Working through tough feelings is some of the hardest work I’ve had to do as a coach. I still struggle to understand and differentiate between the thoughts in my head and the feelings in my body.
It’s never-ending work that I continue to do every day. But I promise you, it’s worth it - and I can already see how much it has started to pay off in my life.
As a society, we’re often conditioned to resist our feelings and ignore our emotions. We’re told to “keep calm and carry on”. Big girls don’t cry and boys DEFINITELY don’t cry. From an early age, we’re sent a very clear message - push down your feelings, and put on a happy face.
But the truth is, when you skip past your emotions and feelings, you are missing out on a vital part of being human. Your emotions and feelings are always at the center of everything you do.
We are driven by them.
We are guided by them.
As human beings, we’re constantly trying to avoid fear, danger, and pain and trying to move towards pleasure and safety. It’s in our biology.
It’s normal to know how to respond to your feelings...but do you know how to actually FEEL them?
How good are you at letting yourself be emotional? Do you allow yourself to feel everything?
If you block the way that you feel, it affects your behavior. Your behavior then affects your results, and the way you show up in your life.
To create the results you desire in your life, you need to understand how you can start truly feeling your feelings.
If you want to learn how to deal with your feelings, first you have to understand what feelings actually are and what happens when you don’t allow yourself to feel them.
What are feelings and emotions?
Have you ever felt a sudden vibration through your body when you were feeling miserable or joyful?
When we talk about our feelings, whether negative or positive, we’re really referring to the physical sensations that run through our body.
It’s easy to get confused between how we FEEL and what we THINK.
What’s important to remember is this: most of the time, our thoughts come first. When your thoughts come into consciousness, they’ll often cause you to feel a sensation in your body.
While there are other feelings that are reflexive and more biological that surface BEFORE your thoughts, the majority of your feelings are caused by your thoughts.
This means that in theory, you can control how you feel. Or at the very least, you can become more aware of how you feel and why you’re feeling that way.
Let’s do a quick test.
If I asked you right now, what are you feeling? Let’s say you respond with “I’m tired. I can’t be bothered to go to work today.”
That’s not a feeling, that’s a thought.
Instead, try to describe how your body feels and notice the physical sensation.
Let’s explore four different ways we experience our emotions.
4 Different Ways for How to Deal With Feelings
Most of the time, we avoid having to leave our comfort zones. None of us enjoy the feeling of being uncomfortable, but the truth is, you need your emotions.
First, you need to understand the different ways we experience them.
We don’t allow ourselves to actually experience the feeling - so we do everything in our power to stop the emotion.
Rather than feeling what we need to feel learning how to deal with feelings, we plaster a smile on our faces and try to move through life.
Sometimes we succeed in not having to feel tough feelings through avoidance behaviours. We unconsciously push our emotions beneath the surface to keep them from coming up.
We do this through what I like to call buffering.
Buffering often comes in two forms: productive and unproductive.
Productive buffering often looks like spending longer hours at work, reading, cleaning or doing self-development courses. While these behaviours might be healthy, they function to masquerade truly going on.
Unproductive buffering might look like scrolling through social media, binge-watching Netflix, complaining, emotional eating, or maxing out your credit card on online shopping - in other words, your vices.
At the end of the day, buffering feels good in the short-term but it doesn’t benefit you in the long run. By constantly avoiding your emotions, you get stuck in negative patterns that leave you emotionally drained.
I encourage you to ask yourself: what are your go-to behaviours you use when you’re trying to avoid messy emotions?
When we react, our emotions hit us like a ton of bricks.
Suddenly, you feel the urge to respond in an aggressive and tumultuous way. You allow your emotions to totally take over and dictate your behaviour.
This happened to me recently. Internally, I was feeling so many emotions that I wasn’t even aware of. And out of the blue, someone said something to me and I just SNAPPED. I totally lost it. What the person said did not have any correlation with my reaction, but I was angry on the inside, and I completely externalized my anger and put it on the other person.
When we react, we scream, shout and act out in unhealthy ways. Essentially, your inner child is throwing a big old temper tantrum.
You may THINK that you’re experiencing the emotion because of your quick response, but you’re not. You’re simply blocking it with your behavior.
The fourth, and only positive way to experience your emotions is to let yourself feel them.
Emotions are an integral part of the human experience.
If you could choose how you feel all the time, you’d probably choose feelings like joy, happiness, excitement, motivation, and confidence.
But you must ALSO experience sadness, frustration, hurt, or negativity to truly enjoy the positive ones.
This is the contrast of life.
If you never experienced sadness, you'd never truly know the beauty of happiness.
How can we feel our feelings?
Let’s get into some practical tips to stop avoiding your feelings and start learning how to deal with your feelings!
1. Hold space for your feelings.
Whether they’re negative or positive, let your feelings in. Even if you’re aware your mind is trying to resist and avoid them, embrace the discomfort and just let yourself FEEL (no matter how messy they may be!)
2. Don’t judge your feelings.
When we start to judge our emotions, we start to self-sabotage and create even more chaos.
Our brain kicks in and says, “How dare you feel these thoughts? How dare you feel sad about someone else’s accomplishments? There must be something wrong with you. You’re awful.”
Whatever feelings you are experiencing at any given moment, you are allowed to feel them. Stop judging yourself!
Remember, you don’t have to react, express or even tell anyone your feelings.
Just feel them.
3. Become aware of your buffers.
Start to become aware of your avoiding behaviours and what tends to trigger them.
Noticing the habits you fall into (both productive and unproductive!) when you’re avoiding emotions is the first step to changing them.
4. Practice feeling emotions within your body.
Remember when I talked about emotions being sensations in your body?
The best way to truly experience your emotions is to be present in the moment and tune into your physical body. A great resource for this is Eckhart Tolle’s book, The Power of Now.
Here’s an excerpt that’s helped me in my journey:
“If you really want to know your mind, the body will always give you a truthful reflection, so look at the emotion, or rather feel it in your body. If there is an apparent conflict between them, the thought will be the lie, the emotion will be the truth.” - Eckhart Tolle
Being present looks different for everyone. For you, it might be journaling, yoga, meditation, or any practice or activity that allows you to get out of your head and check in with your body.
Or, you can simply sit down and ask your body, “How do you feel?”.
When we allow ourselves to truly feel our emotions, we eventually are able to release and let them go, allowing us to feel lighter, more peaceful and happy.
Don’t go through life numbing out and avoiding what’s going on beneath the surface. You don’t want to wake up in however many years and realize you don’t truly know yourself. Learning how to deal with feelings is a critical part of getting to know yourself.
Life is a beautiful experience filled with ups, downs and everything in between. By embracing your feelings and getting to know yourself on a deeper level, you’ll find greater fulfillment than you could ever imagine.
Want to dive deeper and understand how to feel your feelings?
Take the first step >>> Check out the Next Chapter Course here!