How are you feeling right now? Not today or ten minutes ago, but right now. I don’t want to hear the dismissive comebacks like good, fine, okay, or triggered. I’m not interested in the story that is keeping you a prisoner of your perspective at this moment. I just want to know: What are you actually feeling? Do you even know?
We are so used to not naming our feelings we often don’t even know what we are feeling, and I’m not immune to this. In my 35-Day Letters from a Better Me Boot Camp for Women, the participants, including myself, list how we are feeling right now, at least once a day. There are no stories attached to the feelings. We just simply state how we are feeling.
At the beginning of the boot camp, I posted a feelings wheel, which are readily available online and there are a lot to choose from. I did this to help us navigate and learn to spot the EXACT feelings we are feeling in a particular moment, and that is sometimes all we need in order for the feelings can move through us. Yet, for some reason, we’ve been trained to NOT go there, run, numb, or avoid at all costs! The problem is the cost is our mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, and social health and wellness. When we don’t feel safe to have our feelings, we take it out on ourselves and others.
Until doing this daily exercise, I hadn’t realized how desensitized I had become. I wouldn’t really answer the question, “How are you feeling?” Not only wasn’t I answering it, but I wasn’t recognizing that I didn’t REALLY know. I didn’t recognize when others were dismissing their feelings either. I was blind to just how fast feelings can change throughout the day. Imagine my surprise when I went from naming my feelings, then moving to gratitude and realizing I was no longer feeling scared, angry, inadequate, or whatever I had previously felt. It doesn’t mean those feelings won’t pop back in, but not in the moment I am feeling gratitude, joy, interested, and so on.
Now that I’m used to pulling out my feelings wheel and naming my feelings, I’m realizing how powerful doing this work really is. Here is some of what I’ve discovered in this process: When people feel seen and heard, they move out of their story and into their feelings. When we are bringing attention to our feelings instead of our stories, we are more open to work through them using practices like EFT, conscious breathing, mindfulness, movement, writing, gratitude, exercise and so on. These practices help us give our feelings the healthy attention they require in order to move through us instead of getting stuck inside us, which then becomes toxic to our well-being.
Now, it’s not safe for us to share our feelings with just anybody. That’s why it’s important to know how to make ourselves feel seen and heard like I talked about in episode 3. It’s also important to know when well-meaning friends, family, and professionals are unintentionally dismissing our feelings because they don’t feel comfortable. We will get more into this on next week’s episode. I will talk about the best advice I ever got on choosing who we go to when we are struggling and/or happy. For now, just remember don’t go to people who are uncomfortable with feelings themselves.
I’m not going to lie; I have STRUGGLED to listen with love to the feelings of the people I’m closest to. If you listened to the first episode, you know that’s why I’m doing this series. It’s already helping me. On Father’s Day, my daughter was feeling very emotional. I had to bite my tongue on giving advice, and just simply asked her, “What are you feeling?” As she named the feelings, I repeated back, “I hear you saying you feel…” “I hear you are feeling…” and so on. Then I asked her a few follow-up questions. I didn’t offer her advice, I just said, “I’m here.” THIS WAS NOT EASY! I don’t like knowing she has to feel feelings that are painful, but they are a part of her journey just as they are a part of everyone else’s journeys. With great pain, we discover our strength, perseverance, compassion, and so much more.
Our feelings aren’t going to kill us. They aren’t going to make us weak or inferior. They are actually our power supply. What can make us weak is the emphasis we put on suppressing our feelings and engaging in stories that align us with the energy of fear, lack, and separation. That is how we make ourselves prisoners of our perspectives. That is what is REALLY SCARY!
We are not bad people because we don’t want someone else to feel pain. But, who have you ever known not to have experienced painful feelings? They are a part of our lives. How does it serve us or anyone else to deny our feelings? When we deny our feelings, we are showing others that having feelings isn’t safe; we help them to build their prison by example. Some people are even scared to feel love, because all of the stories tied to the energy of fear, lack, and separation about love. Yet, feeling love isn’t what hurts us. The feeling of love is absolutely incredible if we allow ourselves to experience it wholeheartedly.
