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Helena Önneby

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The art of feeling your feelings

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We’re emotional beings. Yet, most of us live our lives almost completely disconnected from our minds. We get caught in processing the past or worrying about the future. We analyze and try to understand. We project our internal pain towards others just because it’s easier to cause pain than to feel it. And we THINK our feelings, instead of FEELING them.

We have a lot to gain in developing our ability to feel feelings in a healthy way, instead of repressing, projecting or just thinking and analyzing. It helps us to get back faster to the parasympathetic nervous system after an intense emotional experience. It makes us more compassionate humans, because when we dare to accept our own crap we have more compassion towards others moving through pain. It helps us to faster transform the energy and to learn the lesson the feeling brings.

Dr Joe Dispenza describes the process, of when feelings get stuck in our system and become part of us, in a clear way. A feeling that gets trapped with time will become a mood rather than just a feeling. Say you got annoyed with your colleague at the Monday morning meeting and you are still annoyed in the afternoon. You are now in an irritated mood just because you didn’t deal with the emotion and as such didn’t let it pass you through you as it showed up.

If time passes and you still cling to the feeling it becomes a temperament. You accumulate everything you can find to get annoyed over with other people and often think “what’s wrong with them?!”. You now have an annoyed temperament.

If this goes on, your initial feeling, that’s been continuously fed, will become a personality trait. You are now a person who is annoyed with other people a lot. And that’s neither very comfortable nor constructive. The same thing can happen with all emotions that accumulate over time, you just dig deeper and deeper into this feeling state and it gets stuck.

We need to learn how to feel the feeling as it shows up so that it can move through us, which is its function, and we can move on, lighter again. This is an important part of our emotional intelligence. At the same time, we’re all human, and it’s not always easy to be wise when we’re triggered. But we can practice. And with time, we can move from remembering to do this once every 100th time, to once every 50th time to once every 10th time. The more we practice the better we get and the calmer our nervous system and better our life quality.

These 5 steps are what I practice using when I’m FEELING a triggering feeling:

1. What’s the emotion? Try to be very general here and don’t get too much into detail because that can activate the thinking mind and you end up thinking the feeling instead of feeling it. Start simply by identifying if it’s in the spectrum of grief, anger, shame or fear.

2. Where in the body are you feeling the feeling? To help my clients with this I simply ask: How do you know that you’re feeling x feeling? If we remove all the thoughts, there’s a sensation somewhere in the body. Where is it? Usually it’s located somewhere around the heart, stomach area or neck but it can also be located in your big toe.

3. What is the feeling doing? Pulsing, feeling numb or cold, ticking, stabbing, tingling…

4. Now that you’ve identified a place in your body and what it feels like, allow it. Allow the feeling to feel. Just accept that it’s there. Stay open and curious and let it be. You don’t need to change anything or understand it, just notice and breath. Most emotional waves pass through within 90 seconds. If it needs more time give it.

5. The last step needs to come last because there’s a risk that your mind gets activated by this one. Try to let your gut feeling or intuition speak first: What does the feeling want to tell me? If it had a voice, what would it say?

Feelings have a function and they’re a messenger of some sort. Maybe the voice says you need to put up some boundaries, maybe you just need to rest, or drink some water or move your body to get the stagnant energy moving again.

Feelings are not dangerous, and they have a function. We need to practice dealing with them in healthy ways so that they don’t take over our lives and with time becomes nasty characteristics of us. Feel the feeling and release it. You don’t need to carry it around, just let it pass through.

Feel free to tell me about your experience with this exercise if it was new to you. How did it feel to feel the feeling?

This is a guest post. The opinions expressed are the writer’s own

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