How To Feel Your Feelings
By Dr. Rachel Greenberg
We all experience moments of intense reactions and difficult-to-be-with feelings. It can be so challenging and mysterious to know how to feel your feelings. Especially the ones that don’t feel particularly good! Or feel downright terrible. Anyone of an array of difficult or unpleasant emotions can render us feeling unsure what to do, how to handle it, what to say, how to regulate, how not to say something that will ruin your relationship.
Unpleasant emotional experiences like despair, resentment, embarrassment, shock, overwhelm, or shame can send us spiraling into frantic efforts to STOP FEELING THIS WAY AS SOON AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE BECAUSE UGH! THIS SUCKS AND WE DON’T LIKE IT AND IT’S YUCKY AND SCARY AND UNCOMFORTABLE!
The problem here is that we need our less pleasant emotions as much as we do our more desirable ones. They provide us with just as important information, and if we can be with ourselves internally long enough to SNACK on it for a bit, we can actually learn how to become more regulated and empowered AND this provides often times less agonizing experiences of the emotion, and more ease with being with and working through it. WE WIN! Not the uncomfortable feeling, that will inevitably be fleeting because no feeling is final, ever. We don’t let our emotions drag us around, calling the shots, dictating what we say and do. We give ourselves the chance to pause and get friendly with ourselves in this way. We welcome the experience because we can handle it. Because we’re bad-ass emotional warriors and we know how to handle difficult stuff, feelings especially.
So, here’s an easy-to-use skill you can practice the next time you find yourself struggling with an emotional experience. Have a SNACK break.
Use it to engage in the process of slowing down and taking stock.
Stop– take a moment to pause. Just hold on. Stop for a moment before doing or saying anything.
Notice– What’s happening? Oh, there’s an emotional experience occurring. It’s intense. It’s uncomfortable. Become aware of that.
Accept– Allow whatever it is to be there. Don’t push it away or try to avoid it or suggest it shouldn’t be there. Welcome it. You don’t have to like it, but you can invite it in for a while still. It’s there so you might as well make friends with it for as long as it needs to stick around.
Curiosity– Get curious. Become interested. You’re an investigator now! What does it feel like? Where is it happening? What’s the sensation? How intense? What’s the accompanying impulse/thought/belief/narrative/behavior?
Kindness– Offer a self-statement of kindness, compassion, and understanding. Something like, “God, this is hard. This feels really terrible, and I know it’s absurdly tough to be with this right now. You’re going through something sharp in these moments, and that’s really shitty. What do you need to take care amidst this?”
You can practice this anytime, anywhere, at any moment you need a SNACK break and want to get better at feeling your feelings.
Share with me in the comments how this changes your relationship to your feelings!
Here’s another graphic for further description of more info!
Dr. Rachel Greenberg is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist who practices privately in Orinda, CA. She is influenced by eastern philosophy, western evidence-based approaches to psychotherapy, and creative arts that can help you achieve a strengthened relationship to yourself, behavioral changes to enhance mastery and happiness, and healthy and satisfying relationships. If you’re interested in learning more about how to achieve well-being, inner peace, emotional stability and vitality, or are interested in deepening your connection to yourself through awareness practice, feel free to call or email for a consultation and to schedule an initial session.