On learning to feel your feelings
Updated: Jul 13, 2022
I know that a therapist writing a post on feelings is a cliché. After all, what you see in most movies is the therapist asking "and how does it make you feel?" But there's a reason that therapists spend a lot of time talking about feelings. Psychology research has shown that it is often very helpful to deal with uncomfortable feelings. Boredom, sadness, anxiety, nervousness, etc. Being able to experience these feelings, without needing to avoid them, change them, or get rid of them.
I find it fascinating that we are all so different when it comes to feeling our feelings. Some people feel everything strongly, others have a hard time knowing what exactly they feel. Some are very open about how they feel, others only share with very few people. Some people are very expressive with their feelings, others keep feelings to themselves.
Each of us have developed various mechanisms to avoid feeling the things we don’t want to feel. We hate feeling bored, lonely, sad, or anxious and so we turn to whatever coping way we have found... whether it is eating, alcohol, sex, restricting, exercise, or work. But what is the problem with avoiding our feelings?
For one, paradoxically, we get whatever it is that we are not willing to have. If we actively try to avoid a feeling, it often becomes stronger. Think of the most delicious chocolate cake you can think of… and the for the next 15 second, try not to think about it. Kind of hard to do, right?
And if we don't feel the not so pleasant emotions, we often end up blocking ourselves off from positive emotions too. We become detached from all of our emotions, and life becomes a little bit more boring.
And our life gets smaller, too. If we try to control how we feel, we end up giving up some control of our life. We don't address what is going on behind these feelings. We avoid important activities to us to avoid feeling a certain way.
Not to mention, we don't solve whatever it is that we are avoiding And often what we do to to avoid can often create new problems and unpleasant emotions - we lose friends because we work too much, we find ourselves with an eating disorder or substance abuse disorder, we lose important relationships.