The Secret to Managing Your Difficult Feelings

Most of us don’t have an easy time when it comes to feelings.

Men, you have been taught to hide your feelings away; to pretend like they don’t exist. I can’t imagine what it must be like to get the message that crying is associated with weakness? It just doesn’t seem fair.

And women, we have been taught that our emotionality is a flaw–something to hide, feel ashamed of, and bury. While we have a harder time hiding our emotions than men do, many of us have developed a coping mechanism that doesn’t work. We suppress our feelings down (because they’re a flaw, right?), only to explode at a later time. This cycle provokes even more shame about feelings, causing us to repress more, and…you know the drill.

It’s time for us to find acceptance for our feelings! Because we all have them. And that’s a good thing.

Feelings connect us to what’s real. They tell us what’s most important. They’re behind the best moments of our lives.

When we suppress our emotional selves, we are suppressing ALL of our emotions. You don’t get to choose (“I take a little more love and a little less depression…”)–they come as a package. Therefore, the more you allow yourself to feel the spectrum of emotional colors, the richer you life will become.

In an effort to become more emotionally savvy, here is mini-guide to help you feel your difficult feelings as they come up. Doing so will allow you to embrace the fullness of yourself and your life.

Step 1: Stop

The first thing to do when you feel an emotion coming on is stop. Literally, just stop.

It’s common for us to get busier when an emotion arises. We try to fill up the space; we try to do anything but feel! But this is just a form of repression and in the long run, it will not make the feeling go away (quite the contrary, actually–it keeps it around longer).

Instead of turning to a coping mechanism to get out of the uncomfortable state, just stop and let the feeling flow.

Step 2: Feel

(If only it was that easy!)

We don’t want to feel the feeling–it doesn’t feel good!

Well, no, it doesn’t. But the sooner you feel it, the sooner it will be over. As Carl Jung said, “What you resist, persists.” Bad feelings included.

So how do you actually feel a feeling?

Feel it’s sensation in your body. Just let it wash over you.

Is it hot? Cold? Spikey? Dull? Is there a color associated with it? Where is it in your body? Is it moving? Is it stuck?

Use these questions to help orient yourself to the way the emotion feels in your body. That’s feeling!

One more thing: It’s common to analyze a feeling before you even feel it (this is another form of avoidance). Don’t take the bait! If you notice your mind is getting overly-activated, drop back into your body and surrender to the experience.

Step 3: Say “I feel ____.”

Usually big feelings happen in relation to other people. This means that a conversation will most likely take place to process through the experience. Great. I’m all for communication.

However, I highly suggest waiting to speak until the emotional upheaval has passed. The reason for this is because it can be very difficult to say what you mean during an emotionally-charged experience.

We don’t like waiting–we want to resolve it now! Keep in mind that now is not always the best time, especially if someone is feeling emotionally overwhelmed.

When you’re composed enough, use these words to talk about your experience:

“I feel ____.”

The reason this simple statement is so important is because it allows you to take responsibility for your own feelings. When you communicate in this manner, the person you are speaking to will feel less defensive, and potentially more available to resolve the issue.

Women, please be sensitive to how hard it is for men to come forward with their feelings–remember that they’ve been taught not to. And men, remember that us women feel things big-time–please don’t label our emotionality as hysterical (that’s just offensive).

Use these three steps to feel your feelings safely. When you do, you will be able to freely feel all the beautiful twists and turns of life.

Please leave a comment below and tell us which feeling is hardest for you to feel, and how you are trying to let yourself feel it freely. I look forward to hearing from you.

Comments

dani

I have a very difficult time dealing w/ feelings of unfairness. I was recently in a very UNFAIR marriage and it ended by my ex kicking me out, holding my animals and belongings hostage for 2 weeks and ultimately keeping some items that were dear to me. I had no recourse but to give up those items as THINGS, divorce him and move on. I realize now that his addiction (that he hid) was far more important than any relationship could ever be. It has been hard, but I had to realize that this was a reflection of him, not me!
Thank you, Shelly. I look forward to continued healing and emotional growth through your blog!

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Regina

The emotion I have the most problem with is anger. Or is it anger? Maybe I think it’s anger but in fact it may be more frustration because my boundaries have been breached and I am not able to act for fear. Fear of rejection, humiliation, reprisals, retaliation? I need to learn how to deal with people when they invade my boundaries then perhaps my emotions will be more under control if I feel confident in how to deal with the situation.

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Shelly Bullard

Anger is a tough one. Here’s my recommendation: use physical activity to defuse the energy of anger from your system, then have a conversation about the situation once you’ve calmed. Not easy to do.

