When did you last notice a powerful emotion? Did you cry when watching a sad tv show?
Feel joy when laughing with a group of friends? What about anger, or road rage when noticing a bad driver on the road?
Going through lots of complex feelings, from enjoyable to distressing, is what being human entails.
It can sometimes feel like we are the only ones who are experiencing these emotions, but we should bear in mind that everyone around us is battling with these feelings too.
Some people are more in touch with their feelings than others, so if you’re not used to ‘feeling your feelings’, it can be difficult dealing with them when they occur.
If you can relate, you’re in the right place!
We’ll cover how to identify and deal with complex feelings in this post.
You’ll learn about the differences between emotions and feelings, why ‘feeling’ our feelings is so important, and how to start understanding your feelings better.
The Difference Between Emotions And Feelings
The words ‘emotions’ and ‘feelings’ are often used in place of each other, but they do mean different things!
Let’s go into the differences between these terms.
Emotions are the unconscious, physical responses that tell us more about our surroundings.
Feelings are how we interpret emotional responses and material sensations. These are experienced consciously.
You can think of emotions as the natural, instinctive reaction that happens before processing scenarios in the brain.
Feelings are the psychological depiction of what physically happens in the body as we endure emotions.
These will vary depending on our values, ethics, memories, and experiences.
The Importance Of ‘Feeling Our Feelings’
Now that we know the difference between emotions and feelings, we can get into why it’s so important to ‘feel our feelings’.
It can be hard to sit with our emotions when they occur, but they can act as signals that can tell us a lot of information.
Feeling your feelings can help you increase your emotional intelligence to improve your mental health.
It’s like resistance training to build strength in your muscles over a certain period.
You can increase your emotional understanding by feeling your feelings.
This can help you identify what actions make you feel good or bad, so you can make any necessary changes to your lifestyle.
It also helps you get some distance between yourself and your feelings.
This means that you can decide how you react to a situation, instead of responding quickly without thinking first.
Looking inward can also help you become more resilient, helping you bounce back after tougher times.
We’re all human, which is why it’s natural for us to push away negative feelings, like despair and fear, as well as experience positive feelings, like excitement and joy.
However, pushing our feelings aside can cause drawbacks that affect our health, such as isolation, binge eating, excess drinking, and lashing out at people.
Now that you know why feeling your feelings matters so much, we can get into the process itself.
How To Feel Your Feelings?
You can follow these steps that will help you identify and understand your feelings better.
Remember that this is a process, so you might find it difficult at first.
Do get help from qualified mental health professionals if you require support as you go on.
1. Pause And Reflect
Awareness is the first step. If you notice a feeling, take a few seconds to pause. Try to name the feeling without berating yourself for feeling it.
For instance, if a work colleague is always talking over you in a meeting, you might notice lots of negative feelings coming to the surface.
Instead of lashing out, sit with the feeling and try to identify what it is. Is this frustration, anger, or rage? Don’t give this feeling a ‘good or a ‘bad’ label, just aim to figure out what it is and observe it.
2. Become Aware Of Physical Sensations
After you’ve taken the time to become aware of particular feelings, aim to identify any physical responses occurring.
For example, if you have noticed anger, where is this displayed in your body? Is your chest tight, skin red, or jaw clenched?
This can be difficult, but don’t attempt to control the sensation, just let them occur and flow naturally.
It can require lots of bravery to identify sensations in our body when complicated feelings occur, but allow yourself to feel them without judging yourself for them.
3. Look Inwards
After you’ve identified what responses are happening inside your body, aim to figure out what is responsible for the feeling.
Do this without blaming things or people that you can’t control.
Are you worried about what others think of you? Are you frightened of getting fired? Do you feel dismissed or unsafe?
Rather than focusing on the story, concentrate on yourself. Allow yourself to be vulnerable, thinking about your pain, values, and worries.
It might be helpful to journal and write your thoughts down, as this can help you come to terms with your feelings.
4. Be Compassionate
After you’ve had practice identifying and examining certain feelings, you can then bring compassion to the process.
Our inner voices might tell us things like, “you shouldn’t feel like this”, or “something is wrong with you”.
Instead of focusing on the voices, talk to yourself like you would to a child or a loved friend.
Self-talk, whether said silently or spoken out loud, can be helpful too.
For example, you could tell yourself, “I understand that experiencing this feeling is difficult. I am here with you.”
We all go through difficult feelings, like frustration, anger, or envy, but remember to tell yourself that there is nothing wrong with feeling the things that you feel.
The Bottom Line
As we get used to investigating our feelings, we can begin to become emotionally intelligent.
Instead of avoiding or pushing our feelings away, we can become more present, able to fully experience the many wonders of life.
It can be difficult to sit with our feelings at first, but soon enough, you’ll learn that feelings are temporary and that they don’t control your actions.