Being scared of our feelings can be a passed down generational pattern and/or through experienced trauma. If we were taught to shove it down, we inherited the thought, belief, action, and reaction patterns to keep those feelings tucked away. We also inherited ways for them to come out on others. One example is if there is a lot of suppressed anger, it becomes rage, and it WILL leak out in very unhealthy ways.
Then there is what happens when we experience trauma. This could be anything from neglect, abandonment, and trust issues as a child to acts of physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, and/or financial abuses. Then of course we have deaths, natural disasters, sex trafficking, prejudicial attacks, terrorist attacks, and mass shootings just to name a few more. When we are in survival mode, our nervous systems are working in overtime to keep us alive. Some of us can stay stuck in survival mode, which is extremely dangerous to our well-being.
There are multiple types of trauma therapies that can assist people with helping them to calm down the fight, flight, and freeze responses. When we are there, our protective armor is up. Getting to the actual feelings to feel them in a safe and healthy way can be challenging. That’s why it’s good to have resources. I attached a video that might just help. Once we can calm our nervous systems, it’s much easier to recognize and feel safe in our feelings—knowing we are out of clear and present danger.
Are you wondering how you can tell if you are in survival mode? For me, I can feel it in my body. It’s like my whole body is clinching. The pressure on my chest can make it hard to breath. Sometimes I will even feel like my circulation is being cut off. I literally feel like my body is experiencing the trauma the way I did while it was happening. When we are having that experience, and we are trying to get to our feelings, it’s like our defense mechanisms are protecting us from ourselves. We may even start hyperventilating. It’s very challenging moving out of the story when our bodies are working to keep our trauma responses in play.
Deep breaths in and out can sometimes be all I need. Other times, 8-minutes of full body shaking, doing an intense workout, and/or some sort of tapping technique will be what works. Then there are the times I need professional help. I do whatever is necessary to get myself out of the stuck trauma. Once my nervous system has calmed down to see that it’s out of clear and present danger, I once again can feel safe to process my feelings. And like I said, the feelings themselves can move quickly once they get acknowledged, accepted, and nurtured.
Even professionals can get triggered by their generational patterns or past trauma. They are human. What’s important is that we feel safe in naming our feelings and knowing that our feelings are ours. Nobody else MADE us feel them. We just feel them, and we love and accept ourselves no matter what we are feeling. When we can be here, we don’t take other people’s feelings as personal attacks on us. We are able to hear and allow them to have their feelings without making it about us.
Someone can feel hurt without us intentionally trying to hurt them, just like we can feel peaceful when someone else is intentional trying to hurt us. By claiming and owning our feelings, we allow our feelings to shift as we shift the stories playing in our heads. It can happen within moments if we give our feelings the space to be that they need to be in order to show us why they are there. If they don’t move quickly, it’s because we are not seeing what we need to yet. Having tools to help us be present to our feelings helps a lot! We might need to go back to the first time we remember having this particular feeling to discover what needs weren’t being met and how we can meet them now. Inner child work is a great tool for that one. When we can see that we are capable of these shifts, we know that others are too. We just have to give them the space to feel through it and decide for themselves when they are ready to set themselves free. We can’t do that for them, but we can be the example of how it works.
My new response to someone unintentionally dismissing my feelings is, “It’s okay for me to be feeling ____________.” Just saying it helps me to feel safe, because I know I’m okay. I love and accept myself exactly where I am. I know I will survive and move past the painful feelings. I also have access to a plethora of tools to help me work through whatever feelings that come up. When I don’t have a tool that is working, just being open gives me access to new ones. It’s only when we deny our feelings that we get stuck in the problem.
I don’t know if it’s because I grew up on the movie, The NeverEnding Story that I see that scene when Atreyu and Artax are in the Swamp of Sadness. It’s scarier for me to feel stuck in the stories keeping me sad, hurt, and/or angry. I want to allow feelings to move through me, so they don’t turn into stories of the past that keep the energy of fear, lack, and separation growing and festering inside of me just waiting to spew out on the nearest bystanders. Allowing my feelings to come up and out in healthy environments feels like a much better option. Then, I can be fully present to be someone else’s safe place to express their feelings.
Thanks for being with me for another episode of Listening with Love. I hope you come back next week.
With Love and Gratitude,
Resources for this Episode:
Example of Feeling Wheel (click to go to link). There are tons online. I find it’s important to look at them and see which one feels best to you because they are all a little different.