Don’t be so quick to dismiss this topic.

“Of course I know how to feel my feelings”, you might say.  “Everyone knows how to do that.”

Actually, most people don’t, particularly men.

If everyone knew how to feel their feelings, we wouldn’t have a lot of the problems we see in society.  There wouldn’t be overdrinking, overeating, overworking and most other addictive behavior.

But I digress.

In last week’s blog I wrote about buffering, which refers to activities we use to distract ourselves from feeling emotions.  I gave examples of buffering behaviors, how they interfere with our intentions and how to be more aware of them.

But that only goes so far.

The key in stopping buffering behavior is learning to feel your feelings.  If you can get good at that, you can accomplish anything.

So let’s talk about how we normally respond to negative emotions.

The first is resisting.

Let’s use anxiety as an example.  Most of us think we know how it feels to be anxious but what we’re familiar with is the experience of resisting anxiety.

Think of a ball you hold under water.  The more you push it down, the greater the pressure that builds.  Finally, after holding it down for a while, it explodes out of the water.

That’s what we associate with feeling anxiety – hold it, hold it, hold it, then it explodes and overwhelms us.

The next way we respond to negative emotions is reacting.

Let’s use anger to illustrate.

Someone cuts you off while driving so you yell at him.  That’s reacting to your anger but necessarily feeling it but we associate this action as actually feeling the anger.

The last way we respond to negative feelings is distraction.  That’s where buffering comes in.

We keep ourselves overly busy.  We overwork.  We go for a run.  These actions all seem productive on the surface but if we’re using them to not feel a negative emotion, that emotion will keep coming back.

You have the choice.  You can choose to resist, react or distract yourself from feeling a negative emotion or you can choose to actually feel it.

So let’s get into the mechanics of actually feeling something.

The first step is to hold a non-judgmental space for your emotions.  Chances are you have an opinion about yourself when you’re feeling anxious, needy, insecure – you name it.

It’s probably something along the lines of “I shouldn’t feel this” or “I’m weak for feeling this”.

In order to allow yourself to feel something, you need to be ok with feeling it.  Give yourself permission to feel any emotion.

The second step is to allow the feeling to be there.

Take a breath.  Close your eyes if you need to and decide to allow the emotion to be there.  This is a split-second decision.  You can choose to resist or distract in that moment OR, you can decide to feel the feeling.

You might find yourself starting to distract – “I need to eat something” or “I’m gonna go on Facebook” but this is the instant you can catch yourself and decide to just allow the feeling to come.

This is a good time to define what a feeling actually is.  A feeling is merely a vibration in your body.

It’s not something that can hurt you.  You’ll be fine if you allow it to come.

The third step is describing the feeling

Write it down.

What color is it?

Is it hard or soft?

Where is it located in your body?

This does a couple of things.

First, it establishes a routine of dealing with an unpleasant emotion and getting relief.  Second, it normalizes it.  The difficult emotion won’t feel as overwhelming to you.

The end result?

Negative emotions won’t be as daunting and you’ll be more likely to just feel them.

The fourth step is labeling the emotion.

Try to get as specific as you can.  Instead of sad, use discouraged or disappointed.

The final step is being with the emotion.  That means stepping into the emotion and letting it linger.

Most people think it will take over and they won’t be able to shake it but the opposite is true.

Feeling a feeling is just allowing a vibration to circulate in your body and when you allow it, it only sticks around for a minute or so.  By feeling it, you’ve allowed it to run its course and dissipate.

Feeling negative emotions is uncomfortable.

However, your willingness to be present to that discomfort relates directly to the success you achieve.

Can you see why that is?

We hold back from taking action (like approaching a woman) not because of the act itself but because of the negative emotion we expect to feel (embarrassment, neediness) when we take that action.

Can you see how getting good at feeling negative emotions will open up countless doors for you?

If you’re not afraid to feel any emotion, there’s nothing you can’t do.

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