldn’t feel this way” ..as if there is a Feelings Referee that gets to decide what feelings are in-bounds and what feelings are out-of-bounds…
Minimizing the feeling- as in, “yea it was not that bad” …when it really was…
Comparing your feelings to others- as in, “Well, everyone else seemed fine with it, so why shouldn’t I?” …as if you really know how anyone else was feeling internally…and even if you did …as if that matters to your experience..
You have the right to your feelings, no matter what. This is not to discount that there are ways to learn to shift your perception of events to help you have more peaceful feelings about them, but that’s a future blog post! For now, we are working on just being in the moment with your feelings. Recognizing you have them and then acknowledging them.. and then feeling them! Trying to stop this process is a sure fire way to keep your feelings hanging around; the best way to keep yourself “stuck” in a feeling is to not give yourself permission to feel it.
When you do give permission to feel, you will see that the feeling will start to move through you. All these little feelings want is to do their job: to be felt so they can send a signal to you. Once they have done their job they will be released. Sometimes they come back again, but that is just because they have more to share with you. Allow your feelings to work for you! Let them do their job, feel them so they can be released!
Reason Number 3. Feelings allow us to have a full experience of life. We cannot feel the good without feeling the bad. This is truth. If we only had one feeling tone of life- everything, everyone, every experience would be monochromatic. Just one boring hue. But by having a whole host of feelings, we bring color to life. If we did not have poverty, we would not know wealth. If we did not have “sad”, we would not know “happy.” If we did not know struggle, we would not know triumph. Feelings- and I mean, all the feelings- allow us to have a full experience of life. If we want to want to have a full experience of life, then we can not just pick and choose a few feelings to feel, we need to embrace them all.
Reason Number 4. Feelings connect us. This is by far one of my favorite reasons to feel. Feelings unite us. Feelings unite us and connect us to every other living being on this planet. I have had many clients say things to me like “Oh, are you drug addict? Because if you aren’t, how can you help them?” My answer is always “I can work with anyone, no matter what the experience because I understand feelings. Feelings are the bottom line to any issue any client presents to me.” Feelings are the way to connect. Through empathy we feel understood and known by others. We gain empathy by having greater knowledge, understanding, and acceptance of our own feelings, and then we can have the same for others when we hear their stories. I don’t have to be a Somalian refugee in the foster care system to work with someone who is, because I understand feelings of isolation, loneliness, loss, and feeling like an outsider. I don’t have to have the experience of being a person who is homeless who uses alcohol to cope because I understand the feelings of lack, of despair, of having pain you wish someone or something could surgically remove from your body.
Feelings connect us all. It’s beautiful, really. When we welcome our own feelings and find a way to feel them without judgment, we find a deeper connection with ourselves, a full experience of life, and feel more connected to those around us. Hurray for feelings, am I right?!