I often remark to clients that it is not our feelings that get us into trouble; it is the thoughts or action urges that follow it. If we are angry and it leads us to sending a nasty text, it is that act that will lead to rupture, regret. If we feel hurt but are defaulted to bury that emotion, the act of suppression is what really hurts us. If we feel sad and we spend the day with the covers over our head, we are feeding disengagement, not process.
We are meant to feel our emotions. Dr. Jonice Webb has a wonderful way of explaining how our emotional system is meant to work for us, not against us:
“Feelings are chosen by your body, not your head. They were wired into your central nervous system before birth, and they are meant to be used as a resource in your life. Your emotions are a natural feedback system that informs and directs and energizes you. They tell you what you want and need, inform you when to seek help or protect yourself, and direct you in what to seek or avoid. They will also tell you so much more when you listen to them. This is why it’s so very important to never judge yourself for having a feeling. You feel what you feel. You did not choose it because we cannot choose our feelings.”
When we are able to see our emotional system in this way, we can begin to accept our feelings as being what they are – that they serve the purpose of informing us. We can begin by simply labeling the emotion without judgement:
“I am feeling angry right now” sounds different than “Feeling angry is bad.”
“I am feeling dismissed” sounds different than “Who cares? Do you think you really matter?”
“I am feeling hurt” sounds different than “Suck it up.”
The judgement statements that are tied to our emotions are learned. If we can stay with just labeling our feelings, we can move to accepting them.
“It is okay that I feel angry, (dismissed, hurt.) I am meant to feel that way right now.”
The act of labelling our emotions without judgement takes practice as we are challenging ourselves to a different way of reacting. Once we begin to simply accept our emotions for what they are, we also give ourselves permission to let go of the learned associations tied to them. As a result, we begin to feel more grounded and true to ourselves.
Tomorrow’s post will explore the next step – processing our emotions.
Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@helloimnik