How to Feel a Feeling – 011

Listen On

LISTEN TO THE SHOW:

Most of us were never taught how to feel our feelings.

We learned to deal with our emotions by watching how others dealt with theirs — by resisting, reacting, and avoiding.

In this episode, I share a fourth option that most people don’t even know about, and take you through a four-step process to truly experience any emotion.

Once you get good at it, you'll realize that there's no emotion you can't handle.

HERE’S WHAT YOU’LL DISCOVER:

  • The four ways people manage their emotions
  • A step-by-step process to actually feel your feelings
  • Questions to ask yourself when you’re experiencing a negative emotion
  • The key to a better, more authentic life

LISTEN TO THE SHOW:

Transcript

You are listening to the Less Drama More Mama podcast, episode 011: How to Feel a Feeling

This is Less Drama More Mama, the podcast for moms who want to feel calm, in control, and confident about how to handle anything life throws their way. If you’re ready to go from feeling frazzled and disrespected to feeling calm and connected, this is the podcast for you. I’m your host, Pam Howard.

Hi Mama! I hope you’re having a great October if you’re listening to this when it comes out. I lived in Boston for several years where October was such a magical month. The leaves all turned these gorgeous shades of yellow and orange and deep red and the weather was crisp and cool and I got to bust out my leather jacket and my boots and scarves. Now I live in Florida, and I took my kids and some of their friends to a pumpkin patch yesterday and I thought I was going to die from the heat. It was 88 degrees and 90% humidity. But my mom says it’s supposed to start cooling down for us here in the next couple of days by like three degrees so that’s our version of a cold front. Anyway, let’s talk about feeling our feelings.

A couple of weeks ago in episode nine, I talked about the 50/50 rule, this idea that we’re actually supposed to feel negative emotion 50% of the time as part of being a human. And that when we just accept that, then the negative isn’t as negative, right? It’s just like, oh, this is that part of my life that’s negative. This is the part where I feel pain and sorrow and discomfort. Nothing has gone wrong. But because we have this idea that something’s gone wrong when we feel a negative emotion, most of us are never taught how to feel them. And I’m referring mostly to negative emotions here, but I know there are also some of you who don’t know how to feel positive emotions, either, and so the process I’m going to share with you today will work for feeling those, too.

So, there are three ways that most people manage their emotions. I’m going to tell you about all three of them and then I’m going to talk about a fourth option that most people don’t even know about. The first way people manage their emotions is to resist them. Resisting an emotion is like trying to hold a door shut when someone else is trying to open it. Or, like trying to hold a beach ball under the water. Have you ever done that? You try to keep the ball under the water and you have to strain and struggle to keep it down. And it’s right there under the surface about to pop up at any moment. When you resist your emotions like this, they actually get stronger. The resistance creates even more tension and intensifies the emotion. So, most people think that they’re experiencing an emotion like anxiety or stress or loneliness, when they’re actually just experiencing the resistance of that emotion.

The second way people manage their emotions is to react to them. I talked about reacting a bit in episode number three. Most people, when they feel an emotion like anger, for example, they think that they have to yell or scream or stomp their feet or hit something. But just because they’re yelling and screaming doesn’t mean that they’re actually experiencing the emotion of anger. It means they’re reacting to it. Feeling anger or any other emotion isn’t about “doing” anything other than simply experiencing the vibration in your body. I could be very angry or upset about something right now and you’d never know it because I’m not reacting to it, even though I may be feeling it inside.

The third way people deal with their emotions is to buffer, ok? Buffering includes things like avoiding, numbing, or distracting ourselves from our emotions. And we all do this to some extent, right? Like, I tend to turn to food, some people have a drink, some people shop, some watch Netflix or scroll through their Facebook and Instagram feeds for hours at a time, maybe play CandyCrush or play video games. There are other ways of buffering that can seem more positive or productive like over-exercising or overworking, but those, too, can be ways of avoiding your emotions.

And buffering has become pretty accepted socially and culturally, right? Like, feeling blue? Eat a cookie. Stressed out? Have a drink. Or go ahead and buy that thing you don’t really need because you’ve worked hard and you deserve a reward. Now, there are two problems with this. One, is that nothing external can make us happy. That’s an inside job. And you know from listening to this podcast that the only thing that can cause your happiness are your own thoughts.

The second problem is that most of the ways we try to numb or escape our negative emotions bring about a net negative consequence. And here’s what I mean by that. When you go out and you buy yourself a brand new pair of jeans or a cool new gadget or toy that you can’t afford, you have that initial rush of pleasure about it and then you have the credit card payment and the lack of money in your bank account and the stress that goes along with it. When you eat an entire bag of chips or too many Oreos or drink three glasses of wine to temporarily escape feeling stressed out or sad, you feel sick and you gain weight or you have a hangover, so you’re experiencing a net negative consequence. And, avoiding an emotion doesn’t make it go away. We don’t see it or feel it. We dull the pain and pretend it isn’t there, but it is there and it’s there for a reason.

And we’re always in a hurry to get out of pain or discomfort, aren’t we? My clients always want to know how they can feel better right away, but first we need to slow down and we need to understand our current feelings and the thoughts that are causing them before we can change them.

What I want to share with you today is a fourth way to manage your emotions, and that is to just observe and allow them. To sit and experience the vibration in your body. Because that’s what feelings are. They’re just vibrations in your body caused by a thought. And these vibrations are harmless. Observing and allowing an emotion is such a powerful thing to do and once you get really good at it, you realize that there’s no emotion you can’t handle.