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Freda

Hello ALL
Just cry it out. Works all the time for me, though, not always condusive in a work environment. Find a space, talk it out and have the rest of the day off. Being at work in an emotional state is not the ideal place to be. A walk amongst nature, a garden, the beach, sitting in a cafe writing what you feel and how you feel, helps sort out what you need to do. Be sure to arm yourself with plenty of tissues and a nice pair of sunglasses for the trip home. Make time to continue writing about your feelings and RE-read what you wrote in the past and you’ll discover over time how you have moved on and have become stronger in dealing with your feelings. Simply writing about your feelings is a strategy to heal, move on and learn valuable lessons on how to cope with unpleasant emotions. xoxo
Freda
Edithvale, Melbourne, Australia

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Michelle

Definitely a timely blog as I’m “feeling” some crud, today. And after reading this I am allowing myself to feel: uncertain, lost, and confused. Some of the things triggering these feelings are actually positive — one is a terrific relationship. However, terrific can bring up tons of insecurity about myself and uncertainty about the future. For instance: based on my history with relationships — when will the other shoe drop? Over processing. A double edged sword.

So, now that I’m truly feeling them I can see them for what they are, identify whether or not I ned to continue going down that rabbit hole, letting them hang around if they add value to the procees, and then moving on to a place of acceptance and patience.

Deep sigh.

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chana

i often have an issue when someone says to me, “you’re over reacting, you’re being sensitive. It makes me feel like because I am in touch with my feelings there’s something wrong with me. I can’t help but feel like un-whole or not normal when someone calls me that but am learning that wholeness is what I seek. Yes, I am sensitive, but I am also real and warm and in touch with myself.

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Shelly Bullard

I know. People who are not in touch with their feelings are going to have a hard time with yours. Just know that your sensitivity is a gift. XO

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Janette

I have a very hard time with giving too much of myself to people and then feeling used or rejected when they don’t appreciate me. Is that a feeling of frustration, unworthiness, feeling helpless?
I try to hold myself back and be withdrawn but I can’t do it, it isn’t in me. Maybe the core is a feeling of fear of abandonment or rejection. I haven’t had much luck in the relationship department either and am also labeled as “too sensitive” or that I am “overreacting to nothing”. I also feel like I am constantly monitoring for when something is going to wrong or “when the other shoe is going to drop” as someone previously wrote. When I am in it I want to give myself fully and be fully present to what I am involved with.

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Shelly Bullard

It sounds like you have develop better boundaries. Boundaries aren’t about holding back and being withdrawn, necessarily. They are more about asking yourself, “Why am I doing this for someone else? Is it because I really want to? Or is it because I want them to feel good about me?” Over-givers have a tendency to feel like they aren’t good enough, and so they over-give for that perceived lack. This self-sacrifice leads to resentments and blow-ups. Not a good cycle. As you get more in-tune with yourself and your motives, you can monitor your behavior more so that it comes from a really authentic, loving place (and not that place where you feel like you need to please).

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Bob

Very interesting article, in fact I think I’ll return to it tomorrow for another pass. Being a male reader I feel a bit isolated but over my 60+ decades! I’ve known bith sides of feelings. In my youth I know that I was more sensitive than the middle 20 years. In those middle years I developed sleep apnea which contributed to mental illness that included nearly complete separation from my feelings, and unbeknownst to me, neary cost me my marriage. After surgery to clean up the apnea, and 2 years of weekly therapy, plus 15+ years od dependence on antidepressants! I’m leading a fairly normal life! including off and on connection with my feelings! but also and very importantly to me! awareness if my wife’s feelings. I can’t always help her or even try to fix the problems of stress and anxiety in her. After helping me through a near fatal heart attack earlier this year, I’ve not returned to work. I’m supported by her in many ways while disability benefits are still up in the air. My past allowed me to cope with the returning depression, but it’s been sustained long enough that I’ve begun therapy again. I feel that I’m on the road to being a better husband and father again. My bride of nearly 39 years, my two daughters and 3 sisters are all very supportive and I hope to return their efforts whenever needed. You may be wondering, foes he have any brothers, or sons, is dad alive? No to all. My only hope for. Male descendant at this point is that my eldest daughter is expecting a baby in May. I won’t spank her if she brings home another girl as I did to my second sister when mom disappointed me with my second, then third sister. I love them all and hope to live long enough to see more than one grandchild. Thanks again for your article, from at least one male who understands feelings.

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