Many of us don’t want to acknowledge our feelings. We would much rather chug an entire bottle of wine than sit with the discomfort of what we’re currently experiencing in the present moment.
I ignored my feelings for SO many years–separating myself from them to the point where I began to identify them as “the enemy”. Due to having no prior knowledge of the function of feelings, I just referred to them as annoyances that I would much rather avoid. But that was the negative meaning I gave them, and because of this meaning, I formed terrible habits in order to avoid them at all costs.
But what if negative feelings weren’t all that bad? On the contrary, what if they were just trying to communicate with us about danger for example, or manipulation, deceit, toxic relationships or environments, crossing of boundaries, violation of trust or unfulfillment in an area of life?
I think that the issue is partly that we would rather not know about areas in our life that are perhaps flawed in some way. We would rather stay in the comfort of what we know, than to take a gander in the discomfort of the unknown. Why? Because that discomfort might call for us to modify our lives in order to make necessary improvements. It might call for us to sacrifice our temporary feeling of ease in order to live more authentically with who we are and what we actually want.
Let’s take depression and anxiety for example, both are mental disorders that elicit an array of negative feelings, some so strong that it’s debilitating. However, after working with countless clients who struggled with these conditions, as well as interviewing guests on my podcast who have shared their personal victories with their mental challenges, I have learned that their mental breakdowns eventually led them to personal breakthroughs! Those that sought help due to the intensity of their emotions, have either changed their jobs due to unfulfillment, let go of toxic or stagnant relationships that were only bringing them down, moved to new cities, and even learned to set personal boundaries to simply just have more time for themselves and their passions.
Emotions are the language of these energy forms we call feelings. They are neither “good” or “bad”, they are neutral by nature and we are the ones that give them meaning.
Once I started to acknowledge my feelings, a lot of my bad habits started to change as well. I realized that my habits were a byproduct of the pain I was trying to avoid.—If I wanted attention, I would sacrifice my authenticity. If I wanted to reduce my social anxiety, I would drink until I no longer had inhibitions—If I wanted to feel valuable, I would spend money I didn’t have on expensive things. All of these actions came with consequences and the more I did them, the worse I felt. But once I changed the way I related to my feelings, (many) of my bad behaviors dissipated as a result.
So how do we change our relationship to negative feelings:
-Recognize that feelings are pure energy forms that hold neutral properties.
-Recognize that you are the one that gives your feelings (and thoughts) meaning, whether it be bad or good.
-Ask yourself what meaning you are giving your feelings. Try viewing your feelings as helpful guides doing what they can to lead you in a right direction. This positive connotation will make it easier for you to approach your feelings.
-Identify your habits that are a byproduct of escaping your feelings. (i.e drinking, shopping, serial dating, eating, never spending time alone, medications, smoking, excessive cleaning or exercise, etc).
-When you have a “negative” emotion, instead of reacting by jumping into an old habit, ask yourself “what is this feeling trying to tell me?” Journal your emotions and try to map out what area/s of your life need your honest attention.
-Seek support from a professional who can help guide you through this process if need be.
-Take a step into the unknown. Know that by doing this, you are getting closer and closer to where you want to be, even if where you want to be seems unclear at first.
-Let your feelings guide you. If it feels limiting or constricting, don’t take that route. But if it excites you and makes you come alive, know you are headed in the right direction.
You are always supported and being guided. Trust the process of your evolution. Know that this life you were given is a learning experience…It was not made for us to stay in the comfort of our denials, but rather to expand and grow. You got this!! You’re not alone.