I’m angry today. I haven’t felt anger like this in a while and it got me thinking about feelings in general and how essential it is to process them and, well, ‘feel’ them. But I know this concept can seem a little abstract, how exactly do we feel our feelings?
Let’s start by recognising why it’s important. Us humans have a wide range of emotions that can be triggered by various things, including both internal and external factors. When we feel negative emotions, our tendency is often to hide them. To push them away.
We do this for a number of reasons. To shield others from knowing how we feel, hoping if we ignore it it’ll go away, or sometimes because they feel too big and difficult to face. Hiding from our feelings can seem like an easier option all round.
And for a time, it might be. If we continue to do this though, the feelings fester. They turn into something corrosive and eat away at us. We might become resentful, bitter and notice our mental health taking a tumble.
When we feel our feelings, we bring them out into the light. We let them breathe. We process them, turn them into something else and release them.
So how exactly do we do this? We’re all different and you may find your own unique way of feeling your feelings, but here are some steps I think are worth considering.
Name your feeling
Acknowledging and naming your feeling is a key first step. I would recommend not stopping at the first name that comes to mind either, dig a little deeper – our feelings can be complex. For example, I said I was angry today and I am. But when I look closer at this feeling I realise I’m also frustrated and, at my very core, I’m scared.
You might find it helpful to create a spider diagram with your feeling in the centre. Use word association to come up with other feelings around this and then circle all of the ones you resonate with right now.
Question where it came from
Once you’ve identified your feeling(s), think about where it came from. This might be easier in some cases than others. The root of my anger, frustration and fear today is pretty clear. I’m angry at the government’s decision to put calorie content labelling on menus at restaurants, cafes and take-away outlets. I’m frustrated that they’re not listening to experts telling them how harmful this will be for people affected by eating disorders. And I’m scared about the impact this could have on my mindset, despite being 15 years into my own recovery.
The root of your feelings may not be so obvious. Find a way to examine it, whether it’s through journaling, talking it out with someone or creating something. Recognise that you deserve the space and time it takes to do this. This is self-care.
Process it in a way that feels good to you
Processing our feelings will look different for everyone. The work you’ve done up until now will lay great foundations – you know how you feel and why you feel it. Now’s the time to turn it into something else. This can take time and it’s important to know there’s no rush. If you’re experiencing grief for example, processing your feelings will be a journey.
Things that can help here include talking it out with loved ones, writing about your feelings, making art, meditating, crying and even taking action. I’ve talked about my anger online, I’ve written about it in my journal and I’ve taken action by writing a letter to my MP. I’m also using the anger to fuel my passion for the work I do. These feelings are making me more driven than ever to help people build their sense of worth.
Get further help if you need it
We can’t always feel our feelings alone. Sometimes they consume us and we’re trapped in the dark. In these cases we need a helping hand to guide us out into the light. This is where I think counselling comes into play. Within a counselling session you can process your feelings safely and find a way to cope with them, manage them and even turn them into something positive.
How good are you at feeling your feelings? I certainly still have moments where I push things away, usually using my favourite numbing tool of choice – scrolling social media. But with several core self-care habits in place (mainly meditation and journaling) I feel like I’m getting better at holding space for myself.
Let me know your thoughts on this one – come and chat over on Instagram, I’m @katbluejay there.
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