Feel Your Feelings
Trying to protect yourself from your feelings does not solve anything, and it does not work. If you do not allow yourself to acknowledge and feel your feelings, they get stuck inside and create other problems, making them harder to transform or let go of. You can spend endless amounts of time and energy trying to avoid or deny your feelings, and because of that, they actually run your life. For example, if you have to protect yourself from feeling disappointed, you will be afraid of and avoid things where there is any chance of disappointment. Disappointment then runs your life. But if you learn to accept feeling disappointment as a part of life acknowledging when it happens and allowing it in you will be able to let it go.
The first step is learning to identify your feelings by discovering and accepting what is happening in your body, noticing that a feeling is something that has come in and can also go out. You learn to separate yourself from your feelings. All the assignments in this Key are geared to practicing these skills and will make a huge difference in both your relationships and your overall well-being.
OVER IDENTIFYING WITH YOUR FEELINGS
Just as you are not your thoughts, you are not your feelings. As we have said, your feelings are a combination of thoughts and body sensations. This is why you need both mind and body techniques to help you deal with them.
To begin to separate yourself from your feelings, it helps to understand the language you use to describe your feelings. For example, rather than saying, to yourself or to others, I’m sad, practice saying, I feel sad, or, I amfilled with sadness. This semantic adjustment might seem silly at first, but it will help you relate to sadness as a temporary experience. Simply saying, I’m sad indicates a trait you have rather than a state you are in, and indicates that sad is what you are rather than something you are feeling. For the same reason, it is important for us to say that someone has anorexia or bulimia rather than someone is anorexic or is bulimic. It is important to use language that helps separate you from your illness, and the same is true for separating yourself from your feelings.
TRANSFORMING YOUR FEELINGS AND GETTING THEM OUT OF YOUR BODY
There are many ways to regulate and experience your feelings without becoming overwhelmed or derailed by them Separating your self from your feelings and getting them out of your body means you can regulate them and put them in proper perspective in order to make good decisions.
Saying you are angry and describing all the reasons why without learning to reduce the feeling of anger in the body will not help much. Have you ever noticed the stance that people’s bodies take when they are experiencing a feeling? Your body takes certain stances that are associated with your feelings. For example, when you feel afraid, your breathing may become short or you might get rigid with tense shoulders that hike up toward your ears. You can lessen the feelings of fear by lowering your shoulders, loosening up, and taking some deep breaths. By putting your body in the position it would be in if it was calm and taking slow, deep breaths, your parasympathetic nervous system will kick in, and actually help your body calm down.
Because your feelings are felt as body sensations, describing what you are feeling in your body, as well as identifying your feelings, will help tame both the mind and the body.
If your feelings are confusing or difficult to tolerate, try to stay present and feel them anyway, even if only for a little while. Staying present can be challenging. Practice by deep breathing, relaxing, and focusing on what you are experiencing in your body. Sometimes you may not know the reason for your feelings. Learning how to manage or transform the physical experience of your feelings in your body might be the only thing you can do in the moment to help yourself.
To help you understand how to transform feelings, we will focus on anger, as it is usually easy to recognize. A variety of body sensations are associated with feeling angry. Some report heat rising in the neck, head, stomach, or all over, and many people actually turn red from the heat. People commonly use phrases like, You need to cool off, or cool down when talking to someone who is angry. In fact, you will find that using an ice pack on your neck, or cold washcloth on your face when you get angry actually helps to calm you down and get anger out of your body. Taking the heat out of your body lessens the feeling of anger, which then helps you return to neutral so you can think more clearly and respond in a way that serves you.
Taking long and deep breaths is one of the easiest and often most effective ways to transform and discharge distressing feelings from the body, including anger. Others find physical activity the best way to blow off steam Everyone is different, so learning what helps you is important.
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