Ok. So, I’m going to walk you through the process of observing and allowing an emotion. The first thing you want to do is to get curious about this feeling you’ve been avoiding or resisting or reacting to, and get to know it better. You’re not going to judge yourself for having it. You’re simply going to observe it. And you’re going to describe what it feels like in your body. My coach recommends describing it as if you’re describing it to a little Marian who’s never experienced an emotion before.

So, here are the questions I want you to ask yourself when you’re experiencing a negative emotion:

  • Where in my body do I feel the discomfort?
  • What’s happening inside my body right now?
  • What color is this feeling?
  • Is the feeling hard or soft? Is it fast or slow? Heavy or light?
  • Does it have a texture? Does it have a shape? Is it still or moving?
  • What does this feeling make me want to do?
  • And finally, why am I feeling this? What is the belief or the thought causing it?

Ok, so I’m going to tell you about a time that I went through this exact process and felt the emotion of anxiety all the way through. I was heading into a meeting with my ex-husband and right before, I felt tremendous anxiety. I was sitting in my car, waiting to go into the building where the meeting was taking place, and I stopped to observe my anxiety. I said to myself, “My heart is pounding hard. My shoulders are tight. My breathing is shallow.” At that point, I lowered my shoulders and I started to take some deep breaths and breathe into the discomfort. It’s like when you’re getting a massage or even experiencing labor pains and the doctor tells you to breathe into the pain, right? The deep breathing helps relax your muscles and bring about a sense of calm.

Then I said to myself — I may have even said this out loud – I said, “This is anxiety. This is what anxiety feels like in my body. It’s fast. It’s buzzing all around. It’s a greenish-brownish blob that’s rough and tingly. This is anxiety.”

Naming it like that made me realize, “Ok. This is the vibration of anxiety in my body. I can handle this. I am handling this.” I just allowed it to be there, like, “here’s anxiety knocking at my door. I’ll just open it and allow it to come inside. Or “I’m just going to let this beach ball of anxiety float next to me on the water without trying to push it down.” And once I did that, the more authority I had over it and the calmer I felt. It was wild. Then, once I was present with it, once I could allow it to be there without resistance, I could access all of the thoughts causing the anxiety and choose more empowering ones like, I’ve got this. There’s no reason to fear. I’m going to be ok. Whatever he says doesn’t have the power to create any feelings for me. I’m in control of how I feel and I choose to feel calm and confident.

This process took less than five minutes — less than three minutes, probably — and it made all the difference in the way I showed up to that meeting and the results I created. Once I allowed myself to really feel and process my anxiety all the way through and stop resisting it, then I was able to release it.

Now, this is a skill that you have to practice to get better at. And when you do, you realize the worst thing that can happen to you is a negative emotion, which really isn’t such a big deal once you learn how to feel them.

I want you to think about, what’s the worst feeling you can imagine ever having to face? I’ve asked my clients this question before and they’ve said things like grief, dread, boredom, embarrassment. The mom who said embarrassment described her feeling as tingly, shaky, coming on fast, soft, amber in color. She said she feels tension in her upper back, her face gets red, and she cries. The thought that would cause her embarrassment was, “I’m doing the wrong thing.” But instead of sitting with the tingly, shaky feeling and tension in her upper back, she would rather eat Doritos with sour cream and some ice cream.

So, allowing and observing your negative emotions is the key to a better life, a more authentic life. A life you don’t need to resist, react to, or escape from because you can handle any emotion. Think about what you’d be able to achieve if you were willing to experience any feeling? If you were willing to feel anything without fear – rejection, humiliation, self-doubt – how would you show up differently in your life? I really want you to think about it and leave me a comment on today’s show notes with your answer. How do you typically manage your emotions and what would you do if you weren’t afraid to feel the worst feeling you can imagine feeling?

Ok, so here’s a quick recap for you to practice feeling your own emotions: Number, one, name the emotion. I’m feeling fear. I’m feeling overwhelmed. I’m feeling self-doubt. Number two, describe it in detail, like you’re describing it to a Martian, using the questions I shared earlier. Number three, say to yourself, “This is what, whatever the emotion is, feels like. I’m feeling this because of a sentence in my mind. And number four, find the thought causing your feeling. From there, you’ll be able to understand the cause of your emotion and decide whether you want to keep thinking the thought or not.

Now, don’t skip steps number one through three and just try to find the thought. Really slow down and feel that feeling in your body. Get to know it. Become friends with it. It might dissolve or it, it might just stick around for a while, but that’s ok. You can let it in and let it sit there with you for as long as it needs to be there. You got this, mama.

As always, if you want my help applying this work to your own life, you’ve got to sign up for a free mini-session with me. I’ve added extra time slots in my October calendar, so take advantage. I’m going to leave a link in today’s show notes at  lessdramamoremama.com/011 Ok. I’ll be back next week with more. Until then, have a wonderful week. Bye, bye.

Thank you for listening to the Less Drama More Mama podcast. If you liked this episode, please take a moment to write a quick review on iTunes and make sure you subscribe, too, so you never miss a show. Got a question, comment, or idea for an upcoming episode? Email me at pam@lessdramamoremama.com

Become the mom you've always wanted to be

Watch my free video, "How to Get Your Kids to Listen Without Yelling at Them"

A pink and white badge with the phrase "less drama more mama" encircling a heart.

Share this

A smiling woman in a purple top, seated against a neutral background.

Hi, I’m Pam

As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Master Parenting Coach, and former K-8 School Counselor, I’m on a mission to empower moms to feel calmer and more connected to their kids.

Enter your name and email to watch the free video!

Please read my privacy policy to see I take your privacy seriously.