Hello, my friends! Happy Sunday! How are you doing today?
Instinctively, what was your response to my question? Did you stop to take an inventory of just exactly how you are doing on this day while reading this blog? Think about your answer. We’re coming back to this!
When I was a kid, I had a poster in my room that was made out of felt with large letters spanning across asking, “What am I feeling today?” Below the question were felt faces, attached with Velcro that represented the major feelings, so that I could pick one and place it in the center to note what was coming up for me in that day. Looking back on this seemingly innocuous poster, it was genius. I wish I had one of these now!
Even if we don’t have this poster in our lives, every day at some point, someone asks us how we are doing or how we are feeling. And when confronted with this question, do we actually stop to think and take inventory? Usually no.
The general response is, “I’m fine.” Or we may immediately deflect back onto the other person with “I’m great. How are you?” Granted I completely understand that in passing pleasantries, it’s not always appropriate to delve into the inner workings of our psyches; however, it is something to note that in general, we don’t seem to connect with these inner workings on a day-to-day basis.
I would dare to say that we recognize our feelings only when they are at their highest or their lowest. We pay attention only when they really scream at us, and force us to take a look. But of course, there’s so much more happening to us and for us in between the highs and lows.
One of the greatest and most important barometers that we have in our lives is how we are feeling. Feelings provide us with a great deal of incredibly useful information on how to proceed moment to moment in life, if we let them. Feelings are meant to be felt, processed, and then moved on from. Feelings are not facts, and feelings certainly do not define who you are.
Often times, when faced with uncomfortable feelings, we tend to ignore them, push them aside, or even worse bottle them up, with the hope that they might dissolve over time. When we don’t let ourselves feel the feelings, and instead we push them down to fester without expressing them, we begin to take them on as facts. We start to believe them to be real and to be part of our identities. You can see how, what starts as a seemingly ordinary feeling, can lead to some serious questions of identity, if it’s not addressed!
The tough aspect about actually feeling feelings is that sometimes, we can get stuck in one. Often times it can be a dark or difficult one. An interesting fact about feelings that I learned from the neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor is that it only takes 90 seconds for a feeling to run its course through our bodies. Everything after that is chosen. How amazing is it that feelings don’t really have to linger, if we deal with them in a conscious way.
When a feeling lingers, take time to ask yourself what that feeling is trying to tell you. Is there anxiety, fear, or a hint of depression? Is there uncertainty, loss, or anger? Is there a longing that you have been ignoring? This is where feelings can give us answers, and point us in a direction to make appropriate change when needed.
Here’s my daily routine for seeing, processing, and managing your feelings in order to use them to your advantage in life:
1. Ask yourself what you’re feeling. Feelings should be honored and recognized. Be honest. Remember this is work for you and not for anyone else!
2. Ask yourself where you think this feeling is coming from. If you are feeling unsure, be curious why. If you are angry, investigate why. Feelings stem from something. It’s important to get to that root.
3. Ask yourself what are the facts. Get clear on what is true, and what are the falsehoods that your mind is amplifying. Reconcile the two.
4. Do what you can to fully express the feeling in a kind, conscious way. The only thing worse than feeling feelings too much is not feeling them at all.
5. Repeat daily!
I hope these reminders help you to better understand feelings and how to manage them. I’d love to keep the conversation going in the comments below!