Sadness might be telling you it is time to cry. Loneliness might be telling you of a need for connection.
Shame might be telling you to increase self-compassion.
Resentment is talking about people (or self) you need to forgive.
Emptiness may be sharing a desire for more creativity.
Anger could be trying to tell you to add more boundaries in life.
Anxiety could be telling you to breathe more, or at least exhale!
Stress might be telling you to slow down and take one step at a time.
Feelings are often untrusted physical and emotional sensations that can lead us to make impulsive, irrational decisions. But I believe this is more due to our mis-understandings of them than their inherent deceptiveness.
We are taught, from childhood, to stuff our feelings and keep them under control. How are we then able to partner with them for greater emotional intelligence in later life?
Most men funnel all their emotions into their anger. Anger is respected and awarded to men in most cultures. They are told to “man up” or “keep a stiff upper lip” when it comes to other emotions.
The consequences of squelching emotions are poor communication that stonewalls relationships, increases disease risk, and destroys self-esteem and personal worth. The answer is to begin making friends with our emotions and see them as messengers who provide you with wisdom for life’s journey.
Start learning the vocabulary of emotions. Most men in couples therapy appear to have no capacity for emotions or refuse to comply with the therapist’s and partners’ requests to share feelings. The real problem is lack of competency, not compliance. They don’t know the words. When men are presented with a list of feelings words to describe what they are experiencing, they can share a dozen real emotions.
Why could they share their emotions when they have a list but couldn’t come up with it when asked in the “heat” of the interaction with the therapist or partner? Often, it is simply a lack of practice recognizing their feelings.
TIPS FOR MAKING FRIENDS WITH FEELINGS:
Allow your feelings to be neutral. Think of them as messengers designed to help you interpreting information from the sensory world. Our bodies are not machines but complex information processing systems. They are your “gut instincts” that can guide you through complex situations.
When your feelings are your enemies, you will be in a continual “fight or flight” state. Creative problem solving shuts down in this hyper-response situation. Conscious thought is powerful but slow. The body/brain system is rapid and responsive but will hijack you every time. Make friends with your feelings by practicing calming strategies.
Deep breathing is an easy way to connect with feelings. Science has proven that breathing in a pattern of longer exhales will bring almost instant relaxation. Try repeating a 4 second count for inhale and an 8 second count on exhales.This simple exercise engages the “vagus nerve” responsible for “rest and digest.”
Do this exercise as many times as you would like but most people start to feel more relaxed after two or three tries. Once you are feeling relaxed, check in with your body and notice what physical sensations and feelings are located in your body. Put you hand on this location and do the breathing exercise again. Allow the sensation or feeling to speak to you…what does your body need you to know? Maybe you are just sitting in a weird position and need to adjust yourself. You didn’t even realize you were sitting so oddly.
Start to journal your feelings and narrate what they are saying. Give them a name and watch when they show up in your daily life and how they are trying to help guide you with some wisdom. What happens when you listen or ignore them? Where the consequences helpful or harmful? Use a feeling wheel or chart to build your emotional vocabulary. Practice using feeling words in your communication with the simple script of “I feel X when Y happens.”
Thank your feelings for coming to your aid. I know, it sounds weird to talk to your feelings but they will show up in the wrong ways at the wrong time if you ignore them…Start by making friends today and learn to hear the important messages they are trying to tell you.