Why is it so hard to feel our feelings?
Feeling our emotions can certainly be a daunting task. People do all sorts of things to not feel. We stay busy, drink too much, overthink, make to-do lists and distract ourselves with electronic gadgets. Why are feelings so darn scary?
We learn early on that some feelings aren’t acceptable.
Most of us are taught, or even encouraged not to feel. Growing up our parents or other adults may have actually discouraged feelings and said things like “boys don’t cry”.
If this isn’t enough, socially expressing emotions can be equally frowned upon; for example, the media portrays happiness as the only acceptable emotion, encouraging us to pursue happiness by buying the latest trend or watching endless amounts of television.
Why is it important to feel our feelings?
When we distract ourselves from emotions, a host of problems can occur. Blocked emotions can manifest themselves physically in the form of chronic pain or other diseases. When we avoid emotions, depression or anxiety can set in. An overall sense of unease can develop, creating distance from our true self.
Surprisingly, feeling painful emotions can actually set us free and ignite the healing process, bringing us closer to our inner wisdom and who we really are.
Here are several ways to begin feeling your emotions:
When a situation occurs that is difficult, stop and ask yourself “How do I feel right now?” Be honest with yourself.
Meditation is a very effective way to feel your emotions. Find a quiet space, close your eyes, focus on the body, and ask yourself gently “What am I feeling emotionally?” It’s okay if you’re not sure, just ask the question to get started.
When you feel your feelings, allow yourself to really feel them. Feelings show up as physical sensations in the body. What new physical sensations are you noticing? This could, for example, be heat, tension, achiness, or heaviness.
Allow your emotions and any sensations you notice to be there. Don’t fight them, judge them, or try to make them go away. Make space for them to be there. Struggling with emotions creates suffering.
Remind yourself that feelings will pass. Painful feelings won’t stay forever.
Adopt a stance of compassion with yourself when feeling a painful emotion. Unlike a harsh parent, be gentle with yourself and welcome all of your emotions.
Feelings often come with a message. Ask yourself what your sadness, anger, or anxiety is there to tell you. Allow the answer to float up from your body rather than trying to figure it out through your mind.
Sometimes feelings have an action that is necessary once the emotion is felt and understood. Bottling up feelings can lead to destructive expressions of them, for example, “blowing up” in anger. Once you’ve given yourself quiet time to feel your feelings, you may choose to express the feelings you’ve identified with others, often creating a more rational and effective expression of them.
Other times, you may benefit from solely understanding your emotional reactions toward another without the need to express them to the person directly or take any action. Sometimes the gift is just feeling what is wanting to be felt.
Accepting your emotions is crucial
Acceptance of emotions is the most crucial step of all. Allowing yourself to feel all of your emotions, creates resiliency & strength within. It provides healing from painful experiences like depression, anxiety, addiction, and the many ways we avoid feeling.
Find your true self. Begin to feel. It’s well worth the journey and is one of the most important skills to live your best life.
Jennifer Huggins, Psy.D is a licensed Clinical Psychologist in West Los Angeles, specializing in Trauma and Chronic Pain. In addition to these specializations, she helps her clients heal depression, anxiety, and reduce stress though the use of cutting-edge treatments and empowering them to thrive in their lives. Her passion is helping clients find hope when its been lost.
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