How to feel your feelings
Life is full of emotions - good and bad. I dislike the bad ones and try to modify things in my life so that I will have less negative emotions and more positive emotions.
Although I try to avoid feeling terrible, without the contrast of negative emotions, what would joy feel like? It wouldn’t feel like joy.
The highest highs feel so good because of the lowest lows.
Being afraid to feel a negative emotion holds me back from reaching my true potential in life and from experiencing the highest positive emotions.
Knowing what shame feels like makes joy all the more exquisite.
So why do I try to avoid feeling negative emotion?
I don’t want to feel afraid, worried, shame, discomfort, embarrassment, stress, and overwhelm. Those all feel terrible.
But what if there is nothing to worry about?
I am trying to avoid something that cannot hurt me.
My emotions, even the negative ones, cannot hurt me. What hurts is trying not to feel the emotion. The actual emotion is just a sensation in my body.
Let me explain: when a negative emotion comes up, there are three ways that I react:
1. I can resist - by trying to take it away. If I am disappointed with my kids and find myself eating cookies in my closet, that is avoiding feeling disappointed. I took disappointment and modified my environment to include a pleasurable taste, masking the negative emotion instead of experiencing it fully. This leads to self loathing and negative consequences, eventually compounding the negative feeling and making it stronger.
2. I can react - by escalating the conflict in an attempt to change the emotion. This happens when I am disappointed with my kids and instead of just being disappointed, I move to anger and lash out - yelling and becoming explosive. Reacting to emotion is not feeling it. It modifies it and releases it in a way that has negative consequences. After reacting I am left with feeling terrible about reacting, inducing more negative emotions.
3. I can feel - what does disappointment feel like in my body? How would I describe it? What would it be like to just be a human, being disappointed?
I’ve been conditioned to choose options one and two, but option three does not have negative consequences and shortens the uncomfortable time period.
The way to choose the third option is to notice what I am feeling, and be willing to feel it.
So when I am disappointed with my kids, instead of resisting or reacting, I am just ok being disappointed.
For me disappointment feels like a sinking feeling in my chest. It feels warm and heavy.