“ALL OF THE FEELS!” You’ve heard it before. “This sweater is giving me all of the feels.” “Omg, these puppies give me all the feels.” After doing some brief Google research, one will discover that this term is slang, describing an overwhelming emotional reaction interlaced with humor.
Isn’t it interesting how social media has taken this phrase—creating GIFS and MEMES—to explain how someone or something has given us this experience of “deep feelings” or “all of the feels”?
YET, when it comes to an experience of tension—whether it’s an unexpected event, a state of chaos and confusion, decision-making, heartache, or fear—people go to great lengths to NOT feel all the feels. We numb, distract, stuff and do everything but accept and express the feeling(s).
Why is it so difficult to feel all the “feels” of negative feelings?
In answering that question, it may be helpful to first learn about feelings (taken from Edmund Bourne):
- Feelings are neither right or wrong, good or bad, valid or invalid; they simply exist.
- Feelings are energy that involve a total body reaction between the limbic and nervous system (remember: they simply exist!)
- Feelings come in mixtures. In some cases, you may only feel one feeling or other situations you may be experiencing more than one feeling at a time. (i.e, A close family member passes away due to cancer. You feel sad because they are no longer with you, but you may also be experiencing happiness, knowing that they are no longer in pain.)
- Feelings are contagious. The next time you get together with family and friends around the holidays, notice the emotional environment. Most likely, you may feel the tension in the room right away and then unconsciously become just as tense.
- Feelings are influenced by our thoughts, perceptions and beliefs. Whatever type of emotion you may be experiencing is dependent upon how you interpret the situation and what you tell yourself about them.
Now that you know some facts about feelings, does anything jump out at you, bringing more insight in how we experience emotions?
The focus I would like to address here is how our feelings are influenced by our thoughts. Our beliefs and perceptions about a certain emotion shape how/if we decide to experience it. Some examples may look like “If, then statements” such as, “If I feel sad, then I will not be able to get out of it.” “If I let myself feel anxious, I’ll be so overwhelmed with anxiety and then I’ll have a nervous breakdown.” When this belief is apparent, we then tend to withhold and/or suppress the emotions because of our strong need for control and/or fear of losing control over the outcome.
When a feeling is withheld and denied over a long period of time, our bodies begin to respond to them. We know this because of some of the facts above: Feelings are energy involving a total body reaction. Overtime, our bodies may react with symptoms such as tension headaches, nausea, insomnia, panic attacks and/or chronic pain. Similar to my previous blog post (Untangling the Web of Perfectionism), you may need to explore and identify the unconscious, mistaken beliefs or misperceptions you have about a certain feeling.
As previously shared, people withhold and avoid negative emotion due to needing control or fear of losing control. It’s like they are holding that emotion in a very tight grip, which then creates more unwanted tension and fear.
So how do I feel the hard feelings? How do I face and accept the feelings that appear so much bigger than I am? Am I capable of facing it?
Instead of distracting, numbing or running away from the tension, what would it look like to turn towards the feeling, press in and dig deeper in the present moment? (Manuel A. Manotas). There is a reason you feel a certain way and often, when you allow the experience to be there, without trying to change it, you are then able to discover and understand the root.
By embracing an emotional experience, you can:
- Identify the thoughts that may be influencing the feeling and your behavior. It may look like the unconscious, mistaken beliefs above or it could be, “My dog passed away two months ago; I shouldn’t still be sad!” “I don’t like feeling anxious and out of control so I’m going to do something I can control…clean the house.”
Ask yourself if there is a misperception you unconsciously believe, keeping you from facing the very feeling that will help you move forward.
- Discover the feeling’s purpose to then be able to soothe yourself back to an equilibrium state.
Accepting and turning toward your feelings is the willingness to loosen that grip and become an active participant within the experience. You gain influence about the emotion and yourself by tapping into the experience.
Paying attention to your body sensations and inner dialogue help you to access a deeper understanding of your feeling and discover intrinsic resources within yourself. When you can stay present and turn toward the negative emotion, your sources of inner strength, courage and confidence become activated to help you then self-soothe. Those feelings you want to experience can only be initiated by feeling ALL the feels—especially the negative ones.
Giving opportunity to explore one’s thoughts and feelings looks different for everyone. Some may be able to turn towards the feelings in that moment, while others may need to withhold them until they have an appropriate time and space to do so. In the latter case, make sure you come back to that feeling because if you continue to withhold, distract or numb, you will remain stuck. The experience of being present with an emotion may look like taking a walk, drawing, journaling, and/or talking to a trusted friend or counselor.
“Smooth seas never made a skilled sailor” Levi Lusko. A sailor is only able to become skilled if rough seas are present. The same can be explained with anxiety and confidence. When seas of tension are present, confidence and courage can be illuminated and expressed.
“Use your fear…it can take you to the place where you store your courage.” –Amelia Earhart
The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook (Dealing with Feelings) – Edmund Bourne, PhD
Through the Eyes of a Lion—Facing Impossible Pain, Finding Incredible Power – Levi Lusko
“4 Ways to Give Difficult Feelings the Space They Deserve” – Manuel A. Manotas, PsyD https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/4-ways-to-give-difficult-feelings-space-they-deserve-0718164?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_content=blog_article&utm_campaign=GT_Facebook&utm_term=difficult_feelings_space&fbclid=IwAR3MTyrrWcZRrnwa8JsyQ0E4htYQ6