We hear all the time that we need to “feel our feelings,” but what does that really mean? Everybody honors and express their emotions in their own personal way, however, there are some things that we need to do if we truly want to be living in emotional integrity.
1.) Be willing to feel painful emotions.
This means that you make it a regular practice to identify and discern the emotion you’re feeling at any given time. One of the ego’s best defense mechanisms is to mask one emotion with another. Perhaps we are feeling fearful, and instead of allowing ourselves to be afraid, we become angry. The illusion of anger is that it is the least threatening emotion because we are still in control. In truth, anger tends to control us, rather than the other way around. Anger is usually linked to a lack of acceptance. That acceptance could simply be the willingness to honor and feel the emotion that we are truly experiencing In the moment.
2.) Question your story.
Being able to accurately identify our emotions is no easy task. Sometimes our habits and thinking patterns get in the way. Our thought patterns are scripted responses to the world around us, and often we allow our story to speak for us rather than our truth. “I’m depressed” or “I have anxiety” might be our go-to phrase for describing our emotional state, but we often need to go deeper. When we stick to our story we’re taking away the accountability, discernment and healing that goes along with honoring our emotions. When we use blanket statements that are reflection of our story rather than what’s truly going on within us, we rob ourselves of the opportunity to heal and stay stuck inside the story
3.) Allow the feeling.
Ironically, most of the pain that we experience in regards to our emotions are associated with us suppressing them in someway. The pain is in the resistance. Emotions aren’t that scary, especially when we acknowledge them as temporary and understand that each emotion passes. It’s when we push them down and refused to acknowledge them that we actually pull them closer and hang onto them. Allow the emotion. Acknowledge it, put a name to it, you might even want to ask yourself where it’s manifesting in your body, what color would it be, and surrender to it without engaging it. Emotions pass. Breathe through it, feel it, and release it.
4.) Take accountability.
When you experience an emotion, especially in conflict with others, take accountability for the emotion that you’re feeling. As we’ve all heard many times, nobody can make you feel a certain way. However, when we become triggered, our old pain and emotions become activated. When we are in a state of being emotionally activated, we are reacting rather than responding. When we make somebody else responsible for our emotions, we are making a conscious decision to step out of our power. Use “I statements”. Go deeper. When we are deeply triggered in conflict it most often has nothing to do with a current circumstances. When pain is triggered, it is often an echo. The current situation is just calling for us to feel the emotion and giving us another chance to heal. One of my favorite quotes is, “nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know” - Chaudron. We will continue to get opportunities to learn the lessons we are meant to learn. We will continue to play out the same scenarios in relationships until we do the inner healing that needs to be done. When we refuse to do this, we find ourselves attracting the same situations over and over, feeling stuck in a cycle of which we are a victim. In order to change the story, you need to change the way you respond.
5.) Choose differently.
When you’re feeling certain emotions, remind yourself that your thoughts dictate the way you feel in any given moment. Ask yourself what thought patterns precipitated the emotion you’re feeling. Then ask yourself if you could choose again. Is there another thought that you could be thinking in that moment that would shift you toward a more positive state. When you have automatic thoughts that are tied to negative emotions, challenge them. Ask yourself what evidence you have to support these thoughts. Ask yourself if you have any evidence that contradicts them. Ask yourself if you might be able to choose again.
So, before you deflect to anger, push your feelings down, or blame someone else for what you are experiencing, ask yourself these questions:
What am I really feeling?
What can I do in this moment to honor and allow this feeling instead of push it away? What is the story I am telling myself?
Is this an old story that goes along with old pain?
Could I choose again?
Catherine Lovern, LCSW