What happens to you when you look at a picture of a cute little puppy? What happens to you when you look at the picture of a newborn? Take a second and think about this. It’s most likely that in both cases you will feel all warm, fuzzy and happy. Today’s blog is on feelings. I think it’s a very important topic as everything we do in life, is to feel a certain way.
But how often are we really aware of our feelings? Most of the time we notice feelings only in extreme situations. We notice feelings when we feel flooded with joy or when we are really sad or devastated. But the rest of the time, even though feelings exist we find it hard to pay attention to them because we are mostly working in autopilot – moving from one task to another or dealing with whatever is in front of us.
Think of this – on one side, we are either numbed out of our feelings or on the other spectrum we are being super reactive emotionally. Have you noticed when you are having a meltdown, you notice all these feelings coming out of nowhere and you feel confused and overwhelmed? You are like – where is this coming from? Taking action in these extreme situations most likely leads to negative consequences. So it’s really important to know what feelings are and how to manage them. This can help us identify unhealthy feelings and healthy ones. Understanding feelings also provides information and prompts appropriate action. It connects us to our values, needs, hopes and fears.
So what are feelings? Feelings are physical sensations in our body to which we attribute meaning. They are physiological responses to an external or internal stimuli. Take a minute and think of where emotions show up in your body? For me, I feel a strong tightness in my throat before I cry or when I’m sad, when I’m afraid I feel it in my chest, when I feel angry I feel hot and feel that heat on my face and when I’m happy I feel it in my gut.
Most often we are either being numbed out to feelings or being overwhelmed by feelings, neither of which are healthy. Both of these options of either ignoring feelings or freaking out with feelings can leave us at a disadvantage. People who numb out feelings will not have a level of awareness to understand themselves or others around them. They often use buffers to hide or run away from their feelings. In case you are wondering what buffers are let me tell you a bit more about it. Buffering is when we use external things to hide how we feel emotionally. Common buffers include drinking, binge eating, putting in crazy hours at work, excess TV watching or even being on a device like our phone or social media to help distract us from what we are really feeling. Similarly people who are overwhelmed by their emotions can face enormous negative consequences. Their mood states can colour their world and they can perceive life very negatively. They might act out, freak out, lash out or be extremely impulsive.
The tip is to have balance and develop skills and awareness to understand our feelings so we can have a control over them. This way we drive our lives rather than let our feelings drive us.
So here’s something that I’d like to encourage you to try for this week. This is from Dr. Brene Brown’s amazing book - How to Reckon with Emotion and Change Your Narrative. She says:
The next time you're in a situation that pushes your buttons—from a breakup to a setback at work—and you're overwhelmed by anger, disappointment or embarrassment, try this practice.
Engage with your feelings.
Your body may offer the first clue that you're having an emotional reaction: for instance, your boss assigns the project you wanted to a colleague, and your face begins to feel hot. Or your response may involve racing thoughts or replaying the event in slow motion. You don't need to know exactly where the feelings are coming from: you just have to acknowledge them.
My stomach is in knots.
I want to punch a wall.
I need Oreos. Lots of them.
Get curious about the story behind the feelings.
Now you're going to ask yourself a few questions. Again, it's not necessary to answer them right off the bat.
Why am I being so hard on everyone?
What happened right before this Oreo craving set in?
I'm obsessing over what my sister said. Why?
This step can be surprisingly difficult. You're furious because Todd got the project, but it may feel easier to steamroll over your anger with contempt: Todd's a brownnoser. This company's a joke. Getting curious about your feelings may lead to some discoveries: What if you're more hurt than you realised? Or what if your attitude could have played a part? But pushing through discomfort is how we get to the truth.
Write it down.
The most effective way to become truly aware of our stories is to write them down, so get your thoughts on paper.
Try this exercise over the coming week. Getting self-aware and curious about your feelings is the first step towards understanding feelings and taking charge of them.
I'm Poornima Nair, Certified Life Coach, NLP Practitioner and Founder of Live Authentic Coaching. If you are curious about coaching, interested in being nurtured, inspired and pushed to your edge, to discover and create the relationships, career, lifestyle, finances you are longing for, please reach out to me for a taster of what great coaching does to foster the clarity, mindset, qualities and skills that will allow you to breakthrough.